Oct. 12, 2013
By Harrison Antogioni, Army Athletic Communications
The following feature story appeared in Army Football Game Day on Oct. 12, 2013.
Black Knight senior offensive tackle Michael Kime began playing football competitively in the fourth grade. His school district in Zionsville, Ind., deemed fourth grade the appropriate time for a child to begin playing contact sports, which left Kime more than eager to step on the gridiron for the first time.
Even more excited than Michael was his father, Bill Kime. Bill was a three-year letterwinner on the football team at the United States Military Academy, and served as a captain during his senior season in 1984.
"My dad was so excited I was playing football that he became one of my coaches," said Michael. "I don't think he ever went through the coaching classes. He would just show up and be that crazy dad."
Michael developed a love for football that continued to his high school years, when he played at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., the same school where his father had played more than three decades before.
Up to this point in their lives, Michael and Bill shared a relationship that included a common passion for football. Also like his father, Michael saw a future for himself that involved some form of military service.
"I had always had a lot of respect for the military because of (my dad)." Michael explained. "I was probably one of the only kids in my neighborhood who watched the Army-Navy game religiously. It wasn't until high school when my brother (Andrew) enlisted in the National Guard that I thought the military would be a legitimate opportunity for me."
During his recruitment out of high school, Michael did what most teenaged football players capable of playing collegiately would do; he overlooked the long term to focus on the next four years as a college football player.
"I sent my recruiting materials to Navy and Air Force, but I had blinders on when I was in recruiting because all I was looking at was football," Michael said.
Bill and his wife, Terri, made the point to their son that football was just a short period of his future and that it wasn't nearly as important as other aspects of life would be.
"I wanted college football to be a wonderful chapter in his life full of great memories, but I didn't want that to be the highlight," said Bill. "I told Michael, don't look at the next four years ahead, look at the next 40 and 50 years and see what's going to set you up the best."
Michael took his father's advice and thought about what he wanted to do after college graduation. With an interest in combat arms, Michael realized the Army would be a better fit for him than the other two branches of the military.
Michael's college football aspirations and his pursuit of a career in the Army came together when he received an offer to play football at West Point.
"When Army came knocking, my first thought was that my dad played here and he probably called saying `recruit my kid, recruit my kid,'" Michael said. "But as the recruiting process went on, the more I realized that I fit their system and it just kind of fell into place."
It was official. Just as his father had been 27 years ago, Michael was a member of the Army football team. The similarities didn't end there though, as both father and son were recruited as centers out of high school before each were moved to offensive tackle during their sophomore years. Bill and Michael each wore number 78 at West Point, and both would go on to serve as captain during their respective senior seasons. They also hold the distinction of being the only father and son to captain the football team.
"It's crazy when I really sit back and think about it," Michael said. "I would say it's just more proof that Army football is so much different than any other program in the country. What other place are you going to have a story like that?"
After not playing as a freshman, Michael made his career debut during his sophomore season in Army's season opener at Northern Illinois on Sept. 3, 2011. Michael was forced to leave the game after incurring an injury, but returned a month and a half later to play against Vanderbilt on Oct. 22, 2011. Michael hit his stride as the 2011 season drew to a close, earning back-to-back starts in November against Rutgers and Temple.
"When (Michael) was a freshman, he didn't know if he was good enough to play at Army," Bill said. "Then as a sophomore, he got his first start and we talked a lot during that time about how to relax and get ready, and what to worry about and what not to worry about. There was a lot of conversation because he wanted to know how I handled my first start."
During his junior campaign in 2012, Michael started every game at right tackle before suffering tears to his ACL and MCL in Army's penultimate game versus Temple on Nov. 17. The injury knocked Michael out for the remainder of the game and crushed all chances of taking the field against Navy just three weeks later.
"That was a blow physically, but more mentally," Michael said. "I was so excited to play in the Navy game, and in the game before it, I got hurt."
Michael had surgery to repair the torn ligaments in his right knee in early January 2013. The recovery required him to miss all of spring practices and the team's offseason training regiments. Michael was finally cleared to return just as training camp was beginning, allowing him to play in his senior season.
"The first few weeks after the injury I didn't want to do much," Michael said. "But the boys rallied around me and got me out of my room. Once I got started with my rehab, I finally got back in the swing of it. My mentality was: I'm getting healthy to play next season, but I wasn't just focused on playing. I wanted to be healthy again because I didn't want to be a liability on the field and let me teammates down."
Michael hasn't missed a beat since returning to the field. He has been the starting left tackle in each of Army's six games this season.
As much as Michael has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, his time on the Black Knight football team, he hasn't forgotten his parents' words of advice about life after graduation.
"In the offseason, I think about how football has been so important for me," Michael said. "There is so much tangible and relevant knowledge that I can learn from football that will carry over into my career in the Army. Just knowing the esteemed people who we represent reminds us that, yes, football might seem like the most important thing right now, but it's still just a game."
As for the bond with his father, Michael and Bill still have a lot in common. The biggest change that has come in their father-son dynamic is that now, Michael has his own stories to tell from his time as a West Point football player.
"I think he's gotten past the point where I'm a good source of advice," Bill said. "This year he's kind of taken it to a new level and I'm asking him for information instead of coaching him through new situations. It's been a wild ride to watch it evolve."
Another development that has arisen as Michael has gained more confidence and more experience as a football player is the friendly rivalry that he and Bill share. Michael and his father often go back and forth about who had the better team and who was the better player, an apples-to-apples comparison since they both played the same position.
"We trash talk each other all the time," Michael said. "His football knowledge is about 30 years old, so it's a little archaic."
Despite the difference between the eras during which they played, Bill can still boast that his 1984 squad defeated Navy and played in Army's first-ever bowl game, the Cherry Bowl versus Michigan State.
"There's wonderful banter that goes back and forth," Bill said. "He's got respect for what I did, and I've got tremendous respect for what he's done. He's doing a lot of the same things I did, but he's doing them a little bit better."
Michael and Bill's relationship still includes football, just as it did when Michael was in the fourth grade. But now both are able to share their own memories of their time as a West Point football player.