As the Navy Midshipmen prepare for their first season in the American Athletic Conference, head coach Ken Niumatalolo provides the team with a will to win.
Dec 13, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo walks down the sideline during the first quarter of the 115th annual Army-Navy game against the Army Black Knights at M&T Bank Stadium. (Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
As Ken Niumatalolo says, “You don’t do your job, we got zero chance to win.” This is true for any team in any sport, but it especially rings true for Navy Football.
Navy Football will be entering the American Athletic Conference this coming football season. Some spectators might say that as a military service academy, they will be at an intrinsic disadvantage in terms of recruiting talent. In actuality, Navy Football has already proven the ability to compete with teams in the AAC and other notable FBS programs. In their opening game of the season, Navy put up a strong fight against the eventual National Champion Ohio State. The Midshipmen also played tough against Notre Dame. They even won their Poinsettia Bowl appearance against San Diego State.
The real question of the matter is, how and why has Navy Football been able to compete with the talent recruited at these schools?
If you’re lucky enough to listen to Ken Niumatalolo’s coaching, he’ll be reminding his team of the harsh reality: “We’re smaller than everyone we play. We can’t let anybody play harder than us!” Being in a military team, the players of the Navy Midshipmen may also have one thing that players in a school like Ohio State won’t have—the discipline taught in the military.
Where some coaches remain stoic, Niumatalolo is not afraid to show his emotions. When Navy beat Army 17-10 in 2014, Niumatalolo broke into tears. So far, Navy has beaten Army in football 13 times in a row. There’s pressure mounting on Army to break that streak. On the opposite side, Navy has to counteract that pressure to keep up their status when they lock horns in this long-standing military football tradition.
Niumatalolo’s Midshipmen have kept that winning streak alive. Any coach would have been emotional at that time, but Niumatalolo has a special connection with his team that makes them shine as underdogs, especially when pitted against big-name schools. Niumatalolo once said, “I can just quit and retire, go back to Hawaii and get on the beach and just chill.” There is a reason he doesn’t want to. The prestigious name of Navy football has to be maintained.
One idea to keep in mind is that all great men don’t retire. They keep on building until they draw their last breath. As for Navy and Niumatalolo, we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for what they’ll dish out with the start of this new season.