Captain Robert P. McGovern, U.S. Army, ’89
Professional athlete. Soldier. Crusader for truth and justice. Rob McGovern combined all three heroic careers into a life that has earned a nation’s gratitude.
Growing up in New Jersey the seventh of nine children, Rob came to Holy Cross to study history and play football. He earned All-America honors as captain and linebacker on Fitton Field, yet even he was a little surprised when the Kansas City Chiefs came calling. As a backup linebacker, he played for the Chiefs, followed by stints with the Steelers, the Patriots, the Browns.
As his NFL career was winding down, he searched for a new path and enrolled at Fordham Law School. With law degree in hand, he landed his dream job as special narcotics prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney, teaming up with undercover police to target high-crime areas and formulate strategies to arrest and convict drug dealers. And he joined the U.S. Army Reserves.
Then came the September day that no one will forget. As shock and despair rocked the nation, Captain Robert McGovern, clad in his Army fatigues, joined other volunteers in the search for survivors at Ground Zero. Three weeks later, he volunteered again, this time for active duty. An assignment as judge advocate general in the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps followed eight months of combat training. Rob’s first tour took him to Afghanistan where he helped to create an Afghan National Army, arranging government funding, laying plans for when and where to deploy troops, and establishing a central authority to contain warlords. He tailored rules of combat and answered legal questions about pursuing the enemy across borders. And he dealt with violence daily.
Rob spent two grueling years preparing and prosecuting the case against Sergeant Hasan Akbar, accused of killing two U.S. Army comrades and wounding 14 other soldiers stationed in Kuwait. Then, the day after the guilty verdict was handed down, Rob made plans to head to Iraq to prosecute war crimes. He handled up to three trials a day in Iraq's Central Criminal Court, and in five months won more than 400 convictions -- a 90% conviction rate -- many for murder and attempted murder by bombers, terrorists and insurgents.
Now stationed in Virginia, Rob travels with an Army JAG team, training other military lawyers how to prosecute at home and abroad. He is the author of the celebrated memoir All American: Why I Believe in Football, God, and the War in Iraq and has been the subject of a host of profiles in the national media. Still, he maintains ties to Holy Cross as a Career Planning Counselor—a clear signal of his belief in the potential for everyone to achieve the extraordinary.
For devotion to his nation and the ideals of justice and liberty, for his courage and his unwavering faith, College of the Holy Cross presents to Captain Robert P. McGovern Class of 1989 the Sanctae Crucis Award.