football Edit

Boilermakers took many lessons from SEAL training

Rapheal Davis may never have been so scared in his life.
"I blacked out," he said. "I couldn't hear anything, couldn't see anything. I wasn't focused on anything. I know people were yelling, but I couldn't hear 'em. I was out of it by then."
It was a situation he'd long feared and spent the better part of his 21 years to this point terrified of, hoping to never, ever have to confront.
But there was Davis on the first weekend of September - nowhere to run, nowhere to hide - faced squarely with that he feared most.
"If there's one thing you know Ray's not gonna do," Davis joked, going third-person for effect, "it's go swimming."
The junior on Purdue's men's basketball team can't swim, nor would he ever want to.
"If I can't stand in it with my chest out of it, I'm not getting in it," he said. "All my life it's been that way."
Last month, Davis and his Purdue teammates spent the better part of four days training with SEAL Leadership, a program run by a pair of real-life Navy SEALs, put through a training regimen designed to create discomfort.
"I went into it thinking, 'OK, I know they're Navy SEALs and I know it's going to be hard, but I know they can't kill us,'" center A.J. Hammons joked.
For Davis, though, this particular moment was something more than discomfort.
This was a man skittish about water in the first place standing at the end of a 3-meter platform in the Boilermaker Aquatics Center with 17 feet of it below him.
"I've never seen a man so scared in his life," Hammons said. "We were talking to him, but he wasn't listening. He was focused. I understand it.
"(Teammates) were saying, 'We're here for you,' but you don't ever know what's going to happen and you think, 'Hey, man, you're not Superman. How do I know you can save me? I don't want to put my life in your hands."
After what Davis estimated to be about 15 minutes of near-paralysis on that board, his watershed moment, literally, arrived as he flopped off the platform.
"I ended up conquering it," said Davis, one of Purdue's team captains. "That showed everybody that even if you think you can't do something, you can push through it. That was a big message for our team and myself, that I know I can do something even if I think I can't."
That was the worst - or in the end, best - moment of the experience for Davis.
For others, the time spent rolling around in mud might have been the worst.
Or for Basil Smotherman, maybe it was carrying the 7-foot, 260-or-so-pound Hammons, on his back, around Slayter Hill.
"He weighs a lot," Smotherman said, "but I could carry him.
"We bonded a lot during the experience and learned about our strengths and weaknesses and what we can do to improve."
That was the point.
"Each guy understanding, accepting leadership from different players and not just being biased to one person or not taking constructive criticism from teammates," sophomore Kendall Stephens said. "So I think from that, we gained a lot. We gained toughness, we gained trust in each other and I think it definitely will help us to translate that onto the court."
Davis, too, said his team came out of the training exercise a closer group. From a Thursday night into Sunday, 13 players were sequestered together, mostly without access to their phones, forced to interact, forced to work in teams through log-carrying drills or other such activities.
"That whole weekend, waking up at 4 a.m. together, staying together, I think it helped us with our chemistry," Davis said. "We had to stay up and talk to each other and learn about each other. It was a great weekend and great experience."
The SEALs left Purdue's players with an assignment: Create a creed to use as a mantra for the coming season.
Players came up with it on their own: "NO BS."
Its meaning is two-fold.
Aside from the obvious, it serves as an acronym: Never Operate Below Special.
When Purdue broke its post-practice huddle Monday night in Mackey Arena, 13 voices in unison said, "NO BS."
That's what Purdue was left with after training with the SEALs, an outfit the program's staff got in contact with after learning of the success Texas basketball experienced after going through the program, director of basketball operations Elliot Bloom said.
Purdue's goal, among many, this season is to restore a culture that's corroded in recent years, to re-establish the work ethic the program has long relied on, to create better chemistry and a more positive-minded locker room environment.
Time will tell, but Davis believes the first weekend in September was a step in the right direction.
As for him personally, he was left with a source of pride, one he now looks back on as a significant personal achievement.
That doesn't mean, though, he's going swimming any time soon.
"No," he joked. "I still wouldn't do it, unless I was right back in the same situation. I'd never do it for fun.
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