Navy Midshipmen fooball, Army black Knights football : Why Army vs. Navy is so special

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Navy Midshipmen fooball, Army black Knights football : Why Army vs. Navy is so special.
Clearly, the annual Army-Navy football game is an event unlike any other in college athletics. Only those who participate truly understand the significance. USA TODAY Sports asked a former player from each team to share what the game means to them. These are their stories.

Jim Cantelupe, Army

ARMY-NAVY. There really is no rivalry like this in college football. For starters, what you are playing for is much bigger than the teams. You are representing the entire United States Army and the United States Navy. For the seniors, the fact that you will battle against each other in one of the final games of your career, and then join the same team, the United States Military, and work together after graduation to defend this country, makes this rivalry unique. This was “THE GAME” that would make or break your season. If you lost to Navy, regardless of how many games you won, it would ruin your season.

Our head coach, Bob Sutton, always reminded us that this game was like no other and would usually come down to whatever team made that one or two plays toward the end. He reminded us to not make this game bigger than it already was and to prepare as if it would come down to the last play. We were 4-0 against Navy my four years. However, we very easily could have been 0-4. Every game was decided in the final minutes (or seconds) and the total margin of victory was six points.

Navy was in a position to win every one of those games and very well could have. It was like brothers fighting it out, only to sing each other’s fight songs together afterward. It was a game and rivalry that represented the very definition of respect. We had a higher level of respect for Navy than any opponent. We were so similar in so many ways.

There is a plaque every player would touch on the way out of the tunnel for our games. It had a quote from General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II: “I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player.” We took great pride in this quote and the responsibility you felt as a player. We all came to West Point for different reasons; however, we all came with a sense of obligation to our country.

Thanks to John Feinstein, who authored A Civil War: Army vs. Navy, A Year Inside College Football’s Purest Rivalry, I was able to spend some time with Andy Thompson, Navy’s team captain. To this day, Andy has been a dear friend. I couldn’t help but think how it must have felt to come so close yet never win. After the game our senior year, I found him, cried with him, gave him a big hug and told him we would be brothers for life. As a matter of fact, we have had a dinner bet every year since we graduated! As we all know, he has won the past 14 times! I’m pretty confident there will not be a 15th!! This streak has come to an end! Go Army-Beat Navy!!!

Cantelupe was team captain his senior year. After graduating from West Point, he served in the Army and later played defensive back for the Chicago Bears. He is a founding partner of Summit Trail Advisors, which manages money for ultra-high net
Andrew Thompson, Navy

I played in four Army-Navy football games. And lost them all — by a total of six points.

Each was highly competitive, well-coached and played at a fever pitch. The outcomes were uncertain until the final whistle. Despite the losses, the experiences were worth it.

Andrew Thompson played for Navy from 1992-95. The Midshipmen
Andrew Thompson played for Navy from 1992-95. The Midshipmen lost to Army in all four games, by a total of six points. (Photo: Courtesy Andrew Thompson)
The game has become more meaningful for me over the years. I think the Army-Navy game also means something to our country. In times of challenge, adversity, and discord, Army-Navy remains a shining example of our country’s potential.
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