Shultz came back to the team in the spring weighing 235 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than when he left. His stamina was gone. The radiation that had burned the cancerous cells in his chest had also killed the healthy cells in his lungs. This season, his stamina is better, but his upper-body strength is still not what it was. Now a tight end in short-yardage situations, he will be one of three players splitting time at that position on the '88 squad.
"If I notice a scout player taking it easy on me because maybe he thinks I'm weaker, he's not making himself better, he's not making me better, he's not making the team better," says Shultz, the team player. At the end of the season, he will become only the fifth five-year letterman in the academy's history, the first since 1929.
Babb may apply for a fifth season of eligibility next year. In the off-season he threw every night and lifted weights three times a week. Once in a while he had to take a week off because his incision hurt so much. A broken collarbone in spring practice hampered his comeback as well. This fall, Babb is one of five cadet quarterbacks on the depth chart. He spends most of his practice time as the quarterback for the scout team. It is a testament to his abiding love for the game that Babb, who could certainly walk away from football with no disgrace, is willing to accept such a thankless role.
Superintendent Lieutenant General Dave Palmer, who is as soft-spoken as a three-star general can be, boasts that the West Point system is designed to foster that kind of perseverence: "Cadets are selected for their ability to handle stress." Says Babb: "You always have days when you regret being here, but then again you feel that you can handle anything. People say to me, 'Oh, you're so courageous, you have so much courage, blah, blah, blah.' But the thing is, what's the choice? You lie down and die? You haven't got a choice."
West Point is none too subtle in the public display of its heroes. Everywhere you look there's a statue of Patton or a monument to Eisenhower or an engraving in limestone of a quote from MacArthur. But did any of these military icons know more about courage than Babb and Shultz do?