Brian Primeaux took a non-traditional road to the United States Naval Academy.

“I got started a little late in the game in high school, and I got wait-listed,” the Catholic High graduate said Nov. 26, while home on his Thanksgiving break.

Though he had credits from his freshman year at LSU, he had to start as a freshman again at the academy.

“Everybody starts at the beginning. Everybody,” he said. That includes, of course, eight weeks of basic training the summer before freshman year, for everyone.

“When I hear a whistle, to this day, my heart rate elevates,” he said, recalling those eight weeks of what he diplomatically calls “good training to make decisions under pressure,” and also, the old academy joke — “the most fun you’ll never want to repeat.”

While his start was less that perfect, he said, what truly matters is how you take advantage of the opportunities you have, while you have them.

For Primeaux, that meant seeing what “the other side” was like. “I got a taste of (non-academy) college before I went in, which was good for me. I got to see what everyone else was missing,” he said, and it made him more sure he was making the right choice by joining up.

Now a sophomore at the academy, Primeaux has spent much of his Thanksgiving break meeting with potential academy applicants still in high school. Having started in both college settings gives him a rare insight that he hopes will be helpful. “I don’t mind giving back to guys whose shoes I was in two years ago,” he said. “I remember what that was like.”

The idea of service is always on his mind. Part of his commitment to the academy is to educate himself for his own future. “And the professors there are impressive. My history professor has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. There’s world of experience available to you,” he said.

But the bigger picture — what the United States Navy needs, and, by extension, the nation — also is a large part of his commitment.

The day seniors get their assignments is an emotional one, he said. “You see a lot of elation if people get their first choice and a lot of disappointment if they don’t. What I try to keep in mind is that, part of the deal when you sign on is that you’re going to serve,” Primeaux said. “Wherever job you do, you can find fulfillment if you approach it with an attitude of service.

And when he says “service,” he doesn’t just mean the commitment every academy graduate makes to active duty military post-graduation.

He’s not joining the service. He’s making a commitment to serve.