While some college football rivalries can get heated on the field — and in the stands and tailgates and amongst certain trees — there’s generally a great deal of respect on both sides off if it.
The latest example of that comes in the midst of a true tragedy.
The weekend before last, Navy running back Will McKamey collapsed during a practice session and lapsed into a coma following brain surgery. Sadly, the 19-year-old Midshipman never awoke from the coma and passed away last Tuesday.
Monday, McKamey was laid to rest in his home state if Tennessee. One of the mourners who came to pay their respects to the family? Army head coach Jeff Monken.
In a statement, the first-year coach explained his decision and how the historic Army-Navy rivalry simply doesn’t matter in a time like this.
“It’s more than just a rivalry on the field. There’s something beyond that. I really felt it was important that our academy and our football team was represented there. We were all just amazed at how remarkably strong his parents were and what a great example of leadership they were for their other children and for all the people that were there. It was great to be there and be around their players and coaches and be there together with the same sense of spirit to support his family and their loss.”
The Navy football program returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time since McKamey collapsed March 22. That came a day after more than 80 players and coaches attended McKamey’s funeral.
Navy had missed a total of four spring practice sessions. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo said those sessions won’t be made up as it was and is far more important for his team to have time to heal.
“t’s been tough on us, but it’s really been tough on the [McKamey] family,” Niumatalolo said following yesterday’s practice. “Last week we took some time off to mourn. There’s nothing that prepares you for that. …
“I thought it was most important … for our team to heal. It’s obviously still ongoing. There are things way more important than football, things way more important than spring ball.