Brothers United

December 10th, 2011

Tonight on ESPN, the Downtown Athletic Club will announce the 77th recipient of the Heisman Memorial Trophy – awarded each year to the ‘outstanding college football player in the United States.’ Right now, players you’ve likely never heard of are participating in the 112th renewal of a contest that best exemplifies what the sport is supposed to represent.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

Go Army. Beat Navy.

With all the bad news that’s surrounded college football the past year, it’s good to wrap-up the season with a matchup that’s rooted in tradition, honor and respect… and once upon a time some darn good football. Most people aren’t aware that during an 18-year period in the middle of the last century, players from the nation’s service academies won five Heismans: Doc Blanchard, Army (1945); Glenn Davis, Army (1946); Pete Dawkins, Army (1958); Joe Bellino, Navy (1960); Roger Staubach, Navy (1963). Success didn’t end there for these gridiron legends.

Blanchard became an Air Force fighter pilot and retired as a colonel. After fulfilling his military commitment, Davis played in the NFL. Dawkins was a brigadier general who led the 101st Airborne, earned his Ph.D. and – as a civilian – was vice chairman of Bain and Company. Bellino served 28 years in the Navy and Naval Reserve, then became a successful businessman. Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. In 2008, Roger the Dodger sold his real estate firm for hundreds of millions.

This year, as always, I’ll be watching. Not really caring who wins – don’t tell my former Navy fighter pilot father-in-law – just appreciating the teamwork, discipline and execution of athletes who know there are more meaningful things in their futures. Playing football for the academies (including Air Force) is most about learning to work with your unit to carry out the plan… which serves them well when they transition to young military officers.

Of course, after beating the heck out of each other for 60 minutes on the playing field, both teams will walk together toward the Cadets and Midshipmen in the stands for the playing of their songs. It’s a mutual display of admiration and acknowledgement that soon they’ll be fighting for the same side. There will be sadness for the team that comes up short on the scoreboard today – and a memory to last a lifetime.

Go Army. Beat Navy.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

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