At his parents’ house in Westerville, R.G. Florey keeps the original list of the 10 things he wants to accomplish after one of his friends, Sgt. 1st Class Johnny R. Polk, was killed in a grenade attack in Kirkuk, Iraq.

 Since he returned to Columbus, Florey has put check marks beside eight of the 10 goals including becoming the captain for the Capital University men’s soccer team (4-4 overall before Oct. 1). Florey, who scored goals in a 2-0 win over St. Fisher College on Sept. 6, a 3-0 win over Wooster on Sept. 17 and in a 5-1 loss to second-ranked Kenyon on Sept. 23, won’t rest until he accomplishes them all.

 “I set very specific goals after (Polk) passed away,” Florey says. “Johnny was always there to motivate you and push you. All my drive since that day has been to please him and remember him in a positive way through my actions.”

 Polk’s death has been the keystone in Florey’s unlikely path to Capital. The 2007 Westerville South graduate spent three years on active duty in the U.S. Army including a year-long deployment in Iraq before joining the Crusaders.

 Oddly enough, the former specialist’s first mission in Kirkuk involved playing soccer. He and his platoon were out on patrol when they came across a group of youth playing soccer in a park. After making sure the area was secure, the platoon began trying to build goodwill by playing a game with the kids.

 “My platoon sergeant knew I played soccer and asked me and another buddy if we wanted to join them,” Florey says. “If you can imagine the suspense of going on your first mission, and your first mission ends up being playing a good old fashion game of soccer without your body armor or your helmet.

 “You always have that uncomfortable feeling (of possible danger). That’s sort of instilled in you to be aware of things. But I had trained with my unit for a long time. I knew if something were to happen, they’d be there to protect me.”

 The danger was real. Three members of his battalion of 400 men were killed during his tour of duty. Losing Polk, who Florey calls his mentor, left a gigantic wound on his psyche. Polk was a platoon sergeant with Florey’s squad for three months before being transferred to another battery. Florey’s patrol was the first to respond after Polk’s HMV was struck in a grenade attack.

 “We heard over the radio Hellraiser 1-9 had been hit. When we got there, we could see the damage from the explosion,” Florey says, his voice breaking. “(When we got back to base) the chaplain told us (Polk) had been hit and this was our opportunity to say our goodbyes. I’m sorry if I get choked up here. The story’s getting easier to tell but it brings back all those memories.”

 For a long time, it was a story Florey couldn’t tell. He battled with survivor’s guilt -- a haunting feeling that he could’ve done something to prevent Polk’s death when actually it was out of his hands.

 Two things kept him going during that time: the list and his dream of playing soccer for Capital.

“Whenever we’d get calls from him, we’d talk about Capital soccer,” Ron Florey, R.G.’s father, says. “That’s what kept him going when he was in a very bad place.”

 Once he was back home, Florey faced an uphill climb academically and athletically to play for Capital. His high school grades weren’t strong enough to get him into Capital, so he took classes at Columbus State and built a 3.5 GPA.

 Florey was older than some of the seniors on the team when he tried out for the squad. Coach Alan Yost, then an assistant, had never heard of Florey but he says after meeting the player, the staff had no hesitation about letting him walk on.

 “He knew what he wanted and had goals, spoke with confidence and was decisive and to the point,” Yost says.

“To most this may not seem like a lot but it made us feel like we’d have nothing to lose with him on the roster.”

 What surprised Yost was how quickly Florey made an impact. As a freshman, Florey played in 18 games and scored four goals including two game winning goals. The next year, the midfielder was elected team captain, had eight goals and four assists and was an honorable mention All-Ohio Athletic Conference. Last year, he was again elected captain, had three goals and an assist and was second team All-OAC.

 Florey is excited about what this year could include. The team has won four out of its last six games before facing Ohio Wesleyan on Oct. 1.

 “We’re playing some of the best soccer we’ve played here at Capital since I’ve been here. We’re doing of all the little things,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a very good season for us.”

 “There were some rough transitions but in the end of the day soccer has helped me stay on track. It has given me the drive to push forward to a successful college career.”

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