In the Giants Stadium locker room minutes after Army was stunned in the final seconds by Navy last year, Cadets running back Mike Mayweather glanced at the solemn faces of some of his senior teammates.
"I just looked around and really felt for those guys who had never lost to Navy," said Mayweather, referring to the game that broke a four-game Navy losing streak against Army. "I just can't imagine how those seniors felt. It was just a bad experience."
Now a senior, Mayweather will play his last Army-Navy game Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the game's 100th anniversary.
Out of his football uniform, Mayweather is not an imposing figure at 5 feet 8 and 185 pounds. But, on the field, he has been nearly unstoppable, gaining 1,251 yards in 10 games -- earning him a spot on the Football Writers Association of America All-America team.
"That's really a tremendous honor," said Mayweather, who also has been invited to play in the Hula Bowl and Japan Bowl all-star games. "It's every high school senior's dream to go to college and to become an All-American. It's just a culmination of hard work and desire, and I'm proud to have gone to the academy and met all the challenges."
For Mayweather, the opportunity to face those challenges is something that was nearly unthinkable growing up as the youngest of 10 children in St. Louis.
"I was raised in North St. Louis, which was a pretty tough neighborhood," Mayweather said. "It was a trip -- so many ways to go wrong, and so few ways to go right. I was lucky enough take the right path.
"It also helped to have brothers and sisters who made sure I didn't make the mistakes they did. I had the privilege of being able to learn from their mistakes, while not having to make them myself."
Mayweather was also fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the Country Day School, a private school in St. Louis. There he became a B-plus student and earned all-state football honors three straight years.
His on-field success continued at West Point, where Mayweather gained 762 yards in his first season to become the first plebe in 36 years to lead the Cadets in that category. He rushed for 1,022 yards as a sophomore, and last year broke the school's season rushing record with 1,177 yards despite being slowed in the latter part of the year with a groin injury.
Mayweather continued his improvement this season -- including a career-high 227 yards against VMI -- and ranks fifth in the nation in rushing and 14th in all-purpose yardage. He has been named the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I-A Player of the Year, is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which will be announced Friday, and was named co-captain by his teammates earlier this year.
"My teammates looked at the job I've done and they said, 'Thanks,' " Mayweather said of being honored as captain. "It makes you feel good, knowing your teammates are behind you like that. They deserve a lot of credit for the honors I've received."
Mayweather, a business management major, reached another goal when he gained 90 yards at Vanderbilt. Although it was just the second time this year that he didn't gain more than 100 yards, it gave Mayweather 4,212 for his career -- pushing him ahead of Navy's Napoleon McCallum (4,179 yards between 1981 and 1985) as the best rusher in service-academy history.
Despite all those accomplishments, Mayweather never was mentioned in the Heisman hype that ended Saturday when Brigham Young's Ty Detmer won the award. Mayweather got 20 Heisman votes -- including three for first place.
"A lot of things go into that, like a winning record. I can't control those types of things," Mayweather said. "But I've never been a real numbers person. Football is in the heart, and shows when you put out on the field."
Although professional football is a long shot with his military obligation to fulfill, Mayweather is hoping to get that shot when his five years' service are up.
"Yes, football is definitely in my future thoughts," he said. "It will be a big challenge to come back and play football after five years.
"But I've met challenges all of my life."