With Kubiak back, Navy hopes to right its course Junior quarterback key to Mids' offense

August 15, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

It was 11 months ago that Navy quarterback Jim Kubiak began what would become "the worst year of my life."

In the third quarter of the season opener against Virginia, Kubiak tried to make a tackle after an interception, fell over another player and landed heavily on his right shoulder.

"It was an emotional trip to the bench," Kubiak said, recalling that he was in tears. "I knew I was out for the season."

He was right. But now, fully recovered from surgery on his dislocated shoulder, Kubiak is back, ready for a new season, again starting against Virginia on Sept. 11.

"I'm the happiest coach in America, seeing Kubiak healthy," coach George Chaump said yesterday during Navy's annual Media Day.

Chaump's delight at the prospect of having Kubiak for a full season is understandable. Kubiak is a junior, but has not had a chance to do anything more than whet Chaump's appetite for victory.

Kubiak burst onto the scene midway through his 1991 plebe season and began setting passing records. Against Wake Forest, he threw 54 times for 406 yards, both academy records. His 36 completions were one shy of Bill Byrne's 1985 record.

He had another big day against Army, completing 13 of 16 for 157 yards, in Navy's only win that year.

Longtime Navy observers told Chaump that Kubiak was the best passing quarterback they had seen at the academy in years.

Little was seen of Kubiak last year. After surgery, his arm was in a sling for a month, and he started exercises in November and weight work in January.

"I had gone into the operating room with a lot of things going through my mind," Kubiak said. "Was my football career over? I hoped the surgeons were good."

They apparently were. Kubiak was able to participate in spring practice and threw well, although the coaches kept him out of contact.

"They babied me," Kubiak said. "Put a red jersey on me."

Seeing Kubiak for the first time last spring, new offensive coordinator Greg Briner had two impressions: nice boy, accurate passer.

"I also learned he was a tough guy, but inexperienced," Briner said. "I'm very comfortable with him. He's perfect for the job."

At 6 feet 2, 215 pounds, Kubiak is 25 pounds heavier than last year at this time. He gained weight by eating ravenously and lifting weights.

I'm stronger in every facet," Kubiak said. "It's amazing the way I've brought my arm around."

Of course, Kubiak has yet to take a good hit. He relishes the thought of playing behind what may be the biggest offensive line in Navy history.

Kubiak says he's not the least apprehensive about being tackled, that he doesn't think about it, and Briner doesn't express concern.

"No one's going to put a red cross on him when the game starts," Briner said. "You can get hurt crossing the street."

In his fourth season, Chaump says that for the first time he thinks he has the offensive personnel that will enable Navy to win. After a 5-6 record in his first season, the Midshipmen have been 1-10 the past two. His first quarterback was Alton Grizzard, a fine runner, athlete and leader who was a senior.

"Grizzard was a winner, but it was tough to go from the wishbone to a balanced running-passing attack in one season," Chaump said. "The last two years, the personnel dictated what we could and couldn't do after all those injuries to the quarterbacks." Quarterbacks Brian Ellis, Tony Solliday, Steve Seoane and Jason Van Matre also were hurt at various times last season.

"A team has to be able to throw without fear," Chaump said. "It takes a high skill level to throw and catch."

Kubiak gives Chaump the throwing part. Asked what motivated him during the rehabilitation period, the junior from Buffalo, N.Y., grinned.

TH "The thought of playing again," he said. "I can't wait to taste it."

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