I had never once watched a Navy football game in any capacity until a weekend visit to Annapolis my junior year in high school with my dad and best friend. I don't remember much about that weekend, but I vividly remember that football game. I remember parking at St. Paul Lutheran church and making my first trek into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Every time I pass that church I think, this is where it started.
I remember the march on. I remember the flyover. But most of all, I remember sitting in the stands for four quarters of football watching Aaron Polanco and Kyle Eckel gouge the Delaware Blue Hens for 346 yards rushing in a 34-20 victory. After that, I heard Blue and Gold and the phrase Beat Army for the first time in my life.
I was hooked. I watched my first Army Navy game that year and followed that up by watching one of my favorite games still to this day when Navy defeated New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl with that incredible 14 minute drive to end the game.
I have been a Navy football fan now for eleven years.
In my eleven years as a Navy football fan, I have witnessed some great moments and seen some great teams, but I haven't seen anything like what is taking place this year.
This year's team is special, bordering on historic. At 7-1, this Navy team is sitting at number 20 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. With a win on Saturday against SMU, this team would be the first Navy football team since 1963 to start a season 8-1.
When Navy football fans look to the greatest season in Navy history, 1963 is generally where they end up. In Roger Staubach's Heisman Trophy winning season, the Midshipmen wound up 9-2, losing to Texas in the Cotton Bowl and finishing the year ranked number two in the country. That's the benchmark for historic Navy football comparisons, and this team is now there.
Last Saturday, we witnessed quite possibly the biggest victory for the Midshipmen in 30 years. Breaking the streak against Notre Dame in 2007 was great and one of my fondest memories of my time as a Midshipman, but the significance of last week's victory over a top 15 Memphis squad on the road and what it means for the rest of this season is bigger.
That victory sets the stage for potentially an even bigger game on the road against Houston in two weeks which could set the stage for an even bigger game in the inaugural AAC Championship game a week later which could set the stage for the biggest game in Navy football since 1963 if the Midshipmen are able to secure a berth in one of the New Year's Six bowl games. The fact that it is November 11th and this Navy team has those goals in front of them is once in a lifetime level stuff.
The road to those potentially historic aspirations starts with the final regular season home game of the season this Saturday against SMU on Senior Day.
This senior class, which has a chance to go down as the winningest class of all time with four more victories, deserves a Navy fan base that shows up on Saturday to celebrate their accomplishments the right way.
There are a couple good reasons to find your way to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
A chance to witness a Navy team start 8-1 for the first time since 1963 is a good starting place.
As we all know, Keenan Reynolds is still one touchdown away from setting the all-time rushing touchdown record in college football, and he was gracious enough to pass up the opportunity to set the record in front of family and friends last week so that he could give you the chance to watch him make history this Saturday. So, that's a pretty good reason number two.
Hopefully, a nationally relevant, top 20 football team, with a quarterback on the cusp of setting a historic record on Saturday is enough to get you in the gate.
Here is my real challenge though. I challenge you to stay. Stay for 60 minutes of football and send this senior class out the right way.
I don't care if there are too many TV timeouts, just be happy that this is a Navy team worthy of being on TV every week.
I don't care if the ice is melting in the cooler at the tailgate and you feel you can't pass up grabbing another cold one at halftime. In case you didn't know, you can reenter the stadium after halftime. You have twenty minutes to down that beer and get back to your seats to watch a special team having a special season in their final regular season home game of the year.
I don't care if you come for #19 and the record, but stay for the other 31 seniors on the team.
Stay for Joey Gaston, E.K. Binns, Blaze Ryder, Ben Tamburello, and Brandon Greene doing all the blocking in the trenches for Keenan.
Stay to watch Chris Swain, Quentin Ezell, DeBrandon Sanders, and Demond Brown rumble up the middle and receive those perfectly timed pitches as they dart up the sidelines.
Stay and keep your eyes on Lorentez Barbour and Quincy Adams making plays in the secondary.
Stay for Bernie Sarra and his leadership on the defensive side of the ball.
Stay to watch Will Anthony stuff guys in the backfield and sack the quarterback for 60 more minutes at home.
Stay for the other seniors, the unsung heroes like Myer Krah, who do as much off the field as on the field to make this a program you can be proud of.
If you absolutely feel like you can't stay for the whole game, then I ask that at least for this game, you consider that this isn't about the Midshipmen who march in the stadium and end up in the stands or the flyover taking place before kickoff. This game is about the Midshipmen who run out of the tunnel and play their hearts out for each other and the Naval Academy for 60 minutes on the field. So, if you HAVE to choose, skip the march on and be there to sing Blue and Gold with a group of seniors and a team that has brought this program to new heights this year.
I'm not asking that we get this right every single week, I'm just asking that like the team we are cheering on this season, we get it right THIS week. As a fan base, let's go 1-0 on Saturday.