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They spoke the day before the Mids’ opener against Maryland. After the game, Bridges learned that Narcisse was killed in a single-car crash that morning.

“It was really hard,” Bridges said. “I still think about him every day. He’s one of my really best friends.”

It was an ominous start to the semester. Bridges acknowledged that he wasn’t as diligent as necessary, and he found himself in a precarious position academically.

“I remember going to the board, talking to them,” Niumatalolo said. “Professors and company officers were saying he doesn’t belong here, look at his grades, this and that. I said, ‘This kid is a great kid and he’s adjusting. Just give him some time; there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll make it.’”

It was another jolt, the latest in a series. Like so many that came before, Bridges responded maturely.

His grades improved, and he earned a 3.0 GPA in the spring. Meanwhile, he adjusted to the military aspect of the academy experience and began to blend in better as a sophomore.

“My back was against the wall. They gave me a really good scare when I went to the board and they said, ‘If you don’t show improvement ,’” Bridges said. “I was like, ‘I’ve made it this far in life, I’m not going to let my family and friends down, my dad down. We’ve been through so much already. I’m not going to let this happen.’”

On the field, Bridges‘ career was beset with injuries. He worked with starters during camp as a freshman but suffered a dislocated elbow. After working primarily with the field goal unit last year, he sustained a foot injury and was limited entering spring practice.

Nonetheless, he was optimistic about his chances of earning regular playing time on offense until his meeting with Niumatalolo.

“I was starting to feel good and things were going well,” Bridges said. “Then they hit me with a switch, and I’m like, ‘Does this mean I’m not good enough to play on offense?’ Then talking to coach Culton, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to think like that.’”

Bridges soon deployed two of his greatest assets: positivity and pride. He embraced the change and rapidly learned some of Navy’s defensive concepts, and was one of the stars of the Mids’ spring game with seven tackles and a sack.

Just like his father taught him, pride can work for or against a man. Travis Bridges Jr. put it to use to adapt to his circumstances at every turn at Navy.

His father couldn’t be more pleased.

“I don’t think there are enough words in the English dictionary or the language of English to express that,” Mr. Bridges said. “You realize the magnitude of his commitment to society in having this opportunity. I’m more than proud. I’m honored.”