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April 19, 2013

Former Army Players & West Point Grads Speak Out

There is always something special about Saturday ... before, during and after a game at Michie Stadium on the grounds of West Point. It is a time where former Army football players and West Point graduates, who are often joined by their spouses and/or children, make their way back not only to attend the game, but it also serves as an opportunity to reconnect with fellow classmates, tailgate and everything else that surrounds the college game day experience at the academy.

So, as the Black Knights begin to prepare for their summer training camp, the Army fans around the country are gearing up for the upcoming season.

While the fans are anxious to see a return to prominence for the football program, probably none more than those group of former players and grads who perhaps feel a little more vested in the proceedings and the outcome.

Of course, it would be an understatement to say that the 2013 football campaign is a "critical" year for the Black Knights. This of course translates to a critical time for the program overall.

So, GoBlackKnights.com reached out to several football alumni and grads, to get their perspective on subjects ranging from looking forward to the upcoming 2013 season; the importance of the team pulling out a season opening win against Morgan State; Overcoming the 2012 lost to Navy and pulling down a win this season versus the Midshipmen and being on hand for the head-to-head against pre-season nationally ranked, Stanford.

Let the games Begin

When you listen to former linebacker and captain Steve Anderson, you walk away with the feeling that he is just one call away from padding and lacing them up for the season opener. "Yes, of course I am looking forward to Army football in 2013," shared Anderson, who is presently an Infantry Platoon Leader leading a tank platoon in C/1-64 AR located at Ft. Stewart, GA. "I bleed black and gold and will forever believe every year is our year to win the CIC and win a bowl game."

For Bill Noble, who wears two hats around the conversation, he echoed Anderson's thoughts. "I am very much looking forward to the 2013 season for two reasons," said the the 1986 West Point grad and dad to 2013 Army commit, Jalen Noble. "Firstly, and somewhat selfishly, I am hoping that my son Jalen an incoming plebe in the class of 2017 will earn some playing time this year. It's going to be a very gratifying and emotional moment watching him suit up in the black gold and play on the same field that I did too many years ago. Secondly, I am absolutely convinced that this is going to be the year that Coach Ellerson and the players turn this thing around and restore Army football to its rightful place in the college football hierarchy"

"I am definitely looking forward to the upcoming season as always, first and foremost because of the chance to watch the Army team showcase everything that is great about playing football at West Point," shared Army's all-time leading receiver in receptions and yardage, Jeremy Trimble, whose younger brother Justin is a integral part of the defense. "I think this is a huge year for the program as they continue rebuilding a solid football program"

For the one that call the Crazy Colonel ... the ever animated Daniel Ragsdale summarizes it in this manner. "In short, I can't wait," said the man who affectionally and often wears the #12 on his game day shirt. "I have a countdown timer running on my home laptop set for the kickoff against Morgan State. At any point the day it gives me an up-to-the-second time until we tee it up for our home opener. I'm really looking forward to this season because I know it will start well and will end with the Commander-in-Chief's trophy coming home to West Point."

Coming out the Gate

However, Anderson also knows that it's important for the team to come out swinging for the fences in game one. "Winning the first game should be a team goal and every off season practice should it should be reiterated," offers up No. 50. "To win game one enables the team to keep the confidence they worked hard to gain all off season."

For Army's 2nd all-time leading rusher, Carlton Jones, he is in full agreement with Anderson's comments ... noting the importance of game one versus Morgan State. "It's very important because that first win sets the tone for the rest of the season," added Jones, who graduated in 2006, but who is also in process of moving to West Point to be a TAC officer.

Beating Navy

Needless to say, each year there are two games always circled on the calendar, Air Force and Navy. As significant as the Air Force win was last year, the Navy loss was equally as devastating. So, each were asked how important is it for Army to pull down a win this season versus Navy?

"The wins against Air Force and Boston College were two of my personal greatest all-time Army football highlights," recalled Ragsdale. "I was able to make it back to West Point to enjoy both wins in the stands with the Corps of Cadets and I have never witnessed a more fired up bunch of Cadets. Most importantly for me, though, my wife is a BC grad and my trash-talking second son is a Zoomie (USAFA '11). Both of them were uncharacteristically humble and quiet after the games - life was good. With a win against Navy I would have achieved a personal trifecta - my daughter is a Squid (USNA '13)."

"How is this different than any other year?," declared Anderson. "It is important EVERY SINGLE YEAR. It will come down to turnovers and big plays for us while limiting the big plays for them."

"Every year, one of the goals is to beat both Air Force and Navy, therefore in my eye its hard to imagine having a great year without beating both of our rivals," says Trimble, who is currently a Battery Commander of C/2-1 ADA stationed at Camp Carroll, South Korea. "Beating one is good, but beating both is the ultimate goal. Having gone four years without beating Navy, I can say that not a football season goes by without me wishing I had another shot to beat Navy."

For Noble, who is SVP of Operations for LensCrafters, he witnessed first hand the team's commitment to getting the monkey off their back in 2013. "We started down the path to beat Navy this spring," he added. "I was able to watch a few practices during Jalen's recruiting trip and there was something different about the atmosphere and culture. Kids were flying to the ball and getting after each other and I saw a fire and intensity that quite frankly has been missing in recent years. Beating Navy is about learning how to win close games and building the confidence that comes along with upperclass leadership and focus. My prediction is that the streak ends this year. Time for a little payback. Beat Navy!"

Here Come The Stanford Cardinals

Aside from the academy rival games, there's the showdown on September 14th at Michie Stadium against Stanford, where many alumni said they will be doing all they can to be there to support their Army team.

"Yes I will be attending the Stanford game because fortunately enough I will be stationed at West Point starting in May," declared an excited Jones. "Actually I will be attending every game."

"My daughter Jordan will be an incoming freshman at Stanford this year," states Noble, who will have a vested interest in both the Black Knights and Cardinals. "Can you imagine how special it's going to be for me to hopefully have a son flying all over the field in the black and gold and my daughter sitting next to me in her Stanford gear? Sorry Jordan, but your Cardinal may be prime for an upset!"

"I will have to check my training schedule, but rest assure, if it is possible I will be attending most games in 2013," added Anderson, who like most former players, watch the games differently than most, missing the days when they were the ones being watched. Not only that, but winning games. "Bottom line, this team's success and failure will be based on leadership, something clearly lacking in last years team. If guys like Bacon take charge and take OWNERSHIP of the team and makes his men buy into winning philosophy ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS will be CIC champs and victorious in a bowl game once again...NO DOUBT."

"I plan to spend the Stanford game in the stands with the Corps," shared Ragsdale, who previously held the title of Vice Dean at the academy and is now the Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). "This is a huge game - the eyes of the nation will be on us. Stanford will have a preseason rank in the top 5 and they should be undefeated when we play. They will be surprised to find themselves in a dogfight on Blaik Field."

** To chat with other Army fans about this article and more, please visit The 12th Knight message board.*



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