The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Sporting events are always going to be a central part of the American experience. In the fall, Americans tune in to watch their favorite sports, be it the NFL, MLB, NHL, and even the NBA. Every two years, we come together as a nation to support Team USA in the Winter or Summer Olympics. We even sometimes come together to see the USA compete in World Cup play.


American sports bleed into American life — and vice-versa. From the yellow ribbon tied around the Superdome during Super Bowl XV to remember hostages taken in Iran to chants of “USA” when a crowd in Philadelphia learned about the death of Osama bin Laden, American sports fans and players wear their American hearts on their sleeves.

 1. Team USA carries the WTC flag to the Olympics

Rarely does a flag presentation at the Olympic Games happen to a quiet crowd. But as eight members of Team USA, flanked by members of the NYPD and New York Fire Department, marched the flag of the host country into the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, you could hear a pin drop.

The flag they carried was found in the rubble of ground zero and had flown atop the World Trade Center in New York when the buildings were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. It was under the debris for three days before being found and given to the National Guard.

2. Rulon Gardner defeats the undefeated

For a decade, Aleksandr Karelin was the world’s dominant super heavyweight wrestler. By the time the 2000 Olympics rolled around, Karelin (aka The Russian Bear, aka Aleksandr the Great) hadn’t been defeated in a match since Russia was still called the Soviet Union – even then, that was his only loss. Then, he faced off with a dairy farmer from Wyoming.

In six years, Karelin hadn’t even given up a single point to an opponent. His American opponent, Rulon Gardner, hadn’t placed higher than fifth in the world up until this point and even lost to Karelin, 5-0, before. But Karelin lost his grip — and a point — to Gardner in the second period.

3.  Mary Lou Retton wins a gymnastic first

A little girl from West Virginia dealt a stunning blow to the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Before Retton, Team USA was never able to wrest Olympic Gold from Eastern Europe in the Individual, All-Around Gymnastics event. She came into the event trailing Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo.

In Retton’s own words, she believes her performance showed that American-born and trained athletes can do anything – no matter what the odds are.

4. 1999 Women’s World Cup Final

The 1999 Women’s World Cup came down to a shootout tie-breaker against the Chinese. With the score tied 0-0 in extra time, the US team would end up winning based on penalties. It wasn’t so much the game play that mattered, it was the draw. With 90,000 spectators, it was the largest turnout for a women’s sporting event ever.

The lasting image of the US win would be Brandi Chastain’s post-penalty kick celebration of the victory, where she fell to her knees and took off her jersey, revealing the “sports bra seen ’round the world.” The image became one of Sport Illustrated most iconic covers ever.

5. Joe Louis knocks out a Nazi

In 1938, Hitler was still touting the Germans as a “master race,” as German athletes competed the world over for top honors. On June 22, Max Schmeling met American champion, the “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis. The first time the two met in 1936, Schmeling took advantage of Louis’ dropping his left hand after a jab and gave Louis his first loss in the 12th round of that fight. That would not happen again.

With the world listening via radio and more than 70,000 watching in Yankee Stadium, Louis unloaded on Schmeling, knocking him down three times in two minutes. Schmeling was only able to throw two punches in the whole one-round match.

6. The Champ lights the Olympic Torch

Lighting the Olympic Flame at the end of the torch relay is an honor reserved for a legendary Olympic athlete from the host country. Does it get more legendary than “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali? Except in 1996, the one who would light the flame itself was a close-kept secret. Even swimmer Janet Evans, who was handing the torch off, didn’t know to whom she was handing it.

Ali was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease and had long since retired by this point. When Ali emerged to take the Olympic Torch and light the flame, the sound in Atlanta was less a roar of applause and more of the collective gasp of elated surprise as the once-great boxer, shaking, lit the torch.

7. Rick Monday saves the flag

Remember MLB outfielder Rick Monday? He might be before most of our readers’ time, but Monday was with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1981 World Series-winning team. Before that, he was the top prospect in the 1965 MLB draft. Somewhere in between, he saved Old Glory from public humiliation.

In 1976, Monday was with the Chicago Cubs, visiting the Dodgers. With Monday in center field during the fourth inning, two protestors jumped the outfield fence and tried to burn a flag on live TV. Monday, seeing what was about to transpire, ran over and snatched the lighter-fluid-soaked flag. The protestors were arrested and Monday was able to keep the flag.

Ever since that day, Monday used the actual flag to raise money for military families.

8. The President’s Post-9/11 opening pitch 

It’s hard to imagine the Leader of the Free World facing a new Global War on Terrorism being psyched out by throwing the first pitch in Yankee Stadium. But in his own words, he absolutely was. Thousands of New Yorkers came to the stadium to watch the President throw the pitch to open game 3 of the 2001 World Series. It was also just weeks after 9/11.

He didn’t want Americans to think the President was incapable of finding the plate. But as he practiced, Yankee Derek Jeter told him that he needed to both throw from the mound (not in front as originally planned) and not bounce it. “They’ll boo you,” he told the President.

Bush, shaken but loose, walked onto the field and threw a strike to an eruption of applause.

9. ‘The Buckeye Bullet’ burns Hitler

Before he ever arrived in Berlin for the 1936 Olympic Games, Jesse Owens had already set three world records and tied another. At Ohio State, he won eight individual NCAA championships, which was a record in its own right. When he arrived in Berlin, he knew Nazi Germany was using the games as a showcase for its racial policies, but competed anyway.

Owens went on to win four gold medals in 1936, an unrivaled achievement until some 50 years later when Carl Lewis did the same in 1984. When Owens won gold in the long jump, the Olympic Committee told Hitler he had to greet all the winners or none at all. Hitler opted for none. As Owens won other events, Hitler would leave early. Nazi minister Albert Speer would later write that Hitler “was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens.”

10. The Miracle On Ice

Would you bet money on a bunch of college amateurs taking on the world’s greatest hockey team in a competition for Olympic Gold? Not many would – and not many did, as it turns out. That was the situation Team USA faced in the 1980 Winter Olympics. It was a tough time for the United States, with hostages in Iran, an energy crisis, and runaway inflation, it looked like the American Dream was coming to an end.

But no words echoed through the ages like Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles!” as Team USA topped the Soviet Union 4-3 in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

MIGHTY SPORTS

10 ways to switch up your bench press routine

The workout bench is something you find in just about every gym — even those tiny hotel workout rooms that can fit maybe three people. But it’s such a boring workout. It’s a flat, rectangular, stationary object with none of the bells and whistles of those fancy machines at the gym and all you ever see anyone do on it is bench press big weights, over and over. Here’s some advice: Get over it. The bench plays a crucial role in any strength-training program because, yes, it’s everywhere, but also it is versatile and allows for an increased range of motion during any given strength exercise.

You could spend a whole session doing variations on the traditional bench press and leave the gym a fitter man. But you can get even more mileage from your bench routine if you throw in some full body exercises that get your heart rate up and work other major muscle groups. Check out these 10 bench moves that get the job done.


1. Dumbbell triceps extension

Lie on the bench, feet on floor, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Raise dumbbells straight over your chest. Allow arms to drift back over your head slightly. Bend elbows and lower dumbbells toward the floor. Straighten elbows and raise dumbbells overhead again. (Note: If you feel more strain in your elbows than triceps, reach your arms farther behind your head.) 10 reps, 2 sets.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Danielle Cerullo)

2. Decline sit-ups

Angle the bench to a roughly 30- to 45-degree position. Lie with your feet at the high-end, hooking your heels over the back of the bench, or using a strap around the ankles for support. Keeping hands behind your head, do 3 sets of 20 sit-ups. (Note: If you find a full sit-up too difficult in this position, either lessen the bench angle, or do crunches instead.)

3. Step-ups

Stand facing the bench, about a foot away. Place your right foot on the bench and step up, raising your left knee high in front of you. Step down. Repeat 10 times on the right side, then 10 set-ups with your left leg. Do 3 sets.

4. Incline fly

Hinge bench so that the seat is flat and back is at a 45-degree angle. Sit with feet on floor and lean back, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Raise your arms straight front of your chest, then open them wide out to the sides, letting them pass the 90-degree angle if possible. Raise them back in front of your chest. 15 reps, 2 sets.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

5. Leg raises

Lie on a flat bench, hips and butt positioned at the edge of one end, feet on floor. Place hands over your head, gripping the other end of the bench for support, or under your lower back. Lift your feet and straighten legs out in front of you, so that they are suspended in the air and creating a straight line with the rest of your body. Slowly raise your legs to the ceiling (count to 5). Lower them back down. 10 reps, 2 sets.

6. Isometric hold fly

The beauty of dumbbells is their symmetry — weights perfectly balanced on either side of your grip. Holding the dumbbell at one end, however, adds a whole new layer challenge, engaging more muscles and testing your body’s balance as well as strength. For this move, lie back on the bench, feet on floor. Holding a dumbbell in either hand, with your grip all the way at one end of the weight, raise dumbbells above your chest with straight arms, then open them wide out to the sides. Raise arms again until they are above your chest. Bend elbows, and lower dumbbells to chest. 10 reps, 2 sets.

7. Incline bench press

Set the bench at a 45-degree incline. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and lift it off the rack. Lower to your chest with a controlled movement, then drive through your feet, engage your core, and press it toward the ceiling. (Note: Make sure to keep the barbell directly overhead, rather than drifting forward.)

8. One-arm rows

Holding a dumbbell in your left hand, stand at the left side of the bench and place your right knee and right hand on it (as if you are down on all fours, but just two limbs). Leaning forward so that your back is parallel to the floor, drop your left shoulder slightly, bend your left elbow, and imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together as you raise the dumbbell up to your chest. Lower. Do 10 reps on each side, 3 sets total.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Domagoj Ćosić)

9. Bench press

Ok, ok. We’re not going to stop you from performing the bench press. If you’re going to do it (and it’s a fine move, so don’t let us stop you), do it right: Lie on the bench, feet on floor, grabbing the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift bar out of rack and lower it toward your chest. Tuck elbows in at your sides. As soon as the bar touches your chest, engage your core and drive through your feet to raise the bar overhead. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.

10. Close-grip press

Same exercise as above, except place your hands just inside shoulder-width apart. This angle uses your triceps more, pectoral muscles less. 10 reps, 3 sets.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Southwestern Athletic Conference names USAA Official Military Appreciation Partner

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and USAA have entered into a new sponsorship agreement making USAA the Official Military Appreciation Partner of the SWAC. As part of the agreement, USAA will have exclusive rights in the property and casualty insurance, banking, and life insurance categories. USAA’s sponsorship extends to the SWAC eSports league, and Football and Basketball conferences as the Official Insurance Partner of the SWAC serving military families.
  
“We’re extremely excited to welcome USAA to our family of sponsors,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland. “SWAC member institutions have a long and proud history of providing students with a wide range of educational, professional, and career opportunities within all branches of the United States Armed Forces. Several of our campuses currently offer ROTC programs while also serving as a significant recruiting base for the United States Military as a whole.”
 
As part of the sponsorship agreement, USAA will lead military appreciation efforts, as well as offer career advancement opportunities, extending to both students and alumni.
 
“USAA’s mission to support military and their families comes with the knowledge that the military community reflects the diversity of our own nation,” said Michael Dones, USAA Assistant Vice President, Brand Programs and Sponsorships. “By supporting the SWAC, one of the nation’s premiere HBCU conferences, we are demonstrating our commitment to serve this community, creating memorable military appreciation moments, conducting community outreach, and providing professional development, job and internship opportunities for students and alumni.”
 
“This partnership will have a positive impact on student-athletes who compete in football, basketball and eSports, and all students attending a SWAC member institution,” continued McClelland. “For decades, USAA has unconditionally supported the proud men and women that selflessly serve our country and we’re extremely excited to join those efforts. We look forward to a long and productive partnership.”  


 
About USAA
The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to nearly 13 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
 

About the SWAC
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is considered one of the premier HBCU conferences in the country and currently ranks among the elite in the nation in terms of HBCU alumni playing with professional sports teams. 
 
Current championship competition offered by the league includes competition for men in Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field and Tennis. 
 
Women’s competition is offered in the sports of Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Soccer, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball. 
 
Follow the SWAC
For complete coverage of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, please follow the SWAC on social media at @TheSWAC (Twitter), @TheSWAC (Facebook), and @TheSWAC (Instagram) or visit the official home of the Southwestern Athletic Conference at www.swac.org.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This was the toughest NFL player to ever catch a football

When you think of sheer football toughness and grit, running backs like Jim Brown and Houston Texans Defensive End JJ Watt come to mind. But the record for all-time toughness has to go Hall of Famer Larry Wilson. The former St. Louis Cardinal (when St. Louis had a football team, and they were also the Cardinals), routinely makes the list of the NFL’s greatest players – and for good reason.


The Cardinals Free Safety spent his entire playing career with the Cardinals and after retiring, spent the rest of his working career with the Cardinals, even moving to Arizona from St. Louis. with the team. That wasn’t what was most remarkable about Wilson. What was most remarkable was his dedication to the game.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Yeah, those are casts. Over his broken hands.

Wilson was a free safety whose size and speed were previously unheard of in that position. In college he played running back, but was too small to play there for the NFL. He switched to defensive back after being drafted by the Cardinals in 1959, but he had the athleticism that allowed the defense to experiment with using him as a pass rusher – which had never been used to rush the quarterback before. The Cardinals created a new blitz play called the “Wildcat,” and that became the name Larry Wilson picked up too. That just describes his speed and athleticism, however. His toughness on the field was another matter.

Throughout his 12-year career, Wilson racked up 52 interceptions, five of them being worth six points. One of those interceptions was caught while the Wildcat was on the field with two broken hands, still playing free safety with casts over his hands.

After retiring from the NFL as a player in 1972, Wilson became a coach on the staff of the Cardinals, and later, an executive for the team. In 1978, The Wildcat was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, the first year he was eligible for induction. For 17 years, he was the General Manager of the Cardinals, and ever since he left the field, he is remembered as a part of every All-Star or All-Time team ever created by sports pundits. He is routinely labeled as one of the greatest players ever to take the field.

Not bad for a kid who was too small to play the game in the first place.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This decades-old exercise is still the best bodyweight workout

It’s usually a good rule of thumb for your workout of choice to not give you nostalgic vibes. Jazzersize, step aerobics, the Thighmaster — you might remember these fondly, but you shouldn’t try to bring them back. These fitness fads didn’t actually get people fit because they hit the same muscle groups over and over with an intensity that never varied. Here’s an exception to the rule: Calisthenics, those moves you did on your high school PE test, is worth reviving. Calisthenics offer virtually everything your body needs to grow muscle, boost cardio, and improve your flexibility. And you don’t need an instruction manual to do it.

In a nutshell, calisthenics involves rudimentary fitness activities like hopping, lunging, and stretching. These exercises focus on major muscle groups like biceps and quads, but because they are full-body movements, they also engage secondary muscles for stability and balance, giving you a well-rounded workout.


Calisthenics’ major selling point, its simplicity, can also be its biggest drawback: Too much repetition of the same easy move can be boring. That’s why we’ve put together a plan that lets you mix and match moves to create a whole host of different routines.

The build-your-own calisthenics workout

Choose one move from each category, with a goal of pairing together 4 exercises to create one full circuit, which you will perform three times through for a complete workout.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

1. Calisthenic moves for arm strength

Pushups: Drop and give us 30. That’s right, 30.

Pullups: Grabbing the overhead bar with an underhand grip, hoist your body weight skyward until you clear the bar with your head. 10 reps.

Dips: Using a set of parallel bars, place a hand on either bar, palms facing in, and straighten arms until your feet are off the floor and your body is suspended in the air. Bend elbows and lower yourself down toward the floor without touching. Straight arms. Repeat 10 times.

Pulldowns: Lie with your chest directly beneath a bar or table edge. Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your arms straight and body in a long straight line. Bend elbows and raise your chest toward the bar. Straighten arms back to start. 10 reps.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

2. Calisthenics moves for core strength

Situps: Start the stopwatch. Do as many of this classic gut-buster as you can in 60 seconds, aiming for 40.

Plank: From an extended pushups position, drop so that your elbows are resting on the floor beneath your shoulders. Maintaining one long, straight line from your feet to your head, hold this position for 60 seconds.

Hanging knee lifts: Using a set of parallel bars with elbow rests (wrap a towel around the bars if there is no padding), place a forearm on either bar and rest your weight on it. Lift your feet off the ground and bend your knees, raising them as high to your chest as you can before straightening legs. Do not let your feet touch the floor between reps. 10 reps.

L-shape lifts: Start by hanging from the pullup bar with your arms straight. Engage your core muscles as you lift your legs in unison in front of you, keeping them straight, until they are parallel (or as close as you can get them) to the floor. Release. 6-8 reps.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

3. Calisthenics moves for leg strength

Squats: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows and tuck your hands to your chest as you bend your knees and squat down as if you are about to sit in a low chair. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Straight back up to the start. 12 reps.

Lunges: Stand with feet parallel, arms by your sides. Take a large step forward with your right leg, shifting your weight forward and landing with a bent right knee. Let your back left knee bend until it hovers above the floor. Push through your right foot and return to standing tall. Repeat on left side for one complete rep. 12 reps.

Leg raises: Lie with your back on the floor, legs extended. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Engaging your core, raise legs in unison off the floor and directly above your hips, keeping them straight. Lower back to floor. 8 reps.

Wall sit: Stand with your back to a wall. Pressing your back flat against the wall, bend your knees until your legs form a right angle and your thighs are parallel to the floor. (You will need to walk your feet forward about a foot so that your knees are directly over your toes in this position.) Hold for 90 seconds.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Corey Dabney)

4. Calisthenics moves for cardio

Jumping jacks: Feet apart and together, arms overhead each time. Aim for 40 in 60 seconds.

Jump rope: Single bounce, no stopping. 60 seconds.

Burpees: Start in an extended pushup position. Push through your toes, bend your knees, and hop your feet forward so they land close to your hands. Immediately spring up vertically off the floor, arms overhead. When you land, drop back down into a crouch with your hands on the floor, and jump your feet back to the starting pushup position. 20 reps.

Long jump/High jump: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Swing your arms behind you, bend your knees, and propel your body forward as far as you can in a two-leg long jump. Immediately, bend knees deeply and jump as high as you can vertically. Repeat long/high jump sequence 10 times.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

These sports icons served during the Battle of the Bulge

(Featured image courtesy of War History Online)

Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.



These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)

Lloyd Mangrum

“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.

Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Ralph Houk

Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”

Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Courtesy of the New York Times.)

Gino Marchetti

Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.

What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Nestor Chylak

Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.

At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Usain Bolt stopped an interview for the US National Anthem

It seems like nothing can stop Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man — except for respect. It would be easy to expect the most dominating runner to ever race across the Earth to be the kind of prima donna athlete that keeps us from wanting to meet our heroes.

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt just isn’t that way.


The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Usain Bolt is a triple world-record holder, an 11-time world champion, an eight-time Olympic champion, and a four-time Laureus Sportsman of the Year. In 2017, at just 31 years old, he retired from the track after a short but illustrious career but can still be found having fun with the sport. At Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, he casually tied the NFL record for the 40-yard dash while wearing sneakers and sweatpants.

He’s a guy who likes to have fun with the sport, but never enjoyed the intense training, interviews, or day-long photoshoots required of athletes of his stature. He does like the competition and the showmanship expected of a man who still owns the world record for the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter competition. He even has an infectious wry smile that often spreads to his competition.

But it looks like he takes sportsmanship seriously when it comes to respect for a national anthem, as shown when he stopped in the middle of an interview to stand for the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’

In 2012, Bolt competed in the London Olympics to defend his record. He would ultimately take home three more gold medals from the event but what caught many people’s attention was an interview he did with Television Espanola. During the live interview, the U.S. National Anthem began playing in the stadium. Bolt asked if it was live but turned to face the music anyway, standing silently as the loudspeakers played the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’

The reporter interviewing Bolt followed suit. As soon as the anthem was over, Bolt turned back to the reporter, respectfully apologized, and continued the interview.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

11 winners and losers from the first round of the 2019 NFL draft

The first round of the 2019 NFL draft is in the books.

After 32 picks, teams across the league have begun building out their rosters with new talent, with some organizations faring better than others.

While it’s too early to know just how every team’s selections will play out, a few clear winners and losers have already emerged after April 25, 2019’s first round.

There’s still plenty of picks to go, but these are the winners and losers of the draft after the first round.


Winner: Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is undoubtedly one of the biggest winners of the first day of the NFL draft.

Despite his small stature compared to quarterbacks historically taken in the first round, and a flurry of late rumors that Arizona might balk at the last minute, Murray was selected by the Cardinals with the first overall pick to become the face of the franchise moving forward. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury thinks he has the player he needs to build a competitive offense around; now they have to get to work.

Kyler Murray on being drafted by Cardinals: That’s where I wanted to go play

www.youtube.com

Loser: Josh Rosen

We all knew it was likely coming, but the Cardinals’ selection of Kyler Murray made it official — Josh Rosen is almost certainly on his way out of Arizona.

It’s a disappointing exit for the young prospect, and Rosen could still develop into a great player. But for now, the Cardinals have decided to take the team in a different direction.

Winner: Clemson Tigers

Three members of the Clemson Tigers’ dominant defensive line — Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, and Dexter Lawrence — were selected in the first 17 picks of the first round of the draft.

Any college players on the rise at Clemson are surely thrilled with their future prospects after such an amazing Thursday night for the university.

Loser: New York Giants

The Giants drafted Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick on Thursday night. The move was immediately criticized by fans, talking heads, and analysts alike, with almost everyone in agreement that New York reached for their pick.

Compounding the frustration of fans was Kentucky’s elite edge rusher Josh Allen was unexpectedly available at their pick. He was projected as the third or fourth player on many draft boards.

Allen could have made an immediate impact defensively for a team that has already said it was looking to win now and was sticking with Eli Manning as its quarterback for the 2019 season. Instead, they reached for a quarterback that could have been around for its second pick of the first round.

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars

The ultimate beneficiaries of the Giants’ decision to reach for Jones with the sixth pick were the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were able to scoop up Josh Allen with the seventh pick of the night without hesitation.

The best teams are able to let the draft come to them, and the Jaguars made the right move as the board played out.

Winner: Washington Redskins

Another team that did a great job of letting the draft come to them was the Washington Redskins.

Washington didn’t panic when Jones came off the board early to the Giants. While some teams in need of a quarterback might have attempted to trade up in the draft, the Redskins stood pat at No. 15, and their top guy, Dwayne Haskins, was still on the board.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Later in the draft, Washington got aggressive at the perfect moment, trading their second-round picks from this draft and the 2020 draft in exchange for the Indianapolis Colts’ 26th pick, which the team used to select Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat.

Sweat has exceptionally high upside, with teams likely passing on him due to concerns about a heart condition that came up at the combine, but some reports from draft day claimed it was a misdiagnosis. Regardless, Washington got themselves two high values in the first round, one by waiting, and one by jumping into action at the right time.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle was another team that mindfully waited for the draft to play out and took the position most beneficial to them.

The Seahawks traded back twice in the first round, first with the Packers, then with the Giants, turning the four picks into a whopping nine selections. Further, they still held on to a late first round pick, which Seattle used to select TCU defensive end L.J. Collier.

Collier was apparently high on the Seahawks’ board entering the night, but the biggest benefit the team has is those extra selections. With Russell Wilson getting a record contract at quarterback, young, affordable players are essential to the Seahawks plan to build around him. The two moves back the team made will go a long way in rebuilding their depth.

Loser: Oakland Raiders

Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders entered the first round of the 2019 NFL draft ready to make a bang, with three picks and plenty of holes to fill. Instead, Raider Nation left with something of a whimper.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders had a lot of firepower heading into the first round of the draft, but used it questionably.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

Dealing away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, Gruden had three first-round selections. At No. 4, the Raiders picked Clelin Ferrell — a solid player but rated lower than Josh Allen on many boards. The with their two choices in the 20s, the Raiders nabbed running back Josh Jacobs and safety Jonathan Abram. Both are one of the best players at their position in the draft, and both fill a need for the Raiders, but neither are the type of billboard-topping, jersey-selling superstars many expected.

The Raiders didn’t have an awful first round, it was just fine, but just fine was somewhat below expectations after all Oakland did to put itself in the position.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons took offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom out of Boston College and Kaleb McGary out of Washington. While beefing up the offensive line isn’t the most exciting way to spend two first-round draft picks, they immediately boost a weak point that was key to derailing the Falcons season in 2018.

After the Falcons’ Thursday night selections, no man in Atlanta is happier than Matt Ryan.

Loser: Running backs and wide receivers

This year was a rough one for standout running backs and wide receivers hoping to get selected in the first round. All told, just one running back (Josh Jacobs) and two wide receivers (Marquise Brown and N’Keal Harry) were taken on Thursday night, and none were in the first 23 picks.

With plenty of talent still available, there’s a good chance a run of receivers are taken through rounds two and three on Friday night, but the first round was undoubtedly disappointing for skill position players.

Winner: Iowa tight ends

Iowa tight ends were flying off the board.

T.J. Hockenson was taken eighth overall by the Detroit Lions — the highest a tight end has been selected since Vernon Davis in 2006. Then, 12 picks later, Hockenson’s teammate Noah Fant was taken by the Denver Broncos with the 20th pick of the first round.

Skill position players may have had a tough Thursday night, but for the Iowa Hawkeyes, the night was proof that no school in the country produces better tight ends.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 6 Army-Navy Game uniforms ever worn for the big rivalry

For the past few years, both Army and Navy break out with new uniforms to honor some aspect of their service or academy heritage during the much-anticipated Army-Navy Game. The 2019 game will feature the Black Knights honoring the 1st Cavalry Division with their uniforms while Navy is wearing throwback unis reminiscent of the days of Navy legend Roger Staubach – who will surely be in attendance.

While it’s cool to see all the thought and effort that goes into making one of college football’s biggest rivalries an epic game, not all of the uniforms were on target. Here are a few of the all-time best.


The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

6. Navy’s 2013 “Don’t Give Up The Ship”

These majestic blue and gold digs honored not only the traditions and history of the Naval Academy but also included a traditional design with a historical, entirely relevant message underneath the uniform. Navy didn’t give up the ship, beating Army 34-7.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

5. Army’s 2012 “1944” Tribute

This year, Army sported black and gold uniforms that honored its World War II heritage, incorporating real-world battle maps of the 1944 Battle of the Bulge. Their helmets this year also featured the black spade logo to honor the 101st Airborne Division. But badass uniforms were not enough to beat Navy, who won 17-13.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

4. Navy’s 2015 Ship Helmets

While Navy’s uniforms this year may be par-for-the course college football jerseys, each helmet was specifically painted with a different kind of ship in the Navy’s fleet. Ranked Navy beat Army 21-17.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

3. Army’s 2017 10th Mountain White-Outs

Almost as if Army predicted the weather, the Black Knights’ 2017 all-white tribute to the 10th Mountain Division came when the game was pretty much played in the middle of a snowstorm. Army topped Navy 14-13.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

2. Navy’s 2019 Staubach-Era Throwbacks

Yes, it may seem unfair to add this year’s Navy uniform to the list, but choosing to honor the Staubach-era Navy team by wearing a throwback to their uniforms is a thoughtful touch for the aging “Comeback Kid,” who will turn 78 in 2020. Staubach led the Mids to numerous come-from-behind victories, including over vaunted rival Notre Dame. The Heisman Trophy-winner then led the team to the 1964 National Championship, but fell to number one Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

1. Army’s 2018 “Big Red One” Uniforms

In 2018, the Black Knights honored the 100th Anniversary of the End of World War I with an homage to the 1st Infantry Division with these sweet black and red combo uniforms. I’m not saying this is why ranked Army topped Navy for the third year in a row, but I’m also not ruling it out.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Meet the troops who tackled security at the Super Bowl

As football fans geared up for Feb. 3, 2019’s ultimate event of the football season, National Guard civil support team members were on site in Atlanta to ensure Super Bowl LIII went off without a hitch.

“They’re just monitoring the area to make sure there are no weapons of mass destruction or no precursors for WMDs in the area,” said Army Lt. Col. Jenn Cope, CST program branch chief at the National Guard Bureau. “That will continue through the game and then for days afterward.”

Elements from eight different CSTs from eight different states were in Atlanta providing assistance, with the Georgia National Guard’s 4th Civil Support Team acting as the lead team.


“It’s a continuous operation for a long period of time, so they’ll need more than just [one CST],” said Cope.

The CSTs began their Super Bowl mission, which started with a sweep of the stadium and surrounding areas to get a baseline reading of the area. That allowed the teams to detect elements already there that may signal the presence of chemical, biological or a large-scale explosive device, while also providing a range of pre-game “normal” readings.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Second Lt. Dustin McCormick, left, and Sgt. William Bean from the 10th Civil Support Team (CST) discuss their plan of action to install radiation monitoring equipment around CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington, Nov. 20, 2017.

(Photo by Spc. Alec Dionne)

CST members then watched for any changes to those readings, using sensor equipment that allowed for near real-time tracking. Should a sensor have “pinged,” team members would then have notified state and local officials.

“Their job is to assist and advise,” said Cope, of the CSTs’ mission. “They can’t make the decision on what is to be done. That’s done by local, state and federal agencies. We’re there in a support role.”

And the CSTs are uniquely equipped and set up to provide that support, said Cope.

“The CSTs are set up specifically to be able to work with our interagency partners — that’s part of our prime mission,” she said. “Our radio frequencies are the same that local first responders or the FBI or other agencies at these events use. The CST’s mission is to assess the situation, analyze and provide information to our interagency partners.”

Taking part in the behind-the-scenes aspect of the Super Bowl isn’t a new mission for the CSTs, who provide similar monitoring and analysis at large-scale events, including the State of the Union Address, high-profile sporting events and other comparable large or high visibility events.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, host venue of Super Bowl LIII.

“The CSTs participate in most national security events,” said Cope. “The Super Bowl falls under that.”

Cope added that the CSTs are the perfect asset for the mission of detecting possible WMDs.

“The CSTs are the most trained, the best-trained assets for countering WMDs,” she said. “There is no other unit like them in the National Guard and even in the active component there are very few teams that do what the CSTs do.”

When not supporting events like the Super Bowl, CSTs are often called upon by state and local authorities to respond to incidents involving the release or threatened release of nuclear, biological, radiological, or toxic or poisonous chemicals. In fiscal year 2017, the last year for which data is available, CSTs responded to more than 3,100 events or incidents throughout the U.S.

“They provide that broad spectrum of detection and protection for the states and the events that are happening,” said Cope. “Our guys analyze and detect and then provide that critical information back to state, local and federal authorities.”

And that’s all part of the mission.

“WMDs are a threat throughout the world,” said Cope. “The CSTs are set up to protect the homeland from that.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why NFL referees no longer use pistols to call the end of a quarter

This post is sponsored by USAA, Official Salute to Service Partner of the NFL.

Anyone who’s ever been to a major sporting event can tell you the noise on the field level can be a deafening wall of sound. But communication on the field is important, and everyone involved needs to know how much time is left in the game. 

If you need any evidence of this, please refer to any close postseason game ever played. 

From the earliest days of American football until as late as 1994, referees on the field used a starter pistol to call the ends of quarters and of games.

When the leagues that became the NFL first started in 1920, there was no official standard for calling plays dead, ending quarters, or any other action taken by an officiating crew. Horns and whistles were used as often as anything else. These were soon standardized to whistles for the plays, pistols for the quarters, and eventually flags to call penalties. 

For much of the NFL’s early years, league officials keeping the official time would fire a starting pistol to signal the end of every quarter. The scoreboard clock was not the official game clock. But everyone could hear the crack of the shot and the refs would announce the end of the quarter or game. 

There’s no one reason why the league no longer uses the pistol, but suffice to say, it’s unnecessary.

An NFL referee signaling the start of a new quarter. Refs no longer use pistols.

In the NFL as we know it today, after the merger between the American Football League and the National Football League in 1970, the scoreboard became the official game clock – which was the league standard in the AFL (now the AFC). 

But though everyone could clearly see the time on the field, the refs still kept firing at the end of the quarter. The officiating crew also keeps the official time as a backup. 

As the late 1960s turned into the early 1970s, a wave of aircraft hijackings changed the rules of air travel. Referees were no longer allowed to travel with even a starter pistol, which could not fire live ammunition unless heavily modified. Refs had to borrow the home team’s starting gun.

If the home team didn’t have a starting gun, they didn’t use one, which could lead to confusion on the field. Standardization is as important in football as it is on the battlefield. 

Then, there were a series of incidents that wreaked havoc on the players, coaches and even the referees themselves. The sports blog FootballZebras recalled a number of accounts from the biographies of early NFL referees that describe a handful of these events in detail. 

One ref used the pistol to silence an angry Bill Belichick. Another accidentally fired the gun while it was still in his back pocket, causing a burn on his posterior. During one game, President Richard Nixon was in attendance and the use of the starting pistol caused extreme anxiety among the judges, who were afraid of Secret Service retaliation.  

So while there are many, many good reasons for refs not to fire a gunshot into the air at NFL games, the most important reason is that it’s just not necessary.

This post is sponsored by USAA, Official Salute to Service Partner of the NFL.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army hopes to complete 4-year sweep of Navy in rivalry game

Since his fellow cadets stormed Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium three years ago after Army ended Navy’s 14-game winning streak, Ryan Velez had waited for his chance to play in the storied Army-Navy game.

Velez, now a senior safety from Fountain Hills, Arizona, finally saw action on special teams during last year’s 17-10 Army triumph in Philadelphia.

On Dec. 14, 2019, Velez can help the 5-7 Black Knights defeat Navy for the fourth straight time, and cement the 2020 senior class as one of the greatest in West Point’s history. Army takes on the No. 23 Midshipmen (9-2) at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field at 3 p.m. EST.


“This is like a season of its own,” Velez said of the Army-Navy Game. “That’s unlike any other games in college football … the opportunity to win a trophy and go to the White House. That’s something special. It’s surreal and something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Army Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken leads the team onto the field for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

A high school tailback, Velez moved to defense at West Point and played mostly on the scout team his freshman year. After switching to safety his sophomore year, he still couldn’t get on the field, but finally contributed to Army’s 11-2 campaign as a junior, seeing action in 11 of 13 games.

Velez worked harder in practice and studied diligently to learn the intricacies of both strong and free safety, earning the trust of his coaches.

This fall, Velez has become a leader on defense, recording 40 solo tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack in 12 games. Not bad for a player who spent most of his first two seasons on the bench.

“During that time it was hard,” he said. “Obviously taking a backseat, having a secondary role, that was one of those challenges I’ve had to overcome — fight through and I’m glad I did. It’s been a ride; it’s been a journey. I’m just very appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”

Brutal schedule

A 5-7 mark could seem disappointing for the Army football team after cruising to an 11-2 record last fall and the program’s best finish since 1958.

Records can be deceiving.

Army has proven it can still compete with the nation’s best. Despite the final scores, the results on the field have shown competitiveness.

In each of those seven losses, the Black Knights remained within striking distance, including a near-upset of No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Army forced overtime against the Wolverines before falling 24-21.

The Black Knights narrowly lost to service rival Air Force 17-13 in Colorado Springs Nov. 2, when the No. 25 Falcons stopped Army at the goal line with less than a minute in regulation.

During a 52-31 offensive shootout at Hawaii Nov. 30, Army trailed only 38-31 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Black Knights’ drive stalled after driving to the Hawaii 35-yard line and the Warriors scored the final two touchdowns.

“We played a really tough schedule, some really great competition,” Velez said. “All that stuff that happened in the past, that’s gut-wrenching. We can’t focus on that right now. We just got to focus on Navy, finishing out the season strong.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, center, scores the final touchdown of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Army’s senior class, which has not lost in the annual rivalry game, hopes to complete a four-year sweep. Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins (706 rushing yards, seven TDs) and senior running back Connor Slompka (637 yards, eight TDs) lead Army’s No. 2 rushing attack. Hopkins has also thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but his time on the field has been limited by injuries.

Since head coach Jeff Monken took over, Army bounced back from a 2-10 mark in 2015, to go 21-5 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

That run includes a 70-14 trouncing of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing at No. 19 in the college football rankings during the 2018 season.

“We had a great senior class my freshman year,” Velez said. “We were able to end the streak. That was something that the whole Army itself was looking forward to, just ending that streak, being able to say we finally beat Navy. That senior class kind of gave us the ground rules for continuing that streak the past couple of years, giving us the formula to beat Navy so they set the example and … we hope to continue that this coming Saturday.”

The contest holds special significance for Velez, as his younger brother Ross, a freshman at the Naval Academy, will be pulling for the Midshipmen from the stands. Velez, whose great uncles served as enlisted troops in the Korean War and World War II, will become the first officer in his family when he graduates from West Point next spring. He said his parents, Roger and Evangeline Velez, will have torn allegiances when they attend this year’s game.

Fortunes reversed

Army faces a No. 23-ranked Navy squad that handed Air Force one of its only two losses this season. Last season Army’s football team won a defensive struggle in frigid winter conditions. In 2018, Army carried a No. 22 ranking and 9-2 record heading into the game while Navy had weathered its worst season since 2002 at 2-9.

This fall, Navy enters the game as the favorite as Army failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2015.

Navy bounced back from its worst campaign to finish second in the American Athletic Conference and earn a bid to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State Dec. 31.

This season’s Army-Navy game features a matchup of the nation’s top two rushing offenses. The Midshipmen’s high-powered offense ranks No. 9 in the nation.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Navy quarterback Garret Lewis is sacked during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Senior QB Malcolm Perry leads Navy’s top-ranked rushing attack, as he has rushed for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and thrown for another 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.

While standing only 5-9, the elusive Perry has quickly become one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons and will test the Black Knights’ No. 30-ranked defense, which has struggled with consistency. Perry ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards.

Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers has made big play after big play for the Midshipmen, rushing for 637 yards on only 76 carries (8.4 yards per carry) and has 741 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns. Carothers scored five of those touchdowns in a 56-41 triumph over Houston Nov. 30, one shy of the conference record.

Velez said the Army defense carries a swagger, built from three consecutive victories and weathering a brutal schedule.

“We just have a calmness going into it, we know how to win,” Velez said. “It’s just a blood bath when we go out there. I think going in we have some confidence, we have some swagger. We know what it takes to win. At the end of the day, we just got to line up, be a tougher team and out-physical them.”

Navy still holds a 60-52-7 all-time lead in the contest, though Army has won the last three matchups.

Defensive struggles

While Army’s defense had been a stalwart force the previous two seasons, it has struggled at times this season. In 2018, the Black Knights boasted the nation’s 10th best defense, allowing only 17.7 points a game and 295.3 yards of total offense per contest.

This fall those numbers jumped to 337.8 yards allowed and the Black Knights fell to No. 30 in total yards allowed, and No. 33 in points allowed.

Senior cornerback Elijah Riley leads Army in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three), sacks (four) and ranks second on the squad with 73 tackles.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(West Point Athletics Department)

Honoring the past

Army will pay tribute to the 1st Cavalry Division, the first full unit of its kind to deploy to Vietnam. The division pioneered a new battle concept which used helicopters to mobilize large masses of soldiers.

The Black Knights will don green helmets that display the golden sabers to honor the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment.

The Midshipmen will wear a throwback classic 1960s-era uniform with gold shoulder stripes and a special paint design that resembles football helmets of the past.

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