Army's "hippie football coach"


The Honolulu Advertiser ran a Washington Post story (stay with me here) about Army coach Rich Ellerson today, which chronicles his efforts to turn around the Black Knight program.

The piece gives a lot of great insight into the changes that Ellerson has brought to the program, but the best quote about Ellerson comes at the end of the story. Army defensive tackle Victor Ugenyi, when asked to compare Ellerson to former Army head coaches Bobby Ross and Stan Brock, drops this gem:

He’s more like a hippie football coach. He’s from the West Coast. He gives a different perspective because you’re used to everything being by the book. When Coach Ellerson comes and switches it up, it makes you think.

A “hippie coach” at West Point? Hey, why not. At this point I’d hire Tommy Chong himself if it helped get Army over the hump against Navy.

Ali Villanueva had seven catches for 119 yards against VMI earlier this year.

Ali Villanueva had seven catches for 119 yards against VMI earlier this year. Army moved him from tackle to wide receiver in the offseason.

In all seriousness, some of the changes that Ellerson has made are drastic. While installing the triple-option offense, the coaching staff moved 18 players into new positions, including 6-foot-10 inch wide receiver Ali Villanueva, who played tackle last year. Villanueva, a senior, leads the team in catches and receiving yards this season.

Ellerson also required that all players take the Army physical fitness test in an effort to bring the team closer to the Corps of Cadets. In previous years, some players had been able to ride a bike instead of the mandatory two-mile run.

“They see us doing the exact same things they’re doing, and it’s `OK, maybe they are working for us, maybe they’re part of us,'” Ugenyi told the Post.


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  1. Army/Navy weekend brings lots of memories for me. Ten years ago, my husband and I hosted thirty plus midshipmen in our home for this most commemorative event. My fondest memory was the morning of “Reveille.”
    As I lay awake watching the clock, I waited for my silent alarm to sound at 5:30 a.m. Quietly sneaking out of bed, I crept into the empty bathroom—only to avoid the confusion that was yet to come. With only one full bathroom available to the “thirty-four” Midshipmen that spent the night, I remained confident that they would be awake, refreshed, fed and dressed—in full uniform—for formation at 0800 hours, ten miles from my home.
    I tiptoed down the stairs, and carefully walked through the living room, stepping over the many sleeping beauties stretched across the floor. As I made my way toward the kitchen to plug in the coffee urns I prepared the night before, I was surprised to see my son, Brian enter from the basement doorway, with the stereo in his arms. Placing the stereo on the floor, in the middle of the kitchen, he turned to me and said, “Reveille, Mom.” Like a second alarm, Bruce Springsteen’s voice rang through the house. Within seconds, many heavy footsteps came from all directions, as each young man made their way through my home on a mission—the bathroom.
    The most logical solution was to have the bathroom door remain open, enabling three people (tops) at a time to groom. Ironically, I was amused to watch a line form for the men’s room for the first time in my life. The kitchen looked like a fast-food restaurant, as lines formed for the coffee, fruit and pastries, and much to my surprise, there was a line for the linen closets, as each midshipmen obediently placed their neatly folded blankets back on the shelves. As the numerous lines began to shorten, many shuffled toward me to express their gratitude for my hospitality. Realizing that weeks of preparation were over in one short hour, I laughed noticing the puzzled, but curious neighbors peeking through their curtains, watching these handsome sailors, in their “dress blues” emerge from my front door, into the many suspicious cars-with out of state license plates that were parked overnight on the street.
    A few hours later, I stood in the stands at Veterans Stadium and watched as the United States Naval Academy’s four thousand Midshipmen marched into the field for the 99th annual Army-Navy game. As the cannons sounded and the Blue Angels flew over the field, the crowd cheered with pride to the display of patriotism being presented. However, when the band began to play the national Anthem, the only lyrics I could bring to my lips was the mornings Reveille. So very quietly, I recited, “Born in the USA.”

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