4 Navy seniors honored, privileged to captain Midshipmen in 2023
Stars and Stripes July 29, 2023
When it came time for the Navy Midshipmen to pick their 2023 football captains, there was not much debate required.
First-year head coach Brian Newberry initially only announced linebacker Will Harbour and center Lirion Murtezi would take on the esteemed roles, but after the spring practice period and three fall camp practices, the number grew to four. Jacob Busic and Jayden Umbarger — a defensive end and a wide receiver, respectively — joined their fellow seniors Saturday at the media day podium.
Looking down the line, the former Navy defensive coordinator called the decisions extremely easy.
“I think I could have told you that these four guys would be captains last year at this point,” said Newberry, who is entering his fifth season on the Navy coaching staff.
Busic has started every game over the past two seasons, joining Harbour as one of nine returning Navy starters on defense in 2023. He ranked second on the Midshipmen in tackles for loss at 8 ½ and in sacks with six last season, trailing striker John Marshall, a former captain whom Busic said he looks up to.
“To be able to be a team captain for the Naval Academy, especially with three of my best friends on the team, it couldn’t mean any more,” Busic said.
Umbarger was the Mids’ leading receiver in 2022, hauling in 16 passes for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He said he is excited to represent the team, noting the sense of responsibility that comes with the title.
“It’s easy to manage yourself, but as a captain, your job is also to uplift a lot of the guys that are either struggling or need that so the team can be better,” Umbarger said.
The Baltimore native missed most of the spring practice period with a hip injury, a level of adversity Newberry said he wanted him to overcome before committing to making him a captain. The way he and Busic carried themselves throughout the spring and summer erased any doubt.
“I was very confident that those two would be the guys,” Newberry said. “I wanted to make ‘em earn it, and I wanted their teammates to feel like they earned it as well.”
Harbour logged action in all but one contest in 2022 and started seven, more than twice his total from the year prior. Originally from Frisco, Texas, he joined Busic on the list of Midshipmen with at least 30 tackles last season.
“It’s a true blessing to be voted by our teammates and coaching staff to come up here today and represent our team and our culture and what we stand for, and then uphold that culture,” Harbour said.
A nine-game starter over the course of two seasons, Murtezi called his captaincy a huge honor and privilege, pointing to fellow offensive lineman Kip Frankland as an influential former captain.
Both players, however, share arguably a bigger honor: No. 68 — the number worn by David Forney, who died of cardiac arrest at 22.
Murtezi said he never met Forney, but he understands the magnitude of donning the number through his conversations with Frankland and Pierce Banbury, both of whom have done so since 2020.
“I’ve had a chance to talk to Mr. Forney and that family, and it means the world,” Murtezi said.
All four captains, “the most solid” the Midshipmen have had, “epitomize everything that Navy Football and the Naval Academy’s all about,” Newberry said.
Their leadership skills will be put to the test Aug. 26 in Dublin, where Navy will meet Notre Dame to open the 2023 season. The Fighting Irish have won the last five meetings with the Midshipmen and 10 of the last 11.
“It’s never been about where we’re at, it’s just what we’re going there to do” Umbarger said. “We’re going there to beat Notre Dame.”