September 11 forever alters lives of Army-Navy game players (cont.)
"I don't even think during that season that it hit us as to what it meant to run out onto the field with the American flag, representing, not only our team and West Point, but really representing the country of the United States."
Despite the teams' underwhelming records -- the Cadets were 2-8, the Midshipmen 0-9 -- the annual Army-Navy clash was freighted with extra significance. The game drew 69,708 fans to Veterans Stadium, the largest crowd ever to see a football game at the venue. CBS sent its No. 1 NFL broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf to call the game. President George W. Bush addressed both teams before kickoff, attended the coin flip and spent the first half on the Navy sideline and the second half on the Army sideline.
Dick Enberg, CBS broadcaster
"We went to West Point and Annapolis and talked to the kids. And the game seemed significant but insignificant. They talked about their career as military men. You looked in [their] eyes and it was clear that, after the football, they were playing a really difficult game. But the quality, the level of every kid, it made you so proud, knowing this is the kind of quality we still breed in America. There are times when you do a story and you feel like you need to run off to the restroom and wash your hands. There, we carried a glow from the start of the week until after the game. People say I get emotional, that I cry at the sight of a red hat. But ..."
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Marlon Terrell, Navy, FB
"We had to do this thing as plebes called 'square the corners.' Every time you square a corner, you do a left or right face and say, 'Beat Army, sir!' All through the school year that's all you hear: Freshman, not just the football players, saying it over and over again."
"'Yes, sir,' 'No, sir,' 'Sir, I do not understand' -- those are the three correct responses for a freshman to give an upperclassmen or an officer while they're in basic training at the Academy. They soon find out that there is a fourth. If one of those three responses is not adequate in their mind, they'll just say 'Beat Navy, sir!' and it gets them out of everything. Pretty soon that's all you hear around post, is 'Beat Navy, beat Navy, beat Navy.'"
DeJuan Cromer II, Navy SS
"It was my last game and being a football junkie, I love to football death. But,there comes a time when you have to do different things. Supporting the country is greater than playing football. CBS chose to do a commercial with me. They were showing me in the chapel, with my sword, pacing back and forth. There was definitely a lot more media attention. Things were still kind of on edge. Practices were intense, plus we got wind that president Bush would be there [in the locker room] so everyone was excited."
"There was nervousness before the game. They may try to fly a plane into the stadium. The president is there. Everyone is a sitting duck in this environment. Who knew?"
Alex Moore, Army RG
"I remember the president coming into the locker room. That was something larger than life for us to be able to hear the commander-in-chief and have him come in and speak to us and just, not really giving us words of encouragement but talking about 9/11 and talking about the greater sense of purpose that we had to fulfill upon graduating. I remember a lot of noise, but I didn't even hear the jets fly over. I remember the noise of the crowd. On the sidelines there were three- and four-star generals. You got a good sense of purpose, that what we were doing was bigger than that one game."
Ed Malinowski, Navy QB
"Right on my desk here I have a picture of that moment when I'm handing [the president] the game ball. I actually walked out in the hallway at Veterans Stadium and -- I forget who it was that told me, I think it was Scott Strasemier, the [sports information director] -- who said, 'You're going to meet the president here in a second.' Thirty seconds later he comes strolling down the hallway surrounded by secret service agents. I introduced myself. He said, 'Where you from, Ed?' and I said, 'I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.' He said, 'Ah, Pittsburgh. Good town.' And that was pretty much our conversation. Once he got in the locker room it was a little bit more formal. He thanked us for our service and what we were doing."
"General Schwarzkopf came into our locker room prior to the game. He talked about the Army football team getting ready to go out and go to battle against Navy. And basically what he said was that the Army, when it goes to battle, it doesn't lose, and he didn't expect us to lose that day. [For me, that] was the beginning of the warrior spirit, which you have to have when you take that commissioning oath the day you graduate. That was very profound to me."