Dec. 6, 2011
Watch Press Conference Highlights
WEST POINT, N.Y. - The following quotes have been excerpted from Army head football coach Rich Ellerson'spress conference, held Tuesday, December 6, 2011, in the Randall Hall auditorium.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson
(Ref.: opening statement)
"It's a great week for a lot of reasons, but as we get closer and closer to the contest, it's the most important game of the year because it's the one we play this Saturday. Period."
(Ref.: evaluating the health of Army junior QB Trent Steelman)
"Trent's good. He started practicing the middle of last week. I wouldn't say he's 100 percent, but I think he will be by Saturday. Yes (he will be our starter)."
(Ref.: whether either team can surprise the other on Saturday)
"Sure, there is. They're a creative bunch, as are we. Some of them will be maybe obvious to the casual observer. There will be some other things that are probably a little bit more subtle. We know each other pretty well. I would argue we are not mirror images of one another. We have some similar foundations, but we complement the things we do differently. The institutions are different. Their midshipmen and our cadets are different. At the same time, there are some similarities. There are some things that we share in common, certainly. That can drive you crazy if you're not careful because you can start talking yourself into a hole in the ground like we know that they know that we know that they know. At the end of the day, we'll make sure that the game belongs to the players, and they can't wait."
(Ref.: the biggest concern he has about Navy)
"I don't know that there is a single major concern. Obviously, they're a well-coached, tough-minded football team. Like us, they've had a couple of weeks to prepare, which always opens up the playbook. There are some things that they've done in the course of this season, and that they've done over the course of Coach Niumatalolo's time there that you can start to drive yourself crazy in terms of the things you prepare for. They're an efficient outfit. They have a system. They have a style of play. The know how to complement it, as do we. I think, at the end of the day, we're going to be concerned with their football team. We're not going to be concerned with the environment. We're not going to be concerned with the officials. We're not going to be concerned with the scoreboard. We're going to be concerned with who they are, what they're doing and how they're playing. If we keep the focus there, we'll be fine."
(Ref.: comparing playing in the Army-Navy game to playing in a bowl game)
"I think it always is. In some ways, a bowl game is somewhat anti-climatic after a game like this. You find out you're going to be in a bowl game, or you find out you're going to be playing somebody in a bowl game or going to a city maybe in November. This is something we're going to do every year from the time we decided to come to West Point. This is something that we thought about. We've been looking forward to it. It's part of our culture. It's an iconic moment that in many ways is part of the definition of Academy athletics and Army football in particular. It's all of that and then some."
(Ref.: whether or not the team has prepared any differently for the Navy game with three weeks off)
"It is a little bit like a bowl week. We had an extended period of time to prepare. It's an opportunity, like a bowl game is, to develop some of your younger guys. You can devote some of your practice to, certainly, the preparation for Navy. Then, you can devote some of your practice time to your younger players and make it very fundamental and developmental for those guys; put the onus on them, or the focus on them. For us, it's a chance to get well. We've had a chance to get some guys back. We've had a number of guys who have been out during the course of the season, or been dragging an ankle or a hamstring or something along down the stretch. We have the chance to get an awful lot of that fixed before we step on the field Saturday, and that's a huge benefit."
(Ref.: importance of beating Navy and ending the nine-game losing streak)
"All those things we talk about around this football game that are so special and unique to it pay a dividend, I think, in the preparation and the lead-up to. When you have three weeks to prepare for an opponent, it's great to have those things to fall back on to get guys in the moment, to get guys excited to prepare and practice with a sense of urgency for three weeks. Usually, we're talking about a couple of days and here we go again. Now, as we get closer to the contest, all that stuff goes on the shelf. Nothing that happened last year or 10 years ago or 100 years ago is going to impact the outcome of this game. Our ability to get into the moment, compete on the next snap, win enough of the next snaps, we'll like the scoreboard at the end. The things that will determine the outcome of this game are the same things that have determined the outcome of every other game we've ever played in. That's where our focus needs to be. If we try to carry all that stuff into the game with us, it'll crush us. It's just too heavy. Whether it's good stuff or bad stuff, it doesn't impact the outcome. Leave it on the sideline and go play the next snap."
(Ref.: whether or not he thinks about Army's nine-game losing streak to Navy)
"To be honest with you, I don't spend any time thinking about it or talking about. That's something that you talk about on the periphery. It's not part of the internal dialogue at all."
(Ref.: importance of the Army-Navy game at West Point)
"Drive down the street and read the front of the buildings. It's there. It's there with you 24-7 every day you're here. That's not unique to last week or the week before. That's here. That's where the discussion comes up. People want to talk about that. It's always there. It's there every time you turn a corner. What we can't let it do is turn into something that it's not. At the end of the day, for the guys that are playing the game and coaching the game, it's what's happening between the white lines. A lot of folks are going to be watching, but we can't get caught watching them watching us. There's that danger. I've got to be the strongest voice in the mix there, in terms of guys coming out of your shoes at these guys on the next snap. Deal with the next situation, the next down and distance. That's it; that's it. That's all you can manage. That's all you have."
(Ref.: early memories of watching the Army-Navy game)
"I was watching family. The first games, I remember watching my brother John play. Those are my first memories of the game. I remember listening to it overseas. We didn't have it on TV. We had to listen to it. Those are the first memories. It was very personal, obviously, because you're rooting for big brother."
(Ref.: how he followed the Army-Navy rivalry prior to becoming Army's head coach)
"The Army-Navy Game has always been sort of an event. That's a tradition. I don't think that's unique to our family. Obviously, all of us feel we have that tie to the Academy, and certainly I did. Frankly, when Coach Young was here, because of his tie with the University of Arizona, there was a natural tie-in there. During Coach Sutton's years here, there was a dialogue between what we were doing defensively at Arizona at the time, and what he was doing defensively here. So, we had a relationship. There's always been a little bit of a tie-in there over the years, it seems like. I always felt like I had a little bit of a stake in the game."
(Ref.: assessing senior LB Andrew Rodriguez)
"I think his story is really remarkable, when you consider he was a starter as a sophomore, hurt his back at the end of that year, tried to get right throughout the spring, set it back during the summer, had to watch his junior year, was there every day, was trying to be involved, was trying to get well, sat in the press box during the games, did anything he could to find a way to contribute, ended up having to have surgery, did a miss-term, took some classes from his bed trying to get well during the spring. It was very much in doubt whether or not he would play again when he was coming back. Maybe, even commissioning was a concern. He was determined to try to play, and we were just as determined that we weren't going to let him play at least it was absolutely safe. That went into training camp, and yet when we sat down to elect captains before training camp started, with his future very much in doubt, he was almost unanimously chosen to be that guy who they wanted to lead them through the season along with Max (Jenkins) and Steven (Erzinger). I think that speaks volumes about his presence within that group. That's not an average group of guys. It's an extraordinary group of young men, all of them leaders in their own right, recognizing this extraordinary individual that's in their midst."
(Ref.: how senior LB Andrew Rodriguez has impacted this Army team)
"He's a guy that does things right. He's a physically and mentally tough guy. The scoreboard's been upside down this year a bunch. A lesser group of guys wouldn't be feeling about one another and what they're doing and who they are and the path they've chosen the way these guys are. And that speaks volumes about this senior class. Those guys have kept the voice between the lines. They've kept this thing together. You go through something like this together; you go through something that's had as many disappointments. We've had some great days, but we've had those terrible days where it just feels like we've been kicked in the gut over and over again. And through all that, we've stayed together, and if you can do that, you have some steel bonds. And that's a reflection of that senior class and their ability to keep that together in the face of adversity. Clearly, Andrew is at the apex of that group."
Senior LB Steven Erzinger
(Ref.: the senior class)
"We've been through a lot of change especially with the coaching staff and the new scheme and all that stuff. It's been fun to sort of realize that we've grown together as we've gotten older. It makes this game all the more fun and exciting to play in."
(Ref.: what they will do different to win this game)
"It's a completely different year. I'm glad about all the history and stuff, that's great, but every year is a different year. We're excited and focused and will have fun."
(Ref.: whether or not the nine-year losing streak to Navy bothers him)
"It's annoying; you don't want that to happen. You want to win. You want to do well not only for yourself and the team but for other people with vested interest in it. It's an emotional tie that we like to help make them happy and also make the team and teammates happy. People like to bring it up, but to be honest it's a game and if you were to bring something back from nine years ago I probably wouldn't remember it. The only thing I remember from nine years ago is 9/11."
(Ref.: the rivalry heightened this week in practice)
"It's not really just this week, it's every week. It's something Coach Ellerson makes pretty apparent that we have to do since the start of offseason last year. So every time we break it down, it's just a reminder what these rivalries mean between Air Force and navy and what we need to focus on."
(Ref.: is he surprised by the long losing streak to Navy)
"It is surprising. We haven't been blown out of every game or anything like that. There have been games where we've competed. Obviously, three years ago it wasn't close. They're the same group of guys we are it's just they have a little more opportunities based on where they attend school."
Freshman C Ryan Powis
(Ref.: first impression of an Army-Navy game)
"My first impression, I remember in high school watching it and as I started getting letters, I started tuning into the games. Then last year, at prep school, was the first year I started to tune into it in person and realize it's really like a bowl game itself. It's neat."
(Ref.: how the upperclassmen prepare the newcomers for Army-Navy)
"They're preparing us in two ways, both kind of extremes. One as in, this is a bigger deal, this is a bigger game than any other game. Also, that we've also played 11 games this season and it's like another game where we keep our cool and then get up on another level."
Junior DB Josh Jackson
(Ref.: what it's like playing against Navy)
"It's probably one of the biggest games I've ever played in. Even when starting down at the prep school, you don't really know about the tradition here, you're just getting introduced to it. But as soon as I learned it and as soon as we got into that game, that was probably the most hyped, the most amped I've ever been in a game. It's just carried on each Army-Navy game. It's big because of who you're representing. It's not for yourself, not just for your brothers on the team, your coaches, your family, but it's for the soldiers that give their lives just so we can do this game, we can play, we can have our freedom. Just knowing how big this game is, knowing who you're playing for, words can't explain. This is the nation's game, everybody will be tuned into this game, it's really big to represent."