Sports Editor Will Hammock
Like most of my friends, I've spent the majority of my football-watching experiences at Southeastern Conference stadiums, mostly at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.
A few years ago, I decided to gradually change that and check out some other renowned college football stadiums when I could (leaving Gwinnett during high school football season isn't easy for me). Up first were two campuses I've always wanted to visit --the Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy.
I toured Annapolis, Md., several years ago for a Navy-Louisiana Tech game, then made it to West Point, N.Y., this past weekend for the Army-Stony Brook game at legendary Michie Stadium.
While the result wasn't ideal, a Stony Brook win, the trip was great and completed a promise I made to Army senior defensive back Josh Jackson when he was a Brookwood senior.I told Jackson, who headed to the academy along with high school teammates Jarrett and A.J. Mackey, I planned to see a game at West Point during his career and followed through last Saturday.
The scenic drive from New York City to West Point, with the mountains and already-changing fall foliage, was everything I expected. So was the sprawling, mountain-side campus, with its granite buildings overlooking the Hudson River.
The game itself didn't end well on the scoreboard, but the atmosphere itself was incredible. I also got to catch up post-game with Jackson and Jarrett Mackey (his brother A.J. is still at the academy, but no longer plays football).
Those two locals are part of a special group of athletes, those who play Division I football for Army, Navy or Air Force.
They face a demanding military lifestyle and course load that is tougher and requires more time than some of their opponents. This weekend also was a reminder of the additional challenges those students face on the football field.
While the body sizes of football players increase yearly to unreal proportions, Army boasted a front of players who are smaller than some Gwinnett high school lines. Stony Brook's roster was loaded with 300-plus pounders, but those kind of frames don't generally work well with intense military training.
Against Stony Brook, Army started offensive tackles were were 6-foot-2 and 6-5, and both weighed 243 pounds. Neither guard topped the 265-pound mark, though a 290-pound center pushed up the average.
Facing off against Stony Brook's offensive line of 300-pounders were starting defensive linemen who weigh 257, 239 and 203.
Not surprisingly, the smaller players fought their hearts out against their bigger opponents. It's the kind of effort you'd expect out of kids who will become American heroes by serving their country after graduation.
All in all, it was a tremendous experience and gets me a step closer to seeing games at all the academies, which leads me to my next question -- anyone have connections at Air Force?
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.