Dec. 6, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Army senior quarterback Trent Steelman is the recipient of the 2012 Black Lion Award. The fourth-year signal caller, who earned the award after racking up the most Ranger Helmets this fall, will wear the Black Lion patch on his jersey during Saturday's Army-Navy Game presented by USAA.
One of the most prestigious and important awards Army's coaching staff hands out every year, the Black Lion Award is presented in memory of former Army football great Don Holleder, who was killed in combat in Vietnam on Oct. 17, 1967, and the men of the 28th Infantry Regiment (nicknamed the "Black Lions"), who died with him that day.
Holleder was an All-American end as a junior at West Point in 1954 and appeared headed for an even more successful senior season before head coach Earl "Red" Blaik approached him the following spring and asked if he would begin learning the quarterback position for the 1955 season. Blaik knew that Holleder had never played the position before, but felt his team's best all-around athlete could learn to handle the ball well. He also wanted someone to provide a match for Navy's brilliant quarterback George Welsh, so that Army would have a decent chance to beat the Mids at year's end.
Blaik left the final decision to Holleder, with the provision that if he became truly unhappy with the experiment, he could return to his end position. Holleder agreed, foregoing All-America honors and the personal notoriety that it brought.
The "Great Experiment" or "Blaik's Folly," as it became known, was not well received by the Academy or its administrators. While Holleder struggled at times at quarterback during the season, he engineered a season-ending 14-6 upset of heavily favored Navy.
Holleder would go on to a decorated military career before that fateful day in October 1967.
On that day, a savage battle between a 1st Infantry Division battalion and the Viet Cong was fought in a thick jungle about 40 miles north of Saigon. Holleder, second in command, assumed control of the troops after battalion commander Col. Terry de la Mesa Allen Jr. was killed during the early stages of the skirmish. Holleder and several other solders boarded a helicopter and flew over the area of conflict. After viewing wounded in the field, Holleder ordered the copter to land. Holleder raced into the heat of the battle in an attempt to recover the wounded men, but was killed by enemy sniper fire.
The Black Lion Award was first established in 2001, the 100th anniversary of the forming of the 28th Infantry Regiment the famed Black Lions of Cantigny who were the first Americans to see combat duty oversees, engaged in World War I. It has been presented to high school and college players of various teams since that time, but never to an Army football player prior to 2004.
The award is intended to go to the player "who best exemplifies the character of Don Holleder: leadership, courage, devotion to duty, self sacrifice, and above all an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself."
A four-year starter who has played through numerous injuries throughout his Army football career, Steelman embodies those qualities.
Steelman, who holds multiple Army records, leads the Black Knights with 1,152 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns this season.
The Black Lion Award is presented with the approval of the 28th Infantry Association and with the permission and approval of Holleder's former wife, Caroline.
As this year's honoree, Steelman will wear a patch representing the "Black Lions" (the 28th Infantry Regiment) during Saturday's Army-Navy Game presented by USAA. The game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports with kickoff scheduled for 3:10 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field.