Ah, life in the Navy. Spend your summers on ships or in helicopters. Kick a football and spend Christmas in Hawaii.
Life is good.
It's especially so for former Western High standout Jason Covarrubias, now a midshipmen second class, who will handle the punting chores for the Navy (8-3), which meets California (6-5) in today's Aloha Bowl.
No matter what job Covarrubias winds up getting after he earns his commission, he couldn't ask for a better assignment than his present one.
Covarrubias, a 20-year-old junior, was the punter on The Times All-Orange County first team in 1993, his senior season at Western. He was also a standout wide receiver, but at 5 feet 10, 175 pounds, he did not have colleges knocking at his door.
"At Western, I didn't get looked at by that many big schools," Covarrubias said. "Here was a chance to play Division I football for a program that had built itself up. I might have played somewhere else, but no one could offer the future the Navy did."
Last year at Annapolis, Covarrubias was the kicker and was more than adequate, making seven of 15 field goals and 19 of 23 extra points. But with the graduation of Brian Schrum, the Middies needed a punter.
The coaching staff asked Covarrubias to try punting and didn't have to ask twice.
"In high school punting was what I enjoyed the most, even more than receiving," Covarrubias said.
Still, Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie, despite believing Covarrubias was talented, had some reservations.
"We knew he was a good athlete when he got here. He could probably be a wide receiver or slot back or safety," Weatherbie said. "But what we needed was a first-string punter.
"We gave him the opportunity this spring and he came out of the pack. He's still the backup place kicker. But he's done a great job."
For the 1996 season, Covarrubias punted 52 times for a 38.8 average. One of his big days came against Air Force, when he kicked a career-best 71-yarder. He averaged 44.3 yards on six punts that day.
But it was in his first game as a punter, against Rutgers, that Covarrubias convinced the Navy coaches they had been right in selecting him.
Covarrubias had eight punts and averaged 42.6 yards. His kicks twice pinned the Scarlet Knights inside their 10-yard line, once on the one. "He is a good consistent kicker," said Todd Wright, Navy's kicking coach. "He's not the strongest guy around, but he does the job within what we ask him to do.
"Covy does real good in pressure situations. When we really need it, he comes through and that's how you judge a kicker. Early on we had some questions, but he got a game ball for Rutgers."
Covarrubias' college experience has also smoothed out after some initial rough seas.
In his first year, he was homesickand bothered by the abrupt adjustment to military life.
"I was warned what things were like but I really didn't know what I was getting into until I was in it," Covarrubias said. "But there is always some doubt when you're standing in a [dorm] hallway with 10 upperclassmen yelling at you.
"But since getting past boot camp, it's gotten better. Right now, I'm very pleased with my decision to have gone to the academy. In the military I've learned some life lessons and football lessons. You learn to persevere and deal with hardship."
And don't forget those vacations.
This past summer Covarrubias and his classmates spent their time aboard a cruiser in Hawaii, mixed in with enlisted men to get a taste of duty. They also got in some flight time, touring the islands in helicopters.
"You've got to learn to be a follower before you can be a leader," Covarrubias said. "We looked over the lower enlistees and got some feel for administration."
Covarrubias said he hopes to qualify for flight school after graduation. He would like to be a fighter pilot.
But first he and the Midshipmen want a victory today against the Golden Bears. Then next year, Covarrubias and his teammates want to do something about their five-game losing streak to rival Army.
"The game is something special in college football," Covarrubias said. "But we're sick of the streak."