NEW YORK -- 1,250 new recruits. 90 seconds to say goodbye to their families. Two rivals schools fighting for one cause. Those stats are ultimately what matter to Army and Navy football players, not the 8-16 combined records or the 14 touchdowns Navy QB Kriss Proctor scored this year.
“[Navy’s John Dowd] is a two-time Academic All-American while playing Division-I football while training to be a military officer,” said Pete Radovich Jr., co-producer of the Army/Navy documentary 'A Game of Honor.' “Every minute of his day is accounted for, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
The CBS Sports/Showtime production of the documentary, ‘A Game of Honor’ focuses not just on the play on the field, but ventures inside the service academies to profile what Cadets and Midshipmen go through to prepare for battles on both the gridiron and battlefield.
In one scene, former Army captain Tyson Quink addresses the team about an explosion that left him a double-amputee. A few moments later, ‘A Game of Honor’ takes you to a mock battlefield where the Army hires actors to play the roles of insurgents. During the drill, current Army captain Steven Erzinger must simulate the same injuries Quink suffered in war.
As Erzinger lays on a stretcher, another Army football player lightens the moment in the mock battle and quips, “How are we supposed to beat Navy without our linebacker?” Everyone around him chuckles for a moment and then it’s immediately back to work.
|Navy OL John Dowd. (US Presswire Images)|
His Navy counterpart John Dowd, who attended Monday night’s ‘A Game of Honor’ premiere in New York City, is the school’s first two-time Academic All American because he earned a 3.91 GPA also as a mechanical engineering major.
Ultimately, football at Army and Navy plays second-fiddle to the studies off the field, but for two weeks a year, it’s at the forefront of life at the two service academics.
“Our motto all year was to get back the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy,” Dowd said.
After losing the trophy to Air Force in 2010, Navy failed to meet its goal again in 2011. The Air Force swept Army and Navy in two tightly contested matches.
“After we lost to Air Force this year, all we wanted to do was beat Army,” Dowd said. “In retrospect, the other 10 games didn’t even really matter.”
The Navy’s values of “honor, courage, commitment” carry over to the football field as well.
‘A Game of Honor’ details the suspension of Navy senior Alexander Teich for failing to lead his team. Following the team’s loss to Air Force, Teich called out the officiating and left the field before the two schools’ alma maters were played, a tradition at all games between service academies.
“For what he did, no other school in America would suspend him for,” said ‘A Game of Honor' producer Steve Karasik. “Basically all he said was it was pitiful and walked off the field.”
|L-R, Radovich, Showtime CEO Matthew Blank, Karasik, and Phil Simms.|
“We try to thrive in those situations [against big schools],” Dowd said. “Those guys aren’t ready to sacrifice their whole body because they are trying to play in the NFL. When we went up to Ohio State, those guys didn’t want to get cut blocked, so we used that to our advantage.”
Overall, ‘A Game of Honor’ provides a compelling two-hour narrative about the lives of 200 young men. Co-producers Radovich and Karasik used dozens of vignettes to piece together eight months of service academy life. It showcases how the players spend four years on the football field as rivals, only to walk off the gridiron to become teammates for life.
“It’s a really difficult to squeeze a year of 200 men’s lives into two hours, but they put together a very faithful version,” Dowd said.
The documentary will air Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.
For more on 'A Game of Honor,' watch the CBSSports.com web-series which contains countless moments that didn't make it into the full-length documentary.