As the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches, Ralph Russo of the Associated Press tracked down some of the players from the 2001 Army and Navy football teams. I’m always wary of stories that tie together sports and 9/11, but this is an obvious exception and a truly engrossing read.
Like their classmates at West Point and Annapolis, the former players interviewed came to the service academies in a time of peace and left with the nation at war. Army’s Nolan Gordon, Navy’s Bryce McDonald and other players share stories about the affect the 9/11 attacks had on cadets and midshipmen and the atmosphere at the 2001 Army-Navy game, including this memory from Gordon:
Bush returned to the Army locker room to congratulate the Cadets. Gordon said it looked as if Bush hadn’t “slept in 12 days.”
“It blew me away,” he said. “And I said, ‘OK, this is serious.’ Here’s the leader of the country, you can tell he hasn’t slept. What’s my future hold for me? I just met on the field with my brothers and played a game and we just shook hands. And now it’s time to go put on our uniform and go take it to somebody else somewhere else.”
Many players from the 2001 teams would end up deploying multiple times to war. McDonald, who became a Marine, was seriously wounded in Iraq. J.P. Blecksmith, a receiver for Navy, was killed by a sniper in Iraq.
“September 11th brings memories of my fallen brother,” McDonald said in an email. “When he was killed in the Battle of Fallujah we all lost a brother and friend.”
Read “From Army-Navy to Iraq and Afghanistan” on MarineCorpsTimes.com.