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Navy SEAL Tom Hruby, 33, makes Northwestern debut

Tom Hruby, a 33-year-old active Navy SEAL, made his Northwestern debut Saturday, when the Wildcats hosted Michigan. Hruby was on the kick-return team on the opening kickoff.

Hruby was the subject of an exclusive profile by the Sun-Times in August. He hasn’t spoken to any media since.

He recently was given clearance to play by the Navy, and he played the majority of the game on the punt-return team. Hruby, who’s considered a defensive lineman but has practiced on both sides of the ball, was not permitted to speak after the game.

“Football is a lot of fun, but just look at it,” Hruby told the Sun-Times in August. “It’s a lot of work. My entire day is consumed of this [balancing all of his responsibilities].

“Everywhere I go, I always feel like something needs to be harder, more challenging, or I’m just really pretty bored.”

Hruby led the Wildcats out of the locker room carrying the American flag.

He was a member of SEAL Team 1, based in Coronado, California. Hruby did tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The rest of a SEAL career is classified.

In that August interview, Hruby revealed that he attends classes and practices while balancing the demands of his duties as a SEAL instructor. Hruby also has a wife and three children.

He drew interest from Division II programs before deciding to join the Navy.

“I’m just really excited for him,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “It’s been 14-plus years since he played in a game. So that’s really special. So very happy for him. Our whole locker room, our entire football family is ecstatic for him.”