Florida Atlantic may be losing an emotional defender, but the United States of America may be gaining a determined leader.
Nate Ozdemir, a linebacker and rising fifth-year senior for the Owls, has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to pursue a career in the United States Marine Corps.
Ozdemir announced Saturday that he will be giving up football to pursue his career as a pilot in either the Marines or with the Army in the coming years.
The 21-year-old missed the final four games of the season last year with a broken foot and has suffered multiple head and shoulder injuries over the last few seasons which prompted him to step away from the game for good.
"I’m at this point where if I get hurt one more time, it sets me back big time," he told the Sun Sentinel. "Probably going to set me back anywhere from a year and a half to two years before they even consider looking at me again."
The 21-year-old, formerly of the Naval Academy, left Navy to pursue a football career with FAU after a year on the Midshipmen roster.
He made his way to Boca Raton, Fla., where it took him two years to earn a scholarship, but once he earned it he, helped lead an Owls team that hasn't had a winning season since 2008.
After each loss, Ozdemir was always there to motivate and get his team up for their next time out. Following a loss two seasons ago, he addressed the team after the game.
"I just wanted to let these guys know that losing is not OK," Ozdemir said. "This is not going to continue. I was putting my foot down because I was tired of it."
The Owls went out and won their next game.
All the while Ozdemir was training to become a pilot and is now taking the next step to get there in hopes of serving with the Marines.
He is very close to getting there. He is just 40 flight hours away from qualifying as a flight instructor in Boca Raton and on the brink of getting where he has so long planned on going.
"This is my NFL," said Ozdemir, who hopes to complete Officer Candidate School (OCS) with the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va. "This is what I want to do after college. I didn’t want to pursue the NFL. This is what I’ve wanted my whole life is to go be a soldier.
"I just feel like as a grown, dominant male figure in this country, I kind of owe it to them," Ozdemir added. "I just don’t feel like it’s fair for other people my age going and putting their lives on the line to do that kind of thing when I’m just as healthy, I’m just as fine, just as qualified to it, if not more qualified."