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A legacy founds jerseys and football pads

Some legacies are painted on scoreboards under the words “state titles.”

Other legacies are stored in trophy cases. Nets cut down after championship basketball games. Pages from the scorebook detailing a perfect game.

Josh Breitwieser will leave behind a much different legacy when he graduates Saint Stephen’s this May.

Breitwieser leaves behind the football program.

“Never thought that would happen,” Breitwieser said.

But it did, and it happened because Breitwieser and Zach Sobel asked.

Breitwieser will play football at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point north of New York City next fall because he and Sobel gathered enough signatures to show Saint Stephen’s head master Jan Pullen that starting a football program would be a good idea.

“I’m as proud of that as anything,” Pullen said.

Breitwieser and Sobel were freshmen in the winter of 2006 when the other private schools in the area began adding football programs. Why not here, they thought.

Pullen told them they would need at least 50 signatures on a petition.

Breitwieser and Sobel worked the halls for two days. They collected more than 100 names.

Saint Stephen’s played its first game that fall.

Breitwieser became a two-time all-state linebacker, earning first team Class 1A honors this season. Sobel played fullback.

On Wednesday Breitwieser was one of six Manatee County football players to sign with a Division I-A school.

“I’m so proud of him, because I’ve known him since he was little, and he’s always talked about Army,” Pullen said. “I’ve watched him grow as a student with confidence and with leadership on the football field. It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s a dream come true for an educator.”

Breitwieser wanted to attend West Point since he was in the third grade.

That was the year he visited the Navel Academy in Annapolis, Md., with his grandfather’s brother, who was a graduate of the academy. Breitwieser was hooked. And after visiting West Point, he was hooked on Army.

“The whole point was to get to West Point. The football came along,” he said.

Army football may not be the Army football of the 1940s and ’50s with Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside and Pete Dawkins, but Breitwieser is willing to accept the challenge of turning the program around.

A daunting task, but so is moving a football program from concept to pads.

Pullen said she will talk about Breitwieser and Sobel during a school assembly before the end of the year. She will use them to illustrate her point that nothing is impossible at Saint Stephen’s.

“You can make a difference,” Pullen said. “You can change things. Remember that as you go on in life. Josh will always look back and remember he asked, ‘Can we do this?’ And we did.”

Some players add to the history of a program.

Others, like Breitwieser and Sobel, get that history started.