Maj. Nate Conkey can’t remember exactly how he got the scar between his eyes. It could have been some combination of the countless times he broke his nose playing rugby on Army teams.
Doctors won’t fix it until he gives up the sport, and he’s not about to do that. In the meantime, his wife jokes that his nose is gradually tilting to the right.
Conkey’s commitment to Army rugby got him something better than an interesting scar recently when he was named the All Army Athlete of the Year for 2013. He was chosen from the thousands of soldiers who participate in organized sports in their free time.
Conkey, the executive officer in a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion, calls it a “humbling” career achievement that could have gone to many other soldiers he considers better athletes than himself.
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“There are at least four or five just on my team that are better athletes, better players, than me. I’m not just saying that to be self deprecating. They’re just studs,” he said.
He got his start in the sport about nine years ago when he was a company commander in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.
He went on to help coach the sport for the U.S. Military Academy while he taught physical education as an instructor there. He also has played in armed forces tournaments regularly. Last year, he was captain of the All Army team.
They bring out his competitive streak and his lifelong interest in the science of exercise.
“All too often we settle to just be good enough,” he said. “If you consistently put in the effort you know you’re capable of, you can achieve so much more.”
These days, Conkey, 35, does not have too much time to get out on the pitch.
He and his wife, Maj. Kate Conkey of Lewis-McChord’s 22nd Military Police Battalion, have two young daughters. The family lives in DuPont.
Conkey is one of the senior officers in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. It just finished a monthlong exercise at the Yakima Training Center and has another coming up in Southern California.
His battalion is part of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, one of two Stryker brigades remaining at Lewis-McChord.
Conkey usually gets to work about 5:30 a.m. for his 12-hour days. He works out for about 90 minutes every morning doing the Army’s standard physical training regimen.
“That’s one way the Army’s great — they say you have to do this every day,” he said.
Conkey expects to join the All Army team for matches this summer.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646