Kurt Stengel was never afraid of hard work.
It’s how he got the opportunity to push himself even harder.
Stengel is a 2016 graduate of Archbishop Wood High School, and during his time with the Vikings, he worked himself into a top lineman in the Catholic League.
In his senior year, when the Vikings won their second straight state championship with him as a starter, he was First-Team All-Catholic and First-Team All-State.
The Somerton resident garnered a lot of interest when he was looking to pick a college, but he ultimately decided to attend Navy.
It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely the right call.
“If you want to succeed here, not just in football, but in school, it means making difficult choices,” said Stengel, who graduated from the academy in May. “There will be weekend nights where you want to go out, but on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll stay in and write a paper or study. It’s what you have to do.
“They definitely give you what you need to succeed, but you have to work. You have to try and see if you can figure things out. If you need help, they’ll help you, but they don’t walk you through it. It was tough, but I loved it.”
Stengel not only succeeded in the classroom, where he graduated with a political science degree, but he became a contributor on the football team.
Playing against some of the top teams in the nation, Stengel opened his senior year as a starter at tackle and played against Brigham Young, a team that ended the season ranked 16th in the nation.
Later in the year, he played mostly special teams, but he was still a key part of the team. His career ended in a memorable way, too.
“We got to play the Army-Navy game at West Point, first time since World War II, so that was very neat,” Stengel said. “Playing football for Navy was great, I’m very proud that I did it.”
He also had a dream-come-true experience for a Philly kid during his junior year, when he helped Navy defeat Army in Philadelphia. It snapped a three-game winning streak by the Black Knights of the Hudson.
“That was probably the greatest experiences of my life,” Stengel said. “Running through the tunnel at the Linc. It was an incredible feeling. The game is so big, but I was doing it in Philly. It meant a lot to everyone, but for me, it was very special.
“We got four tickets, and my family was there, but I was standing on the field and I heard someone call my name and it was a kid I knew from Wood, and we ended up talking for a few minutes. It was just incredible to play for Navy at the Linc.
“I think playing football at Wood definitely prepared me to play football, but I’m not sure anything can prepare you for the hard work you have to do. It’s trial by fire, but they’ll help you. You don’t go into the fire alone, but you definitely get thrown in.”
Athletically, playing for the Midshipmen is a great accomplishment and will always offer Stengel endless stories to tell his family and friends.
But his greatest accomplishments were in the classroom, and those are achievements that will open doors for him the rest of his life.
And those achievements were earned.
The academy is extremely challenging in all aspects. In order to get through, students have to have great discipline and the will to learn. It’s not for everyone, but it was definitely for Stengel, who excelled.
More work is on the horizon.
He soon heads to Rhode Island, where he’ll work for the rest of the summer, then he’ll report to a ship.
“It will be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to it,” Stengel said. “You’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean. It’s pretty cool. I’ve had a lot of friends who have done it, and it’s hard, but they like it.”
Stengel is looking forward to it, but he admits there are things he’ll miss. It’s the same things he missed during his time at the academy.
“I definitely missed the food, and I miss my friends and family,” Stengel said. “Food? I just had my first cheesesteak in a long time. And I miss my mom’s cooking.”
So it’s food first, then family?
“I say food first because I talk to my family all the time and my friends,” Stengel said with a laugh. “I’ve never FaceTimed a cheesesteak before. I’m in a group text with my family and we talk a lot. They’re very important to me, and they’re supportive.”
The distant future is unclear for Stengel, but there’s a good chance he’ll stay in the Navy and make that his career. He also comes from a family of teachers, so that’s a possibility, too.
“Once school is done, they go down the shore and that’s a pretty good way to spend the summer,” Stengel said. “I’ve always thought about coaching, too. Like an offensive line coach. I think I would like that. But I love being in the Navy and I think that might be a great way to go.”
After all, he’s already put in a lot of work, and he couldn’t be happier with how things are going.
“I think graduating and getting that diploma was one of the biggest achievements,” Stengel said. “I think that was the second-best day in my life, after the Army-Navy game in Philly. I just know how hard it was. It was definitely worth it. I’m very proud I did it.”