Chargers' trip to Camp Pendleton carries extra meaning for Fox, Gilman and Harbaugh

Tue, Jun 11, 2024
NFL News (AP)

Chargers' trip to Camp Pendleton carries extra meaning for Fox, Gilman and Harbaugh

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) - Marine 2nd Lt. Jawaun Stanley has closely followed Los Angeles Chargers safety Alohi Gilman's career.

Stanley watched his former roommate prepare for the upcoming season on Tuesday.

The Chargers' first day of minicamp included an afternoon walkthrough at Camp Pendleton in front of 5,000 people. It was the first time since 2006 that the Chargers have conducted a practice at the Marine Corps base.

"Just being out here, the atmosphere is amazing," Gilman said. "I got to experience a little bit of my own personal journey. Just seeing and coming back is a good thing."

Gilman and Stanley were roommates at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island. Nearly three-quarters of Navy football players attend the school, which serves as a redshirt year before going to the academy.

Gilman said the experiences at the prep school served as the basis for helping him further develop as a football player.

"I went through a lot when I was there. I'd say not so much the good, the bad, and the ugly, but when you look back at it, you have a greater appreciation for it," he said. "I'm a little bit more emotional when I see my roommate from boot camp. He was with me when my head was shaved, and I was down in the dumps. You know, going through hard stuff together. So, that's my brother, and I'm excited I got the chance to see him today."

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As Gilman signed autographs after practice, Stanley said he was also inspired to see Gilman's career take off. Gilman was at the Naval Academy for one year before transferring to Notre Dame in 2017. The main reason Gilman decided to transfer was that the Department of Defense closed the loophole where graduates of military academies could apply to defer their active service to play professionally upon graduation.

"I pulled a lot from this guy," Stanley said of Gilman. "What inspires me is to watch somebody be 100% devoted to his purpose and where he wants to go and chase after it."

Gilman wasn't the only Chargers player who took extra meaning from the practice. Defensive lineman Morgan Fox has been the Chargers' recipient of the Salute to Service Award twice. Three generations of his family have served in the military and he also devotes time to the Wounded Warriors project.

Fox, who grew up on an Army base in Colorado and in Germany, knows how much conducting a practice means for military families and the children on base. Before practice, the Chargers held an NFL Play60 event for 100 children of servicemen and servicewomen.

"Things like this don't happen all the time on base, so being able to do it is huge," he said. "Any time you come out and do this in front of a group of people is a lot more fun than just doing it in front of the walls. It meant a lot to me to be able to come out here."

Quarterback Justin Herbert and safety Derwin James signed plenty of autographs, but the most popular Charger was coach Jim Harbaugh, who had a large group of people around him. Players and staff signed autographs and took photos for nearly an hour after the walkthrough.

The Chargers held a morning practice at their complex in Costa Mesa before making the 50-mile (80-kilometer) bus trip south to the base.

"It is tremendous to honor the courage and commitment of the Marines. They're heroes and don't get a day off," Harbaugh said. "It is fun to see the interaction of warriors on the battlefield meeting the warriors on the gridiron."

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JOE REEDY Sports writer based in Los Angeles. twitter mailto "
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