UofL Football players take on the Army Field Leaders Reaction Course at Fort Knox.
UofL Football players take on the Army Field Leaders Reaction Course at Fort Knox.

What do you get when take NCAA Division 1 student-athletes and present them with obstacles on an Army Field Leaders Reaction Course? The University of Louisville football team recently found out as part of a community engagement visit to Fort Knox.

The team had a chance to go through an Army Field Leaders Reaction Course designed to strengthen leadership, team building and communications skills as small groups complete a series of physically and mentally demanding obstacles.  

One of the obstacles required the small group to “destroy” an enemy Command Post. In order to accomplish this mission the team had to figure out how to cross a double fence, bringing all team members and a 30-pound can of nitroglycerin with them, using only equipment provided. The group only had five minutes to plan and twenty minutes to complete the task.

Soldiers from across Fort Knox served as observer/controllers at each obstacle, guiding and evaluating the small groups based on how well they were able to complete the obstacle and how long it took them. In addition, each obstacle had members of UofL’s coaching staff on-site observing to see how the student-athletes performed.

After completing the Field Leadership Reaction Course the team had an opportunity to hear from a wounded warrior veteran, Justin Lane. Lane an Army veteran and double amputee as a result of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, delivered an inspirational message about resiliency and “never giving up, never surrendering.”  

The team also had the opportunity to compete against the U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s E-Sports Team, comprised of soldiers who are nationally-ranked gamers. The football team’s offensive unit was able to nominate five players to compete against three E-Sports Team soldiers in “Call of Duty.” This competition produced one of the loudest cheers of the entire visit when the football team scored a “kill” against the soldiers.

One of the other highlights of the visit was the team’s engagement with fans at the Patton Museum. Hundreds of Cards fans turned out for an opportunity to get autographs and take photos with the players and coaches. The fans ranged in age from young children, to soldiers of all ranks, to veterans, to a woman in her mid-80s who was getting autographs for her grandson.

The visit concluded with Major General John Evans, Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army Cadet Command and Senior Mission Commander for Fort Knox, addressing the team. Evans spoke to the team about tuning out distractors and focusing on the critical mission or task at hand facing a team, whether that be on the football field, in the classroom or in the boardroom. Evans also recognized the winning group from the Field Leadership Reaction Course competition, Team Watkins, led by Freshman Wide Receiver Jordan Watkins.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Evans was surprised by a presentation recognizing him as adopted alumni of the University of Louisville. The University of Louisville’s Alumni Association established the Adopted Alumni program in 1982 to recognize those who, although not graduates, have demonstrated interest in or love for UofL and made contributions to the enhancement, enrichment, and improvement of the university.

The award was bestowed by the University’s Alumni Association in recognition of all Evans has done over the past three years to strengthen the relationship between Fort Knox and UofL. The relationship between UofL and Fort Knox was established in 1918.

Story written by Kyle Hurwitz, director of UofL’s Military and Online Initiatives.