MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJUENE, N.C. --
Right now, his biggest concern is preparing with his battalion for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. But somewhere in the back of his mind, dreams of fresh grass and football dangle like a carrot over a horse’s head.
The football seed was planted early on in Lance Cpl. Dallin W. Jaramillo’s life. He grew up a die-hard Denver Broncos fan and played throughout high school.
Jaramillo, a radio operator with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, finds time between predeployment training to play some Sunday afternoon pick-up games with his fellow Marines. He hopes to keep his skills sharp for a tryout for the base semi-pro football team, the Camp Lejeune Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are part of the Ultimate American Football league and made it to the third round of the playoffs in 2010.
At 5’7" and 170 pounds, Jaramillo doesn’t fit the prototypical size of a middle linebacker, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with intellect and heart.
“That’s always something that has worked against me in football, but I take the good out of it. It made me push myself harder than probably anyone on my high school team,” said Jaramillo.
The largest and fastest are usually first to get drafted into the National Football League. However, like many things, there is always the exception to the rule. In the NFL, there are many big-name athletes who are very close to Jaramillo’s size.
Jaramillo called New Orleans Saints’ running back Darren Sproles an athlete he roots for. Sproles is 5’6” and 170 pounds. His nickname is “tank” and is considered by many as a top-tier, explosive running back in the NFL.
“I had to prove that being undersized physically didn’t mean I couldn’t compete. I’ve always rooted for the underdog, the undersized guy,” said the Denver native.
Fellow Marines in Jaramillo’s squad believe he can make the team. His Marines said, despite his small size, he can still compete at a high level because of his drive and hard-work ethic.
“Not to say the other Marines are not smart, but he’s is one of our smarter Marines,” said Cpl. Mathew P. Zabik, Jaramillo’s squad leader. “We plan on making him our platoon radio operator. It’s a complicated job with a lot of responsibilities. It’s a job I’ve done before and it’s not easy. He’s definitely got some brain in him. After the deployment, he’ll have plenty of time and, if he sights in, he can do it.”
Despite how tasty the carrot of playing football looks to Jaramillo, he isn’t planning to take any focus away from his predeployment training. He, like many other service members, put service before self.
“It’s hard,” said Jaramillo. “On one hand, playing football again would be like a dream come true. But on the other hand, I know I owe it to my leadership to do the job they’ve been training me to do.”