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.
Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.
Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.
“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”
Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.
You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season? Watch lists are being whittled.
The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior. The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.
The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).
The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten. The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).
Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah