Homecoming a family affair for Wimsatts
Brothers keep football, military traditions soaring at academy

By BILL WAGNER, Staff Writer
Published October 18, 2007
What's the chance of three brothers all playing Division I football and serving in the Marine Corps?

That rarity has become reality for the Wimsatt family, and all three brothers will be at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this Saturday.

Matt Wimsatt, the youngest brother, is a starting outside linebacker and leading tackler for Navy this season. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound senior has been one of the few consistent performers for a defense that has struggled through six games. He intends to choose Marine Corps ground as a service selection.

Brad Wimsatt, an intimidating 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive end, was co-captain of the 2000 Navy football team. He is now a pilot in the Marine Corps and flies a Boeing AV-8B Harrier.

Capt. Wimsatt is part of Marine Attack.

Training Squadron 203, which will perform the fly-over just prior to kickoff of Saturday's Navy-Wake Forest game. He will pilot the right wing aircraft as the "Hawks" fly in diamond formation.

"I don't think the Harriers have done the fly-over in a long time. I'm looking forward to showing the fans what the Harriers are all about," said Capt. Wimsatt, noting the jets can make significant noise when slowed down with the thrusters positioned a certain way.

Sitting in the stands watching his younger brother play and older brother fly will be Andrew Wimsatt, who enlisted in the Marine Corps after playing football at N.C. State. He recently completed training in California and will celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary on Saturday before reporting to Jacksonville, N.C. to fly Cobra attack helicopters.

"It's going to be an exciting day. I think it will be a neat experience to have Brad doing the fly-over and to have so many members of my family at the game," Matt Wimsatt said.

Navy normally takes the field moments before the fly-over and Matt is anxious to see his brother in action.

"I know which jet he's in so I'll look up and wave to him," he said.

To have raised three sons big and athletic enough to play Division I football and patriotic enough to serve in the armed forces is a true blessing for Matt Wimsatt Sr. and former wife Debbie.

"We are so profoundly proud of what our boys have accomplished. I don't think we could ever have imagined they would all follow the same path as far as sports and career," said Debbie Wimsatt, who lives in Damascus, Md.

All agree that Brad introduced the military component to the family equation. Andrew and Matt attended Navy football games while in high school and grew to admire the type of men willing to fight for the United States.

"Brad kind of led the way with it. His time at the academy and with the Marines gave us a window into the military life and we liked it," said Matt Wimsatt, whose two grandfathers served in World War II.

Debbie Wimsatt agrees that a certain sense of patriotism pervades within the extended family. Her brother's son also serves in the Marine Corps while her sister's son is a freshman at the Naval Academy.

"All three of my boys felt a strong responsibility to serve their country. They wanted to give part of their life to defending the United States," she said. "I do worry about them constantly. They are doing or will be doing dangerous things. That is always in the back of your mind."

Brad Wimsatt recently returned from his first tour of duty in the Middle East. He was part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit that saw plenty of action during a seven-month deployment and his Harrier squadron performed "strike force support" for missions into Iraq.

Andrew Wimsatt, who was a Washington Post All-Metro selection as a senior at Damascus High, will be deployed to a Marine base in Iraq this March. Flying the Cobra helicopters has proven one of the more dangerous assignments during the war in Iraq.

Considering the circumstances and the career paths of her children, Debbie Wimsatt is looking forward to having all three together at a tailgate outside Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

"I have to seize the moment to spend time with my sons. It's hard to get them all together in one place anymore," she said. "We're all looking forward to supporting Matt. He is doing so well in football and academically."

In an interesting twist, Brad Wimsatt was recruited out of Ravenscroft High in Raleigh, N.C. by a Navy assistant named Paul Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson had left to become head coach at Georgia Southern by the time Brad arrived from prep school and Navy enjoyed just one winning season (7-4 in 1997) during his career.

Brad Wimsatt was a starter on the 1999 squad that finished 5-7 after losing six games by a touchdown or less. He then endured a 1-10 disaster as a senior.

Needless to say, it has been rewarding for Brad to see his younger brother be part of an unprecedented era of success for Navy football. The Midshipmen own a 31-10 record with three bowl appearances during Matt Wimsatt's career.

"What's great is that Matt has given me bowl gear every year. It's an honor to wear that stuff and be proud of how well Navy football is doing these days," Brad said.

Saturday will mark the first time Brad Wimsatt will see his baby brother play live.

Matt Wimsatt has compiled 41 tackles through six games and could become the first outside linebacker to lead the team in tackling in nearly two decades. However, the Navy defense is allowing an average of 33.7 points and 447.7 yards per game and that makes the youngest Wimsatt feel as though he's not doing enough.

"I always think I can play better. I'm always frustrated with myself," said Wimsatt, who ranks second on the team with four tackles for loss. "I want the defense to play better. I think if the defense improved I would be happier with what I'm doing."

Everything is set for a wonderful Wimsatt reunion on Saturday as no fewer than 25 family members will attend the Navy-Wake game. Now the pressure is on Matt Wimsatt to get everyone into the stadium.