Futenma 1st lieutenant recalls seasons in Navy football uniform
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Scott Jones knows precisely where he’ll be 4:30 a.m. Sunday, knee surgery three days earlier notwithstanding.
“I’ll be on the sofa at home, in front of my TV with my right leg propped up,” the Marine Corps first lieutenant said of where he plans to watch the 105th edition of “America’s Classic,” the Army-Navy football game.
The 28-year-old has good reason — he himself wore the Midshipmen football uniform for four seasons as a backup quarterback and receiver, part of the first Naval Academy graduating class in a generation to have beaten the Army Black Knights twice.
Some of his best memories, he said, of wearing the Navy Blue and gold revolve around what’s considered the best and most traditional rivalry in college football.
For one, there was marching into Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium in December 1995, when he attended the Naval Academy prep school.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “Then actually wearing the [football] uniform and running out of that tunnel onto the field. It’s like nothing else in the world.”
To this day, Jones still oozes Navy football, and takes great pride in watching the Middies’ current success, after playing for Navy teams that went 24-20 under then-coach Charlie Weatherbie.
All his life, Jones said, from the time he was growing up in Texas to graduating high school in Chattanooga, Tenn., he had attending Annapolis set in his mind.
His entire family was football-oriented. His grandfather Willie played for Vanderbilt and flew torpedo bombers in World War II. His father Bill played at Richmond, his brothers Greg and Curt played for Mississippi State and his brother Kent is a senior at Tennessee-Chattanooga and went to Annapolis for a year.
“It had been a dream of mine since I was 8 or 9,” to go to the Naval Academy, Jones said. “I wanted to fly jets. My eyesight went bad, but I still wanted to go to Navy. We’d watch the Army-Navy game every year and I always cheered for Navy. Playing football, that was icing on the cake.”
Attending a service academy is a far different beast, he says, than your run-of-the-mill Division I program, in which 300-pound corn-fed bison-sized players aspire to wear an NFL uniform. Academics and military come first; football merely enhances the teamwork aspect of academy life.
“You’re going to school to become a military officer,” Jones said.
“You’re not going there to play pro football. Playing [at Annapolis] is just another benefit. You talk about brotherhood. Your teammates and everybody who’s come before you, they’re your brothers. You go through all that stuff all day in school, but come 3 o’clock, it’s about playing football, you forget all about that for 2½ hours and have fun.”
Nothing tops the feeling of being part of the Army-Navy rivalry, with its pageantry and patriotism.
“Beating Army, especially in my sophomore year (1997, 39-7 at Giants Stadium), the first time we’d beaten them in four or five years,” he said.
Perhaps the greatest memory of all, Jones said, was the 19-9 triumph in 1999 at Philadelphia, which was capped by defensive back and longtime friend John Chavis’ interception in the closing seconds.
“It’s my senior year, me and my teammates went through so much, you’re like brothers,” he said.
Jones’ wife of five years, Kim, saw him experience that up close and personal. The two dated from the time Scott was a senior and she a junior in high school, and she also felt the rush that Jones did.
“When they march in, when the jets fly over, when they sing their song at the end of the game, it just gives me the chills,” she said. “They’re the best group of guys to be around. I respect those people so much.”
Only briefly since he graduated in 2000 has Jones stepped on a football field. While deployed for six months in Afghanistan, he played a game of flag football against some soldiers.
Then a few weeks ago, he was sounded out as a possible quarterback for the Okinawa Football League’s Foster-Futenma Bulldogs, but two snaps into his first practice, he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament, necessitating surgery at nearby U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester.
That surgery came Thursday, after which comes rest and rehabilitation and a cozy spot on the sofa to watch Army-Navy to reconnect with the rivalry stamped in his mind forever.
“There’s nothing like it in the world. You can’t describe it,” he said.