Jan. 24, 2012
Not everybody can say they've gone backpacking through the Himalayas or driving through war-torn Lebanon. Few can take pride in being accepted into the Navy SEAL training program or competing at a high level in a Division I sport.
But in only 22 years, Dave Loftus can say he's done all of that and more.
The senior captain of Boston College's men's ski team could easily be the most interesting student-athlete you've never heard of, and his stories range from the inspiring to the insane.
"Nothing is really beyond you," Loftus said. "My entire experience here has been teaching me that there's nothing really that's physically beyond people, it's just how hard you're willing to work for it, which translates well both into sports and into the SEAL community."
Loftus is a National Reserve Officers Training Program (NROTC) midshipman and has spent time with SEAL Team 4. He's an Islamic Civilization and Societies major who knows various dialects of Arabic. When he doodles in the classes he has to take to fulfill his pre-med and honors program requirements, it's in Arabic script, and he takes pride in the fact he took the time to learn about Eastern cultures.
Loftus lights up when he talks about all of the things he's been able to do and learn. His unique story, he'll tell you, is a product of his hard work and the help of people who understand that his military program, sport and academics are all equally important to him.
After graduating a year early from the National Sports Academy at Lake Placid, he went to India and Nepal to volunteer for five months. While he admits he "never had grand ambitions of being the greatest skier in the world or even skiing in college," being away from the sport he had grown up with for so long showed him that he couldn't live without it.
"During that year off, I realized that skiing had been such a big part of my life," he said. "I didn't realize how much I'd miss it."
Even though he knew he needed to continue skiing in college, Loftus, a Syracuse, N.Y., native and son of two doctors, also knew he wanted to serve in the military.
"I felt like I had a pretty fortunate childhood and high school experience and I wanted to show that I could do school independently; I could pay for it myself," he explained. "The military attitude also appealed to me, and nobody in my family, outside myself, would do it. My family's been extremely fortunate so I felt like we definitely owed something to a lot of other people that make these types of sacrifices."
Since coming to BC, Loftus has become a leader on the slopes and in his battalion, which helped in his with his acceptance into the SEALs training program. While he says that skiing is really an individual sport with a less defined leadership structure, he felt honored to be named captain. Still, he wanted to stress anyone can lead, something he learned from his time on the team and with the SEALs.
"I'm certainly not the best skier on our team," he said. "I like to think I'm focused and work hard, and I think other people saw and respected that. Everybody's expected to take up that mantle at some point. I told that to the freshmen when we first got there. I'm not a leader because I'm the best skier or the fastest or the strongest or anything like that, and you guys can all do the same exact thing."
Being an alpine skier and a future SEAL, Loftus is used to taking risks. During his travels through the Middle East in the summer of 2010--where he was studying languages through different programs--he sometimes found himself in rather interesting situations.
"My friend and I would rent cars on the weekend [in Lebanon] and drive all around just to see what kind of trouble we could get into," Loftus said, with a laugh. "So we're down in south Lebanon and probably passing checkpoints guarded by Hezbollah militiamen, and they made us give rides to people because they didn't have cars so they'd tell us, `yes you can pass but you must give this guy a ride home.'"
And don't forget about the time he went to Ayatollah Fadlallah's funeral while he was in Lebanon during his travels through the Middle East in the summer of 2010.
"My friend and I were probably, outside of the major news sources, the only white people around," Loftus noted. "We were being followed the entire time by two guys in black that were probably speaking to somebody about some Americans walking around at this Hezbollah funeral.
"We did some interesting things like that, got to experience things we maybe shouldn't have experienced, see places I can pretty comfortably say I'll never be again and a lot of people never will be in their life."
When he graduates, Loftus will go to his first session of SEAL training in California. While he says that he's really going to miss his skiing "family," he's ready for his next challenge and excited to be part of a military community that reminds him so much of his team.
Plus, he hasn't jumped out of an airplane yet.
Written by Jen Dobias