Navy senior football captains settle on 2019 team motto
By BILL WAGNER | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: August 2, 2019
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — It has become a recent tradition for the Navy football captains to come up with a team motto.
In 2016, Navy adopted the slogan “We Will” in honor of fallen teammate Will McKamey, who died three days after losing consciousness after being stricken during a spring practice.
Last season, captains Anthony Gargiulo and Sean Williams decided on “For the Culture” as the Navy football slogan. Both seniors said the phrase was about respecting the past and highlighting the unique quality that has long separated the Midshipmen from opponents.
Navy has four senior captains for the first time with quarterback Malcolm Perry, center Ford Higgins, inside linebacker Paul Carothers and outside linebacker Nizaire Cromartie being elected by teammates to lead in 2019.
One of the first group decisions made by the quadrumvirate was to settle on a slogan for this season. While it may come off as insensitive in a town where a mass shooting took place in 2018, the phrase “Load the Clip” is meant to carry a symbolism that speaks to the work ethic required to succeed on Saturdays.
“This year we’re going to say ‘Load the Clip.’ That kind of falls under the character trait of consistency because it’s all about the way we load the clip,” said Higgins, a returning starter at center.
“Every day we go to conditioning workouts or weightlifting or meetings and practices. Are we being consistent enough and diligent enough in our work ethic to put another round in the clip?
Because once game day comes around, you need to have a full clip in order to be able to unload.”
Higgins, who emerged as a key contributor as a sophomore and has appeared in 22 career games, noted that a certain standard must be met on a daily basis in order to accomplish what the team motto espouses.
“It’s important to know that just showing up is not enough to load the clip. Showing up with tremendous energy, effort and passion – all those things we can control – that’s how you load the clip,” he said. “You have to attack these workouts and practices. Totally buying into the culture of this program is how you are able to load one round into the clip each day.”
Higgins revealed the 2019 slogan while speaking to The Capital during the American Athletic Conference Football Media Day, held July 15 in Newport, Rhode Island. Senior defensive tackle Marcus Edwards accompanied Higgins to that event and also commented on the motto.
“To me personally, loading the clip means doing things that set you apart from any other team out there,” Edwards said. “Our opponents are going to try to unload their clips on us every Saturday and we have to be able to fight fire with fire.”
Considering the June 28, 2018 incident in which five members of the Capital Gazette staff were shot to death in Annapolis, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo initially cringed when he heard the 2019 slogan. However, the reality is that Naval Academy graduates serve in various capacities that require they learn how to use firearms.
Many Navy football players choose Marine Corps as a service assignment and therefore will likely find themselves carrying automated weapons.
“Obviously, if we weren’t at a military academy, I’d be a little leery of that slogan. However, this is the Naval Academy and our guys are going to be in harm’s way,” Niumatalolo said. “Clearly it’s a metaphor that speaks to the fact we’re going to battle every weekend and when you go to battle you need to have enough ammunition. It means you have to be prepared for the fight and that is a process that happens every day.”
Niumatalolo has seen signs of this year’s squad living up to that slogan, starting with the effort displayed during spring practice and continuing with summer strength and conditioning sessions. In fact, the 12th-year head coach initially noticed a collective determination among the players during the winter workouts famously known as “fourth quarters.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I believe what I see. I’ve been really excited ever since January,” Niumatalolo told The Capital during the AAC Media Day.
“You’re always optimistic coming to this event. However, as I stand here right now, I feel all the signs point toward good things. Of course, the weather can always change, but the forecast right now is sunny," Niumatalolo added. “I’m been very excited so far with how the chemistry and culture is developing for this team. To this point, I couldn’t be more pleased. Our guys have been working really hard.”
Niumatalolo revamped the coaching staff for the first time since succeeding Paul Johnson as head coach in December, 2007. Veteran defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson unexpectedly announced his retirement while three other defensive assistants were fired.
Three more assistants left of their own volition with fullbacks coach Mike Judge accepting a position with the Miami Dolphins, defensive line coach Sione Po’uha returning to his alma mater Utah and outside linebackers coach Justin Davis choosing to make a career change.
“We made some really hard decisions, but those were decisions I felt had to be made for the good of our program,” Niumatalolo said of the massive overhaul that has resulted in seven new assistants.
“I liked everything I saw during spring ball as far as how hard our players worked and the way our new coaches interacted with them. We installed some new systems and new ideas, all of which the players have embraced.”
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