SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) were able to get up close and personal with some local college athletes Aug. 21 as the University of San Diego (USD) football team conducted a practice on the flight deck of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier.
A total of 140 players and coaches from the "Toreros" were invited to practice aboard the ship after hearing head coach Ron Caragher express his interest in the aviation world and his support of the military over local radio.
The team was officially welcomed by Capt. Kevin J. Couch, Ronald Reagan's executive officer, who presented Caragher with a personalized Ronald Reagan baseball cap and offered the Toreros team an in-depth look at Navy life.
Caragher said he used the trip as a way to link the player's personal lives with their game-play, to help build each player's character.
"Coaches build foundations for fathers, brothers and community leaders," said Caragher. "We (coaches) look for a way for things to carry over."
The players were able to interact with local Sailors stationed aboard Ronald Reagan, as both Sailors and officers explained to the team why teamwork keeps their ship functional.
"The coach makes us focus on teamwork," said Anthony McCrady, the team's quarterback. "We have to do everything together. Even this trip; it's a way for us to be together as a team and get away."
"It's pretty hot up there," said John "Mac" McSorley III, the team's punter. "I can only imagine how it is in full (flight) gear."
For players such as McSorley, a young man who is no novice to the military life, being raised by a Marine father and having a brother in the Air Force and a grandfather who served in World War II, the carryover was extremely literal. The young punter is currently enrolled in USD's Navy Reserve Officers Training Course (NROTC).
Along with his visit to Ronald Reagan, he was also afforded the chance to meet fellow USD alumna, Lt. Melissa Flores, who also participated in the college's NROTC program.
"I'm really happy with the team's record," said Flores. "Back when I went there, the team was bad. My sorority sisters and I could probably have beat them."
Flores said she was honored to see the team of her alma mater come to the ship.
"USD has one of the best and largest NROTC programs," said Flores. "The school has always shown its support for the military. It's good to see new students still interested in the military."
McSorley noted how his activity in both football and NROTC has led him to build his leadership skills.
"People see my commitment," said McSorley. "It's a little give on both sides, but it takes a huge time commitment."
Hearing of McSorley's commitment to both, coach Caragher immediately stated, "I have great respect and admiration for the military. I think football has its carryover to the military. Football is the ultimate team sport; a player needs everything. Hopefully (football) will make an impact on their lives."
Ronald Reagan's ties with the team did not end when the tour was completed and the players boarded buses to head back to campus.
Capt. Terry B. Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, is scheduled to join the Toreros Aug. 24 during their practice at USD to talk to the team about leadership and teamwork.
Ronald Reagan is currently undergoing a planned incremental availability in her homeport of San Diego following a three-month surge deployment in support of operations in the Western Pacific.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.