Game ball goes to spiritual leader Wide receiver Myers fights cancer in hospital

December 07, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A special game ball commemorating Navy's 39-7 victory over Army yesterday will be presented by the coaches and players to junior wide receiver Damon Myers, who is undergoing chemotherapy for lymph node cancer at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

The Midshipmen wore special stickers on their helmets with the initials "D.M." in support of Myers, who was hospitalized during the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Damon inspired and motivated us the way he has maintained his high spirits while battling cancer," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "For him to act that way is a message to all of us."

As a varsity performer, Myers, from Delran, N.J., played only briefly in the final minutes against Kent State on Nov. 22 before being diagnosed with cancer.

Weatherbie and several of the seniors have visited him in the hospital in the weeks preceding the Army game.

"We'll be giving Damon the ball as soon as possible," Weatherbie said.

A picture day

Before yesterday's game, Navy senior receiver LeBron Butts was best remembered for dropping a pair of potential game-winning touchdown passes against Army last year.

"I even had a photo of a ball I dropped hanging up in my dorm room," he said. "It made the front page of the [Annapolis] paper."

Butts may have found a suitable replacement after catching an 11-yard pass in the corner of the end zone from Chris McCoy for Navy's final touchdown.

"This was the perfect way to end my career, something I'll always remember," said Butts, a San Diego native.

Actually, Butts broke a Navy record by catching a touchdown pass in three straight games with Army.

"I never let that get me down," he said of the dropped passes. "I was always reminded by a picture that hangs over our dressing room in Annapolis. It shows a guy in a helmet with the inscription, 'Every play counts.' That made me keep playing as hard as I could in every game."

Perfect exit

Co-captain and safety Gervy Alota was the only Navy player to have started the past four games against Army, with yesterday's making him a winner for the first time.

"It's like a huge monkey off my back," said Alota, who led Navy in tackles this season.

"Usually, when the game ended I've been surrounded by guys with tears streaking down their cheeks and their heads hung low.

"But this time, I looked around and saw smiles on the faces of the players and the Brigade and everyone raising their arms in the air."

Some 30 members of Alota's family from San Diego and New Jersey attended his collegiate farewell.

"I've got a second family down on the field," he said. "I've been with most of these seniors since NAPS [Naval Academy Preparatory School].

"You know, we beat Army when we were in prep school. And we took these last three losses personally. Now we can all leave with our heads held high."

Worldwide support

Senior linebacker Travis Cooley said he "received 30 to 40 e-mail messages" from former Navy players encouraging him to finish his career in style.

"That's what makes the academy so special," he said. "I got a lot of messages from [former captain and linebacker] Clint Bruce. He told me he was still hurting from losing to Army all those years, and that he wanted me to have better memories.

"That's why I'd rather be with these guys than Florida State or Nebraska. It means so much more than football."

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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