September 11 forever alters lives of Army-Navy game players (cont.)
Dan Peters, Navy RG
"George Bush came into the locker room and gave a pregame speech. It was very comforting to see him. I couldn't fathom what he was going through. Then [Senator] John McCain, a Navy grad, came in to give a speech. He gets up in locker room and gives us a rousing speech. I can still see him standing there, red as can be and fired up talking about the game and how much it means to him. It was very powerful to me to see a war telling me how proud he was of me. You could see the huge scar on his face from [when he had been wounded in] combat. He was so pissed off that he was shaking. Honestly, it was the most exciting moment of my life -- other than my marriage and having kids. That's an image I'll remember the rest of my life."
Three minutes into the game, Army running back Ardell Daniels sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown. Two possessions later, the Black Knights scored on a 42-yard pass. They led 16-3 at halftime. Army opened the second half with another big play, a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Navy scored late in the game to keep the score respectable, but Army won 26-17, taking the lead in the rivalry, 49-46-7. (Navy has since won the last nine games.) For the first time since 1883, when the Midshipmen had played only one game, Navy finished a season without a victory or a tie. In the trenches, the game was devoid of trash talk. Heckling in the stands -- usually intense --was tempered as well. After the game both teams stood at attention for the playing of the alma maters of both schools. As midshipman Bryan Abell put it to The New York Times: "We're rivals on the field, but we're brothers in service."
"The game result wasn't that important. And the way [both teams stand for each other's alma maters], whether they win or lose, it's so right. There's such a goodness about that experience that you don't always feel in collegiate athletics. There have been a lot of privileges in my 50-plus years of broadcasting. But that rates very highly. You hesitate to put it way up there because of the conditions under which you did it; otherwise we wouldn't have been at the game. But it was a forgettable game and an unforgettable experience."
Mark Riegel, Army OL
"I felt like we were playing for what was right about America."
Dustin Plumadore, Army C, co-captain
"Some [players] couldn't quite get it together after the game. [We were] very distracted, wondering where we would be in a year, thinking, How bad is this war going to be? Which of us will still be around?"
After graduation in the spring of 2002, the seniors from the 2001 Army-Navy game began their military service. They were stationed all over the world, on the tip of the spear and in offices at various command centers and headquarters. Time and again -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Gulf -- they served with teammates and alongside the players they had played against in the Army-Navy games. Some earned Purple Hearts, including Army guard Alex Moore who earned two. Brian Stann, a Navy linebacker, Marine and now a top light heavyweight in UFC, was awarded a Silver Star, the third-highest honor for valor in combat.
Nolan Gordon, Army C
"I remember [realizing once after my unit had been in] combat -- while I was on the ground and helicopters were circling above -- that it could have been one of those Navy guys across the line of scrimmage in that 2001 game who was flying one of them."
"My first deployment, I ran into [former right guard] Al Moore. That was outside of Fallujah, in between Fallujah and Ramadi. Good ol' Al. An Army football player, they're going to carry that fire [that they had as a player] with them. The intensity he had as a platoon leader was just as high if not higher than when we played together. He set up [watch] with his platoon to let my light infantry platoon pass through what was kind of a dangerous area. I can remember hearing his voice over our radio."
"In 2004 I had the opportunity to block one more time for Chad Jenkins, although in a different context. Anytime I was able to work with another football player I knew I had nothing to worry about."