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Call of duty: Navy's Tyler Simmons will honor his boyhood friend

In Saturday's game against Army, Navy's starting linebacker will wear the patch of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. That's the regiment of his friend Ethan Feuerborn.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: December 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm •  Published: December 9, 2010

Ethan Feuerborn gets goose bumps every time he watches his best friend play football for Navy.

This week, he's getting them just thinking about it.

Not only will boyhood buddy Tyler Simmons be starting at linebacker Saturday in the Army-Navy game, but he will also wearing the red-shielded patch of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Feuerborn's regiment.

In a game that already carries meaning beyond the gridiron, the patches add another layer of significance. Regiments can send a patch to the team, and some even provide one that's been worn in combat. Then, the players pick the patch that they want to wear.

No choice was more personal than Simmons'.

“This is the kind of stuff that happens in movies,” Feuerborn said. “It's not supposed to happen in Washington, Okla.”

The small town southwest of Norman is where Simmons and Feuerborn grew up, where the next door neighbors became like brothers. They played football, basketball and pretty much every other sport together, starring at Washington High.

That's also where both of them decided they wanted to serve their country.

While Simmons became a small-school standout, was recruited by both Army and Navy and eventually signed with the Midshipmen, Feuerborn enlisted in the Marines right out of high school. He was eventually assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton in California.

Last year, the 1/5 deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration's massive troop surge.

The regiment's destination: the Nawa District in the volatile Helmand province.

“It was a really bad place when we got there,” Feuerborn said. “The Taliban had shut down all their schools, all their medical facilities.”

The Taliban was well-entrenched, running the district and intimidating the people. There were stories of Afghans being stopped on the roads by the Taliban who demanded “tolls” and gunned them down if they couldn't pay.

Few could.

“Poorer than poor,” Feuerborn said of the people there. “No running water. No electricity. No nothing.”

The Marines' first weeks on the ground were difficult.

“When we got there, it was bad,” Feuerborn said. “There was some pretty heavy fighting.”

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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No skiing

Tyler Simmons is no world-class downhill skier.

But the Oklahoma native and Navy linebacker tried to act like one during a weekend ski trip with his teammates this past winter, and it could've cost him his senior season.

“They were doing all sorts of tricks,” Simmons said. “I said: ‘You know, if they're going to do it, I'm going to do it.'”

He chuckled.

“It just didn't work out too well for me.”

Going full tilt, he slammed into a mogul and his pole stuck in the snow. It rammed his midsection.

He eventually went to the hospital and learned he'd fractured a couple ribs and lacerated his spleen. Blood flow had to be cut off to his spleen, and he spent a couple weeks in the hospital.

Simmons missed spring practice and was limited during the summer. While sitting out was difficult for the former Washington High standout, it heightened his appreciation for football.

“Whenever you have the opportunity to play and you're not able to, it puts it in a completely different perspective,” he said. “In the end, no regrets.”

Still ...

“No more skiing for awhile.”

By Jenni Carlson


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