Midshipmen Again Claim Commander in Chief's Trophy
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2005 The two men promised each other they'd be back, and they both kept their promise.
In January, President Bush returned for a second term in office. And April 20, during a ceremony at the White House, Navy football coach Paul Johnson returned with his midshipmen team to accept the Commander in Chief Trophy for the second straight year.
"Coach Johnson told me last year, 'Don't worry about it, Mr. President. We'll be back,'" the president said. "I like a man who keeps his word."
The Navy won this year's trophy by defeating Air Force, 24-21, and later sinking Army, 34-6. The trophy is presented each year to the military academy that posts the best head-to-head record.
The U.S. Naval Academy's Midshipmen later went on to beat the University of New Mexico 34-19 in the third annual Emerald Bowl Dec. 30 in San Francisco. Navy finished the season 10-2, tying a school record for best season, and its first 10-win season in 99 years.
"Once again the midshipmen set a standard of excellence on the field. This team is tough; it is talented; and you knew how to win," Bush said.
Later in his remarks, the president paralleled lessons learned on the football field to helping the U. S. win the war on terror.
"Midshipmen, you've developed leadership, teamwork and strong character. You know of the importance of setting high standards, and you know the importance of training hard to meet those standards," he told them. "All these qualities will serve our nation well as you become commissioned officers in the finest military the world has ever known."
He also pointed out that the country is still at war and reminded the players that many of their former teammates have been killed fighting the war on terror.
Of those killed, he said, the "nation will always honor their sacrifice." He added that the "American people are safer and the world will be more peaceful because of the honor and courage and commitment of the United States Navy and Marine Corps."
The president then thanked the midshipmen for volunteering to serve their country.
"I'm proud of what you have achieved on the football field; I am confident that your service will bring even greater achievement in the years ahead," Bush said. "It's an honor to be the commander in chief of such a fine group of people."
Johnson expressed gratitude to the president for keeping his part of the deal in returning to office.
"I have to give the president some credit. We had beaten Air Force in Colorado Springs, and before the Army game he (the president) came in and talked to our guys right before the game. And we talked about the agreement that we had, that we were both going to be back," Johnson said. "He had already fulfilled his end, so it was just up to us to get back here."
Johnson said the successful season was a "team effort" of not only the players, but also "everybody involved at the Naval Academy."
"It's certainly a team effort and everybody pulling in the same direction," he said. "There were times during the year that things didn't go as well as we would like. But the thing about the young men behind me and sitting out here is they pulled together."
He said this year's team was "goal-oriented" and "high achievers," and he promised the president the country will be "well-served when these young men go out to serve in our military, in the Marines and the Navy."
"I know that they'll be very successful in whatever endeavor they take," he said.
However, the president added still another reason for the team's success.
"They had a Texan at quarterback," he said, referring to senior Aaron Polanco, from Wimberly, Texas.