GO NAVY, BEAT ARMY
Navy is going to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego and that will be a sweet reward for a season with 6 wins. However, if my Middies do not beat Army today, the season will not be remembered as a success. That is how it goes when America’s favorite rivalry renews in the City of Brotherly Love for the 106th meeting. After 105 contests, the series record stands at 49-49-7. This year, the game is tabbed, “The First to 50.” The Navy team leads the nation in rushing, but Bobby Ross’s Army squad is on a four game winning streak and is looking to beat Navy for the first time since 2001. Meanwhile, the Navy seniors look to become the first group to beat Army all four years since the Class of 1977. (For the record, we were 1-3 during my 4 years at Navy.)
I love watching this game every year because I feel like I know every one of those kids out there playing. The names on the jerseys change over the years, but the type of men in the uniform does not. Many of my best friends in this lifetime all wore the Navy football uniform. I still see them when I watch the game. I know where their rooms are in Bancroft Hall. I know which table they eat at in King Hall. I even know where they park their cars out at Hospital Point. I know where they will be drinking beer Saturday night and the girls from surrounding schools who will join them. This is so much more than a football game to Army and Navy grads. It is the purest form of nostalgia. And damn if it doesn’t start to make me feel old to realize that the seniors on the field tomorrow were born the year I was a plebe on the scout team with a locker next to the great Napoleon McCallum.
I will have fun watching today knowing that Army’s offensive coordinator, Kevin Ross, was a classmate, friend, and fellow economics major and I will be hoping that he has a miserable day.
I will especially have fun watching this game knowing that one of Navy’s offensive linemen, Ryan Roeling, is at the Naval Academy because I encouraged his dad, Bill (a defensive end on the Tulane teams that played against the Dawgs in the 70’s), to steer him toward Navy and away from UCF and Tulane. This was in the spring of 2001. I had gotten Ryan’s information to Charlie Weatherbie in the summer and they had started recruiting Ryan – who was in school in Tampa. But Ryan was not high on Navy and was leaning toward Tulane. His grandparents lived in New Orleans and he had lots of ties to the Green Wave. However, after the 9/11 attacks occurred, Ryan told his dad that he wanted to go to Navy and fight for his country. Coach Weatherbie was fired that season and when Paul Johnson’s staff arrived in Annapolis, Ryan did not hear from them and assumed they were no longer interested. Upon checking into this, I discovered that former Bulldog, Brian Bohannon, had gone with Coach Johnson from the Georgia Southern staff. I had been acquainted with Brian when he was in Athens, so I sent him an email with all of Ryan’s info hoping that they would resume recruitment of this outstanding young man. Soon thereafter, Paul Johnson showed up at the high school in Tampa and assured Ryan that he was coming to Annapolis. Now, I am told that Ryan has loved his experience at Navy and his family is extremely proud of him. Here is a young man who went to Navy primarily as a result of 9/11 occurring during his senior year of high school. Indeed, all of the players on the field tomorrow will have volunteered to attend the service academies after the 9/11 attack. Think about that for a minute while you are watching the game. This is huge and I am so damn proud of these guys. Whew!
I am picking Navy to win 30-20. Oooh, aaaah. Whitewash the Black Knights.