True PatriotTexas A&M linebacker honored with collegiate military award

By Bryan Mcanally The Battalion

October 31, 2007

College Station, TX (CSTV U-WIRE) -- On a night when Kyle Field was filled with veterans and students, one Aggie football player represented both. Before kickoff on Texas A&M's Military Appreciation Night, senior linebacker and Army Sgt. Mark Dodge was awarded the Pat Tillman Patriot Award. Presented by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Patriot Award recognizes one student athlete who has served in the military before playing collegiate football.

"Saturday night, standing out there by myself was a whole 'nother feeling," Dodge said. "When you have 85,000 people all staring at just you, it definitely gives you some chills."

Dodge enlisted in the military, fresh out of high school, but few Aggies in attendance knew just how deep his military service goes.

After enlistment, Dodge was sent to Washington, D.C., where he became a member of the Third Infantry Regiment, better known as "The Old Guard." He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a sergeant in two years. Part of Dodge's duties as a member of the Third Infantry was to serve as the Presidential Honor Guard, a position that regularly brought him in close proximity to the President and other politicians.

"I was at a lot of amazing events in the White House, and too many state dinners," Dodge said. "I've ran into so many foreign dignitaries I couldn't even tell you how many times."

Four years after enlistment, with his military career over, Dodge has fulfilled his dream of playing collegiate football after agreeing to suit up for A&M.

"Its been a pretty wild ride, coming from a small farm town [Yerington, Nev.], to the military, then to D.C.," Dodge said. "And then just being blessed to come back and play football at my age is great."

Like many Aggies, it took one visit to set Dodge's mind to attend A&M. As soon as he was introduced to the campus and traditions, especially those regarding Kyle Field, Dodge had made his decision.

"The Corps and traditions were a big draw for me to come in," Dodge said. "I wanted to be a part of something that was still a little bit more military, so I knew where I was going as soon as I was recruited."

As far as football is concerned, Dodge is making the most of his final season as an Aggie. He has started every game as linebacker, and was elected to serve on the 2007 Leadership Council of the football team. His coaches admitted that his military character and service have reflected upon Dodge and the team in the locker room.

"Mark obviously has been a rock for us," said Head Coach Dennis Franchione. "As far as consistency, and work ethic and character go, you can depend on him and his teammates know that. He's always going to give everything he has on every play."

Dodge admitted the transition from military life to college life was a "big one." He entered A&M in fall 2006 as an Agricultural Leadership major. Dodge is to graduate in December, and has already accepted a job opportunity in Dallas.

With all that he has become in his lifetime as a military man, presidential guard and Fightin' Texas Aggie, Dodge is eager to add yet another title to his resume: former student.

"[A&M] is definitely going to be a fun place to come back to after I'm done playing," Dodge said.

(C) 2007 The Battalion via CSTV U-WIRE