ANNAPOLIS | Brye French never met Brendan Looney, but he heard the stories about the former Navy football and lacrosse player. French, himself a two-sport athlete, attended Looney’s funeral along with the rest of his lacrosse teammates.
Given the opportunity to honor Looney, who died in a 2010 helicopter crash in Afghanistan, French wore a uniform patch symbolizing Looney’s unit in last year’s Army-Navy game. He’ll do so again Saturday when the Midshipmen (7-4) face the Black Knights (2-9) in Philadelphia.
“I feel like I want to live up to his legacy,” French said. “He set that prime example: The commitment, the hard work, the sacrifice, the toughness and just love for his brothers. That’s something I aspire to try to emulate.”
French carved out his own place at the academy. He was named Navy’s defensive captain before spring practice and ranks third on the roster with 71 tackles.
He also did so in a way in keeping with how Looney carried himself.
“It’s ironic; they’re kind of similar guys,” said Richie Meade, who coached both Looney and French while he was Navy’s lacrosse coach and now works at Furman. “They’re quiet leaders and very, very tough and soft-spoken. I don’t think you lead by example. I don’t. That’s being a guy doing what he’s supposed to do. I think I would say the similarity between them is that both guys led subtly.”
It was a comparison French appreciated.
“I think Brendan Looney is many the man I am,” French said. “I aspire to be that. I’m nowhere close, but to hear coach Meade saying that, that means a lot. Brendan Looney, there’s no one who can be like him. He was that diamond you see once in a coaching career. That’s what coach Meade would always say.”
French wore a Seal Team 3 patch last year when a Navy lacrosse equipment manager said they were available. The symbols on the patch resonated with French, who received a service assignment of Marine Corps Ground last week.
The patch depicts wings, with a sword down the middle. Across the bottom, it simply reads “Brotherhood.”
“What that means and what that signifies, not only on the football team or the lacrosse team, but you can see the stuff we cherish and brag about in the locker room is the same thing we’ll be living after we graduate,” French said.
French said he has not met Looney’s family, including younger brothers Steven and Billy who also played lacrosse at Navy. But a man who knew all of them believes French is an ideal representative for the fallen former Mid.
“I think it’s fitting, and although the Looneys —- Steven and Billy —- didn’t know Brye since they were gone [from the academy], I think he’s a good guy to wear Brendan’s unit patch,” Meade said.
—- Patrick Stevens