Standout safety Alohi Gilman transferring from Navy
Navy's Alohi Gilman celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a UConn fumble recovery in the second quarter. The Navy Midshipmen played the University of Connecticut Huskies in men's NCAA football Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. (By Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette)
Standout defensive back Alohi Gilman has decided to transfer from the Naval Academy.
Gilman, who was an honorable mention All-American Athletic Conference selection as a freshman last season, announced the news on Twitter late Wednesday night then confirmed it to The Capital on Thursday morning.
"This did not just come out of the blue. It's something I've been thinking about for a while," Gilman said when contacted by The Capital via telephone. "I've spent a lot of time thinking, pondering and praying about this. Ultimately, I feel very comfortable with the decision."
Gilman, a rising sophomore, realized after a full year at the Naval Academy that the military commitment was not for him. "Unfortunately, the desire to become a Naval officer just wasn't there," he said.
Navy athletics spokesman Scott Strasemeier said head coach Ken Niumatalolo was well aware of Gilman's transfer announcement and had spoken to the player during the decision-making process. Several other members of the Navy coaching staff had also talked to Gilman about the benefits of remaining at the Naval Academy.
“We will miss Alohi. He is an outstanding football player and an even better person,” Niumatalolo said by text message while traveling on Thursday. “We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL.”
Gilman enjoyed a fantastic freshman season for Navy football, playing in all 14 games with 12 starts and ranking second on the squad in total tackles with 76 (50 solo). The 6-foot, 195-pounder also recorded five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Gilman, who was named ECAC Rookie of the Year, authored one of the most memorable plays of the 2016 season when he ripped the ball away from Connecticut quarterback Bryant Sherriffs during a pileup at the line of scrimmage and trotted two yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Gilman was named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in that game as he finished with 10 tackles (nine solo) and two fumble recoveries.
"I enjoyed everything about Navy. I got a geat opportunity to play and felt like I made the most of it," Gilman said. "It was a really fun freshman season and very rewarding that I could help the team do well. Everything about football at Navy was awesome."
Gilman, who attended the Naval Academy Prep School during the 2015-2016 academic year, acknowledged he had developed many friendships that he feels will remain life-long.
"This is easily the most difficult decision I've ever had to made because I've created so many great relationships here at Navy," he said. "I've got a really close bond with all my teammates, who I consider my brothers."
Gilman said he intends to transfer to another Division I institution, possibly one in a Power Five conference. There are already rumors the Hawaii native is leaning toward Utah, which recruited him out of Kahuku High.
"I definitely have some options. I consider myself a Division I scholarship player," Gilman said.
In announcing the decision on Twitter, Gilman wrote the following: "Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy is one of the best opportunities I have been a part of. It has helped to mold me into the man I am today. It has given me the opportunity to grow in all aspects of my life."
Gilman took time to thank Niumatalolo and the Navy coaching staff in his Twitter announcement.
"I am extremely grateful for Coach Kenny Niumatalolo for giving me the opportunity to be part of the Brotherhood and giving me the chance to live out my dreams. Coach Niumatalolo and his staff are examples of true leaders. I have learned more about leadership and character from playing one season with Navy football than any other organization I have been a part of so far."
Gilman started the Connecticut game at right cornerback then made two starts at strong safety before finishing out the season as Navy's starting free safety. He was listed as the starting strong safety coming out of spring camp.
Rising junior Juan Hailey is currently listed as the backup at strong safety. Rising senior Randy Beggs and rising junior John Gillis are also in the mix to replace Gilman as the starter.