When Navy wide receiver Brendan Dudeck was in high school and looking into his college options, his top priorities were getting a good education and playing Division I football.
Once Dudeck visited the Naval Academy to see if it would offer those opportunities, one more thing was added to the list -- service.
"It wasn't always my plan," Dudeck said. "I got attracted to it when I got to the Academy. The brotherhood and the family that they possess and everything that goes into their work. Coming out of high school I was focused on playing Division I football and getting a good education, and the Academy attracted me. They offered all of that and also preached service to the country."
Dudeck, an accomplished high school student athlete from Hamilton Square, N.J., says he left some offers on the table and decided that his future would be at Navy following that visit.
"I had offers to Tulane in New Orleans and I was waiting on some decisions from Boston College and Penn State. I was talking to them late in the game, and I decided I didn't want to do the Ivy League or the Patriot League. I had my mind set of playing Division I football, and this offered the best education and the best opportunity for me to play at that level."
And play he has. Through the first seven games of this season, Dudeck has caught seven passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns in Navy's run-heavy offense.
Once Dudeck became part of the Navy brotherhood, he began to think about what he would like to do with his life after the Academy, and his dedication to service and competition led him to the decision to begin pursuing a spot as a Navy Seal.
"It attracted me from the moment I stepped on the campus," Dudeck said. "Those are guys that don't ask for any rewards for their work. They just do it because that is what they are supposed to do, and that was the right thing to do. They're always at the top of their game, and always have a plan to execute. And the brotherhood and family that they possess is just something unfathomable."
Dudeck says his desire to become a Navy Seal and his dedication to service can be traced back to his upbringing and his own family.
"I don't have anyone in my family who was in the service, but I do have a family that is dedicated to service," Dudeck said. "My dad was a police chief and was very dedicated to that, and my mom is teacher who is dedicated to her kids. They've always done a good job of preaching service to others before your self. "
Sports also seem to run in the Dudeck family.
His father played football at the College of New Jersey. His mother was a Penn State lacrosse player. Dudeck's brother is currently a junior on the Boston College football team. His other brother is playing football in the Naval Academy Prep Program this year, and his sister is a two-sport standout as a sophomore in high school.
Dudeck credits his parents for what he and his siblings have accomplished academically and athletically.
"My parents did a really good job raising me and my brothers and my sister," Dudeck said. "They always preached to be a student-athlete. So obviously, you had to be dedicated in both ways, whether it's waking up early to work out or staying up late to get the homework done. You can't have one without the other."
Dudeck is now in the first steps of the Navy Seal qualification process, and is hoping he will have what it takes to join the elite team one day. The competition is fierce and the process is rigorous, and Dudeck knows there is a long road ahead.
"I'm at the very beginning stage of this," Dudeck said. "There are 60 other guys who are up for the process right now. They're all good dudes and only 20 will get through. … It would be an honor to get a spot leaving here, but at the end of the day I still haven't accomplished anything yet."
Dudeck explained that people do not pursue a position in the Navy Seals for an adrenaline rush or for the challenge. Instead, he said, "they do it because that is the right thing to do and that's what you have been called to do."
And if something is worth doing, it is worth doing to the best of a person's ability, Dudeck said. "If you're not trying to be the best every day, then there's not really a point in doing it."
Dudeck takes the same approach in the classroom as he does on the field.
"When I'm on the football field I do whatever I can to give our team the best opportunity to win, whether it's blocking or whatever it takes," Dudeck said. "In the classroom I do the best I can. I'm never trying to earn a B or C. I'm going to try and earn an A, and [in the] military I'll try to do the best I can for my country."