By Sarah Leggett
Never be satisfied. A motto that runs deep with the Duke men's lacrosse team and has double meaning for senior Ethan Powley.
Odds are if you ask a student-athlete about the most difficult part of college life, they'll say time management.
Powley knows first-hand the struggles of the balancing act.
Powley, a longstick midfielder for the Blue Devils, is now in his final weeks lacing up his cleats and throwing on a Duke uniform. While many seniors at this time are longing for the couple months of freedom that summer provides, Powley awaits orders from the United States Navy. His commissioning ceremony was May 12 at Duke Chapel.
Powley grew up in a military family as his father served 28 years as an Air Force pilot. “Growing up and being around that kind of community definitely drew me towards it, but my dad never pressured me or put too much influence on me. He really allowed me to decide for myself.”
Growing up, Powley had many role models who were in the military. As he developed friendships with them and got to know who they were as people, the experiences they had allowed Powley to realize that was the community he meshed with best.
Most collegiate student-athletes learn how to spread their time between class, schoolwork, practices and games. Powley tossed in another commitment — his Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps commitment — and has excelled.
“It definitely keeps me pretty busy, but luckily for me, Coach Danowski and my chief officer are both understanding of my situation. They give me the freedom to be the best that I can be with both.”
Transitioning to the college lifestyle from high school is challenging no matter how well you believe you're able to balance your time, but Powley says coming from going to class eight hours a day in high school straight to the college atmosphere allowed for an easy transition.
Powley attended Paul VI High School in the D.C. area and was an Under Armour All-America selection. He was voted All-WCAC (Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) first team as a junior and was named to the Washington Post All-Met team in 2012 before missing his senior season due to injury.
While Powley's presence wasn't felt on the field for his senior campaign, he was a team captain for the second time in his prep career and a leader from the sideline as his team advanced to the WCAC title game. Powley also was a Warrior 40 pick, where the top lacrosse athletes nationally are coached by Major League Lacrosse (MLL) players prior to the MLL All-Star Game, with a focus on elevating players' knowledge on and off the field. Additionally,
Powley was a force in the classroom as he graduated summa cum laude.
“ROTC and lacrosse both present me with different challenges,” he said. “Lacrosse is more on the field and learning to handle winning, losing and everything in between. But also, ROTC provides me with a whole different group of people to test out leadership.
“I owe my summers to the Navy and I get to experience many different roles there. I've been shadowing officers and learning to understand their roles, but also shadowing enlisted members and knowing what it's like to be the best leader and how I can lead and be led.”
Powley's past summer experiences with the Navy provided him with exposure to many areas that should prove beneficial as he moves forward with his career.
“My first summer, I had the opportunity to experience different communities within aviation, surface and submarine,” he noted. “I flew on a T-6 (training aircraft), went underwater in a sub and boarded a ship. I was able to go to the shooting range and do various activities with the Marines as well. My next summer, I was in San Diego on an enlisted cruise and I was shadowing an enlisted member and learning how to lead the guys I'll be leading in my fleet once I commission. It was very helpful to be in those situations and being able to interact with those guys and learn how to be the best officer from that perspective.”
From freshman to senior year on campus, Powley also has experienced changing roles and personnel development both on and off the field.
“Here at Duke, we are absolutely blessed with the opportunity to serve a student population that is extraordinary, and Ethan is one example of that,” said Duke coach John Danowski. “Ethan exemplifies what we believe the Duke man to be — somebody who has a strong moral code and understands his place in the world. He has made a commitment to serve his country, and to do that as an undergraduate is not easy.”
Powley's commitment to excellence on the field, in the classroom and with ROTC represents Duke to the highest degree.
“To wear a uniform once a week and to participate in physical fitness training takes a huge commitment…but you wouldn't know it,” Danowski said. “He doesn't talk about it. He doesn't bring it up. He never complains about the demands on his time. He is truly a very strong, high character person.”
In the same vein, Powley's feelings toward Duke are just as strong as Danowski's remarks about his character.
“My time here at Duke has been a really special time,” Powley said. “As everyone says, it has gone way too fast and I cannot imagine spending my four years anywhere else. I've been really happy with everything this university has offered me. I wish it wasn't over, but I'm happy for every day and every second I've had here.”
During his four years as a Blue Devil, Powley has played in 65 games with 34 starts, he's picked up 96 ground balls and has caused 41 turnovers. He helped his team to a 13-5 record in 2017, advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals. Powley's entire team attended his commissioning ceremony last Friday before departing for Johns Hopkins, whom the Blue Devils defeated 19-6 in their NCAA opener.
“It's been an awesome season,” Powley said. “We had a lot of work to do with our sights set on the ultimate goal. With some key players graduating last year, we've had the freshman class step up. Guys have stepped up offensively and defensively and we've really come together as a true team. It's a testament to the kind of guys we have out here.”
Never be satisfied.
Powley and his teammates believe no matter how much success they have one day, there is always a new challenge the next day, the next weekend or the next game. They strive to continue to progress and succeed, so for them, they're never satisfied with where they are.
“I just want to do my part…on and off the field.”