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Army-Navy hoops; McNary wins Tillman honors

January 27, 2011

Army's Nathan Hedgecock, of El Paso, Texas, takes on Navy. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Last weekend was the much-anticipated Army-Navy (or should we start referring to it as Navy-Army) basketball doubleheader at West Point — two more wins for the Mids in front of an enormous crowd at Christl Arena and a national TV audience on CBS College Sports. I stopped by for the games plus a bit of the Army-RMU hockey game at Tate Rink.

West Point cadet Mike Hull scored one of Army’s two goals in a tie against Robert Morris last Saturday. (Danny Wild/USMA)

A cadet makes a sign on the court before Army's game against Navy. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army hosts Navy at Christl Arena in the Holleder Center at West Point. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army football fullback Jonathan Crucitti (left, in combat helmet) cheers on the corps squad against Navy. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Here’s a photo gallery of my images from the men’s Army-Navy game. I shot the women’s game as well, check out that photo gallery here.

There’s still some football news in the aftermath of the Armed Forces Bowl victory (Trent Steelman recently had shoulder surgery), most notably senior captain Josh McNary’s award-winning effort at the East-West Shrine Game that now has him potentially positioned for the NFL Draft. According to my man Sal at the Record, NFL scouts have projected McNary as an outside linebacker in the league, a position he played in the East-West game under head coach Dan Reeves on NFL Network.

Army senior captain Josh McNary. (Danny Wild/USMA)

McNary won the Pat Tillman Award, which is presented to a player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service. The award is about a student-athlete’s achievements and conduct, both on and off the field.

McNary, who finished as Army’s all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss, will graduate this spring and spend at least two years in the Army before he can request an early release to potentially join an NFL team. Would be pretty cool to see Houston give him a shot.

McNary’s storyline was told over and over during bowl week in Texas — ignored by many schools in high school, he was a walk-on at USMAPs and went on to probably see his number retired at Michie some day. He was also named an ECAC Football Bowl Subdivision All-Star last week … a distinguished career for a good guy who had an enormously clutch touchdown in Army’s bowl win.

Before I forget, if you have not seen the football team’s new website, it’s worth checking out: http://thearmyteam.com

It features a ton of my photos, including Malcolm Brown front and center. See if you can find little Navy boat on the Hudson that is just asking to be sunk.

Sal has also been going hard on the recruiting beat — I don’t know who any of these kids are, but it sounds good, and I’d like to think the team’s winning season and bowl win has given the program a boost over the last month. Derek Sanchez sounds like someone from the McNary mold, a quick defensive end that has also seen time at linebacker — Sal reported on Wednesday that he committed to USMA.

Another DE, Dalton Mendenhall, spurred Boise State and Utah for West Point.

Meanwhile, to put that into perspective a bit, West Point Superintendent Lt. General David Huntoon stopped by Kabul, Afghanistan a week after celebrating the bowl win in Texas. He signed an agreement with the Afghan army to continue a relationship between West Point and the Afghan military academy.

Army and Navy battle in a women's basketball game on Saturday. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Hope you enjoyed following my photos of Army’s football season this fall, it was a a great experience from Day 1 back in summer camp and August scrimmages to the on-field celebration in Dallas in December. To be apart of the entire journey is something really remarkable. If you haven’t yet been to a game at West Point, you are really missing out.

My camera and super telephoto lens need some repairs, though, after all the miles I put on ’em this past summer and autumn. I actually shot those basketball games last weekend with a busted camera that was impossible to look through. Once (if) the snow clears, I’ll be heading to CPS in New Jersey.

 

Bring it Back: Cadets are Armed Forces Bowl champs

January 1, 2011

Army celebrates it's win at the Armed Forces Bowl. (Danny Wild/USMA)

What a week. It’s 2011 and I’m still smiling from Thursday’s win. What an honor and thrill it was to be apart of Army’s bowl week and victory in Texas. The team’s theme this year was “Bring it Back” — bring back winning to the Army program, bring back the pride and respect. On Thursday afternoon, 24 seniors walked off the field with big, big smiles.

Here are some of my photos from the epic win in Dallas, many of which were featured immediately after the win on USMA.edu and GoArmySports.com. Congrats to Davvd Brooks on an enormously clutch catch to seal the win.

Believe it: Army wins it! (Danny Wild/USMA)

THE Man: Senior captain and MVP, 5-0, Stephen 'Hollywood' Anderson. (Danny Wild/USMA)

The pride of Delafield, Wisconsin, Jared Hassin gets a bowl ring. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Recap and photos from Army

Army gets to work at Kennedale High School in Kennedale, Texas, just outside of Arlington, for its first practice. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army's sophomore quarterback, Trent Steelman, takes aim with a shotgun at an arcade hunting game during a team welcome event at Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army offensive lineman Seth Reed smiles beside head coach Rich Ellerson following a practice in Kennedale. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army place holder Kolin Walk and punter Jonathan Bulls walk off the practice field. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army QB Trent Steelman gets his feet taped before practice on Tuesday. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Co-defensive coordinator Payam Saadat and the West Point defensive corps goes over their game plan during a walk-through on Wednesday at Ford Stadium. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army senior captain Stephen Anderson jumps on a stationary bike before kickoff. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Senior captain Josh McNary reacts after making a stop in the first quarter. (Danny Wild/USMA)

U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant Mike Gann, an Army senior defensive tackle, catches his breath on the bench. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Senior linebacker Kingsley Ehie pounces on a punt on the one-yard line, pinning SMU deep. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Freshman slotback Malcolm Brown scored Army's second touchdown. (Danny Wild/USMA)

SMU back Zach Line takes a handoff from quarterback Kyle Padron. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Lt. General David Huntoon Jr., appointed by president Obama last summer as the 58th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, watches the action from the Army sideline. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Junior Steve Erzinger leaps onto fellow linebacker Stephen Anderson after a big third down stop. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Junior kicker Alex Carlton watches his successful field goal in the second quarter. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Sophomore fullback Jared Hassin, an Air Force Academy transfer, became the 14th player in Army history to run for 1,000 yards after piling up 82 in the win. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Senior captain Stephen Anderson celebrates after a sack. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Senior captain Josh McNary, of Houston, Texas. (Danny Wild/USMA)

JJ: Defensive back Josh Jackson is congratulated after running out of bounds following a third-quarter intercepion. (Danny Wild/USMA)

QB Trent Steelman picked up key first downs on the ground. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Junior kicker Alex Carlton bites his nails as he watches the scoreboard during the final minutes. Army held SMU on third-and-long before Mustangs kicker Matt Szymanski missed left on a potential go-ahead 46-yard field goal with 4:06 remaining. Army picked up two key first downs to run out the clock. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army sings its alma mater to the Corps of Cadets following a 16-14 win. (Danny Wild/USMA)

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Mike Gann, who graduated on Dec. 17, reacts after the win. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Quarterback Trent Steelman screams when he finds his family reaching out from the crowd. (Danny Wild/USMA)

U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant Jason Johnson embraces his mother and grandmother following the win. Johnson graduated on Dec. 17 and will going on to Ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Fullback Jared Hassin and QB Trent Steelman soak in the win infront of their families. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Senior captain Stephen Anderson was named MVP in his final game. (Danny Wild/USMA)

More photos here

Armed Forces Bowl week: Day 2

December 28, 2010

Army's trio of quarterbacks, senior Chip Bowden (10), sophomore Trent Steelman (8) and junior Max Jenkins walk off the field at Kennedale High School following Monday's practice. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Army ran a lot of passing drills today at Kennedale High School on Monday, putting in about two hours on a chilly, windy morning in Texas. The team hit the gym for a bit afterwards, with coach Rich Ellerson stressing the importance of being healthy heading into Thursday’s big game.

QB Trent Steelman gets his cleats taped before practice. (Danny Wild/USMA)

One of the highlights of the day was the post-dinner comedy improv show the team attended in Fort Worth — Richard King took a lot of heat for walking into the act late, and perhaps the biggest roar from the team came when one of the entertainers pulled a notecard with “50” written on it, commenting, “he must be a benchwarmer.”

Fullback Jared Hassin chats with Austin Barr during Monday's practice. (Danny Wild/USMA)

The practices have been spirited and upbeat — there’s definitely no sense of pressure looming over this team. They are loose and confident and prepared to take on SMU this week, with even the coaches in good moods. The two-hour practice today was followed by about an hour of the team watching video of the workout back in the hotel before Jared Hassin, Donnie Dixon and Steve Erzinger spoke briefly with a reporter.

Rich Ellerson talks with Jarrett Mackey during practice Monday. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Trent Steelman (right) and Josh Jones talk with ITT Knight Vision's Rick Johnston at Billy Bob's Texas on Sunday. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Lots more photos here on Army’s website. The team will practice early again on Tuesday, with several players attending charitable events honoring returning veterans and visiting a children’s hospital.

Army arrives in Texas

December 26, 2010

Army takes the field at Kennedale High School in Kennedale, Texas on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Greetings from Fort Worth, Texas. A long day is winding down — at least for me, some of the players are out enjoying downtown Fort Worth, but I’m at the end of a day that began at 5:47 am in New York and featured a stop at Michie Stadium, a three-hour plane ride, two hour practice and incredible Texas BBQ for lunch.

The staff and Armed Forces Bowl volunteers all lined up to greet the team as it entered Billy Bob’s Texas, a BBQ/bull-riding/concert venue in the Fort Worth stockyards. Army got it’s first taste of SMU with a “minute to win it”-styled contest on stage at Billy Bob’s (Army won a few rounds, including the apple-stacking challenge that Josh Jones just dominated). Head coach Rich Ellerson and Athletic Director Col. Sam Johnson were presented with some sweet white cowboy hats on stage to the roar of both teams.

“With a number of our players from Texas, this is a real boon for them and their families to be that close to home and have a chance to play one more time in front of those folks,” Ellerson said. “This is a long way from West Point, but it’s not foreign territory for us.”

On the field, Army went through a two-hour practice at Kennedale High School, which is easily the most fancy, professional high school sports facility I’ve seen (they have an indoor football practice facility, plus a field-turf field with tons of seating). Check out GoArmySports.com tonight for a recap of the day at Kennedale, along with a photo gallery of some of my images.

Monday is more of the same — practice, workouts, lunch, dinner. The team and staff are getting a police escort throughout the state from the Fort Worth Police, making travel a breeze. The weather is due to warm up to 73 for gameday on Thursday. Before then, the team has a few charitable events lined up before a walk-through of Ford Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Army coach Rich Ellerson outlines Sunday's practice at Kennedale. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Photos: Army-Navy

December 13, 2010

Navy celebrates it's ninth-straight win over West Point. (Danny Wild/USMA)

I’ve posted about 365 photos of Saturday’s 111th Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia — you can now count down to Army-Navy 2011 with a new photo each day, if you want — over on Flickr. I’ll get more up here on the photoblog soon.

You can also see many of my photos, along with those of West Point’s Tommy Gilligan, on the Army athletics game recap. My buddy Chet Gordon of the Record has a few images up as well.

Beat Navy

December 10, 2010

Trent Steelman will look to help Army to it's first touchdown in four games agianst Navy on Saturday in Philly. (Photos/illustration by Danny Wild)

Here we go. Army-Navy 2010 is finally here, with a lot of pride and bragging rights up for the taking, especially so for the senior classes of both service academies. The Navy elders are getting some press this week for what could be a historic four-game sweep without allowing a touchdown to the cadets.

“I’m definitely aware of that. We talk about it all the time,” Navy senior cornerback Kevin Edwards said. “That’s what we live for, not giving up points.”

For the cadets, those Naval dreams should only fuel their hunger for revenge — West Point is loaded with seniors like captains Steve Anderson, Pat Mealy and fifth-year lineman Jason Johnson, all waiting to taste victory in Philadelphia.

“We will redeem ourselves. We will win,” senior DE Josh McNary said. “There is no next time for us. It’s the last game.”

The Army-Navy game is unlike any other. A lot is written about this matchup, which just pumps out cliches and oozes with phases about mutual respect. Both of these academies have become obsessive with instilling a certain faux hostility toward the other (the West Point gift shop sells oven hot pads that read “Go Army, Cook Navy).

The Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen have waited all year for this. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Legendary Army coach Red Blaik once said, “The primary objective of Army football must be victory over Navy. It cannot be achieved by anything less than complete dedication.”

So, no excuses, for either side. Army has had weeks to prepare and get healthy after getting burned in the Bronx. Navy has had another great year and is bowl-bound as well, again. Army will need to stop Ricky Dobbs’ triple-option, and Navy will have to do the same with Trent Steelman and Jared Hassin, who were both neutralized by Notre Dame.

McNary was profiled by the AP this week in which he said he hopes to play in the NFL following his service, taking the path of Caleb Campbell this season.

“I know what I have to do,” McNary said of facing Navy. “We haven’t won against Navy since we’ve been here. We’re not too happy about it.”

Navy celebrated an eighth-straight win over Army in 2009. (Danny Wild/USMA)

“It’s the No. 1 game we want to win every year,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

“You can be 0-11 going into this game, but if you win, it just solidifies the whole season,” Dobbs said.

“No one is lacking in confidence,” McNary said. “There’s nothing more that we want to do than beat Navy.

Let’s get it done.

Baseball in December: the Winter Meetings

December 9, 2010

Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona had plenty to smile about all week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

I got back today from the MLB Winter Meetings down at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., — a rough week for us baseball folk. I know this is the much-anticipated Army-Navy week, but I’ve been immersed in baseball for the past few days, so I’ll stick to that for now.

The winter meetings are, from the outside looking in, probably a confusing event where fans assume general managers get into a circle and throw around names and trade offers. In reality, it’s a week-long event that mixes front office brass, reporters, TV cameras, random fringe media and mobs of job seekers into a huge world of hotel hallways, ballrooms, lobbies and bars. Emphasis on bars.

Former Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson and Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons at the MLB.com Live studio. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

It’s actually sort of sad to admit that, from my perspective, the engine running these latest meetings was Twitter. The media workroom at the Walt Disney World Dolphin & Swan Resorts was packed with at least 200 writers (I can only imagine where some of these clowns were from), and everyone had Twitter going. The rumors, the stories, the news all stems from text messages and Twitter postings, which is really not what many of us who got into sports journalism ever envisioned.

One of the most popular website destinations was MLBtraderumors.com, which basically compiles all the Twitter rumors and blog posts and (wait for it) actual published news stories into one glorious page of  news.

And it seemed pretty quiet all week, although looking back, there were a number of deals: Paul Konerko stayed with Chicago, the Rays waved goodbye to half their roster in trading Jason Bartlett and watching Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford cash in elsewhere. Shaun Marcum was traded, JJ Hardy went to Baltimore, the Nationals stunned (in a bad, bad way) the baseball community with a ridiculous $126 million contract to the aging Jayson Werth.

Cubs 1B Carlos Pena is flanked by agent Scott Boras (l) and Chicago GM Jim Hendry. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

The WM are fun, though — there is so much noise on Twitter and such that it was common to see a deal reportedly fall apart, and then literally 15 minutes later, it’s suddenly done.  It’s always exciting to hear a good rumor or have someone shoot you a text that a big deal has gone down — “Crawford to Boston. Just broke. You hear this?” a co-worker texted me late last night as a few of us kicked back in a hotel bar.

The meetings are just as much, if not more Minor League Baseball-centered than anything else. I was told about 500 job seekers were there, with about 400 open positions, many of which were internships with Minor League clubs. It’s got to be intimidating for a college grad to fly to Florida, get a hotel, a bunch of cabs, a suit and try to stand out amongst a huge crowd of eager baseball fanatics looking for a dream job. Every MiLB team was there, holding interviews and discussing business with other clubs.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

I bumped into/spotted a few baseball names in Orlando: Frank Robinson and Tommy Lasorda both made the rounds of the main lobby at the Dolphin. Retired slugger Fred McGriff, 26th all-time with 493 home runs, popped up at the hotel bar. Free agent outfielders Johnny Damon, sporting a tall rooster mohawk, and Gary Sheffield, sporting a huge glitzy ring, both were there (word was Damon wants back with Boston, Sheffield wants Tampa Bay). Pitching coach Rick Peterson was everywhere, chatting with everyone. Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson hovered around the MLB.com set, while Harold Reynolds flashed his smile all week in the main lobby. My flight home was even star-studded, with cast of American Chopper sitting behind me en route to Stewart Airport in Newburgh, NY.

A lot of the media talking heads you see on TV throughout the year were around, mingling among the rest of us — ESPN’s Buster Olney, Jayson Stark, Pedro Gomez and Tim Kurkjian… Peter Gammons, in a navy suit with white running sneakers, was always fun to see in action… some guy trailing White Sox GM Ken Williams, handing him a baseball card to sign… An assortment of Major League managers came and went, from Red Sox skipper Terry Francona in sweats and a t-shirt, to Angels manager Mike Scioscia is a tidy blue suit with red Angels tie.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter stands beside Arizona GM Kevin Towers (R) during a press conference announcing a trade for Mark Reynolds. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

One colleague told a funny story about his trip from his hotel to the main site, in which Reds manager Dusty Baker invited him into his cab and, after offering to split the fare, Baker brushed him back saying he “probably makes a lot more money.”

I was surprised by the amount of foreign media, which is to say, there were no Japanese players on the move or even on the radar of being traded, yet the TV cameras were everywhere, waiting for something to happen.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi talks with the media. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson chats with reporters. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Incoming Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spoke about moving from Texas to Pittsburgh. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Bravers manager Fredi Gonzalez will also assume a new job. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Managers held press conferences every 30 minutes in the media workroom — a set schedule had guys rotating in from 2-5 p.m. each day. The TV cameras swarmed around the little tables the managers sat behind, making it a good challenge to find not only a good perspective, but also a clear view for a photograph. Some people will shift over and help you out, and some will just get in your way, even if they’re not really working.

The MLB.com media room buzzed with the sound of laptop keyboards, reporters cursing at the slow wi-fi, snapping fingers to find the right words. Down the hall, the TV networks set up shop with studios and lighting and live reports. And around the corner, Minor League teams held seminars and meetings. It’s an environment where everyone — is that Steve Phillips? — seems to look familiar.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland holds court. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Cubs GM Jim Hendry speaks about signing Carlos Pena. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Cliff Lee was undoubtedly the name in the mind of everyone mingling around. Early on it was reported that a deal was unlikely to be done this week. Oh well. When Joe Maddon, the Rays’ manager, sat down with his trademark black-rimmed glasses, he spoke already in a past-tense about Carl Crawford, a day or so before he would sign with Boson.

Rays manager Joe Maddon chats with the media. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

The Minor League side of the meetings features a business seminar and a multi-day trade show that showcases vendors, merchandise, free food and ballpark entertainment. An annual gala featured a live band and food on Wednesday before a banquet ended the meetings on Thursday night. The Rule 5 Draft, in which Minor League veterans are selected by other organizations, was held Thursday morning.

Cubs skipper Mike Quade talks about his new gig. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

I got to stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, which was as nice and fancy as it sounds — a southwestern-themed Disney resort that encircled a lake about a mile away from the Dolphin and Swan resorts, the main hub of the meetings. We had to take cabs and shuttle buses to the main hotels. The Coronado was awesome, though, despite the record-low temperatures (32 on one day).

Angels manager Mike Scioscia wore a team tie. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

I think Crawford going to Boston boosts the Yankees chance of landing Lee in that, without Crawford as a secondary acquisition plan, they’ll go all-in on courting Lee. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him pick Texas, though. The Yankees need help in their rotation and bullpen, and Robert Fish, selected in the Rule 5 Draft from Anaheim, will neither help nor will he make the roster. Having Boston sign Crawford after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez had to really burn Yankees GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner bros. Boston is now the team to chase with a stacked lineup and good starters.

I will be at Army-Navy on Saturday and look forward to getting some epic photos of the cadets celebrating at the final whistle. Let’s do it.

BEAT NAVY.