LAKEWOOD RANCH — Mark Nordhausen didn’t believe it was possible.
As the 19-year-old spent time filling out the application, writing the necessary essays and collecting letters of recommendation, he couldn’t help but think his lifelong dream of attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was simply that — a dream.
“It’s something to be really good at,” Nordhausen says. “To be a soldier and to serve the country is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
But during a campus visit earlier this year, the Cardinal Mooney High School graduate, who played offensive and defensive line for the Cougars, saw his hard work and dedication pay off when he received the opportunity to play football for Army.
“I was really ecstatic,” Nordhausen says. “It’s probably one of the best things that’s happened in my life.
“Truthfully, I never thought it would happen,” Nordhausen says. “It’s such a great school. I knew that was my very best option.”
Nordhausen began playing football for the East Manatee Bulldogs when he was 10 years old. He played a variety of sports at the time, but there was something about football that garnered Nordhausen’s attention.
“I enjoy the people you get to meet and having a team,” Nordhausen says.
In 2005, Nordhausen was a part of the Bulldogs Junior Midget squad that finished with a perfect 16-0 record en route to winning the national championship.
But it wasn’t until his freshman season at Lakewood Ranch High School that Nordhausen began to grow into his position.
“I always liked football the most, but I was actually not very good,” Nordhausen says. “I grew into a lineman when I got taller. I grew three inches my freshman year.”
Following his freshman season, Nordhausen transferred to Cardinal Mooney, where he was a three-year starter on the offensive line and two-year starter on the defensive line.
During his final game at Cardinal Mooney, the defensive end forced a fumble on a kickoff, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown to help lead the Cougars to a 23-21 victory.
Nordhausen will travel to West Point in mid-July. He will spend a year attending the USMA Prep School before transitioning to West Point.
While at the USMA Prep School, Nordhausen will participate in a 10-month developmental program designed to teach offensive and defensive strategies and techniques to prepare players for their careers at West Point.
“I’m just looking forward to being a part of something bigger than myself and (concentrating) on the greater good,” he said. “West Point will (provide) me with all-around life training, so I can be the best person and leader in everything I do.”
Preparatory school will be nothing new for Nordhausen, who spent the past year attending Berkshire School — a private boarding school in Sheffield, Mass.
While attending Berkshire, Nordhausen, who plans to major in history, improved himself both academically and athletically.
“It’s been a really good opportunity to get my life straight,” Nordhausen says. “I’ve gotten faster, stronger and improved all around. The prep school was basically the best thing that happened to me.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].