For Army, Navy, an inside story Linked: Mids' Jason Snider learns he has something in common with Cadets' Kenny Dale Rowland going into Saturday's big game: Both co-captains have suffered serious spleen injuries.

November 30, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- Army safety Kenny Dale Rowland and Navy defensive tackle Jason Snider share the honor of being co-captains of their respective teams that will meet for the 99th time in their historic service-academy rivalry Saturday in Philadelphia.

But seniors Rowland and Snider discovered recently that they are also linked in a most unusual way -- their spleens.

Rowland, a native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., was 3 years old when he lost his spleen in a freak mishap.

"We were going on a family vacation over July 4," he recalled. "One of my older brothers was always up to something, and he wanted to take fireworks with him, and he tied them underneath the car.

"Another one of my brothers told him he'd better remove them before my parents found out, so he started working the firecrackers loose with a knife. I tripped over his foot and fell right on top of the knife. That's why I had to get my spleen removed. But my body compensated and has learned to live without it."

Snider, of McArthur, Ohio, severely bruised his spleen playing against Notre Dame on Nov. 14. He does not know exactly how it happened, but believes it was the result of catching a rival helmet in the wrong place.

The injury forced him to sit out the Nov. 21 home finale against Southern Methodist, the first game Snider has missed after starting 32 in a row for the Midshipmen.

"It was weird because it was just an abdominal pain," he said. "There weren't any physical bruises or scratches, just pain on the left side of my stomach. But about an hour after the game, I knew it was something more serious."

Fortunately, Snider was having dinner with his family, and his sister, a nurse, urged him to go to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where his condition was diagnosed.

"I was lucky my spleen didn't rupture," said Snider, who, after being released from the hospital, was told that his football season was over.

Today, however, he is pondering the possibility of playing against the Naval Academy's archrival from West Point.

"I might play," Snider said. "I've been experiencing some pain, but it's getting better by the day.

"I have an abdominal scan scheduled at Bethesda Naval Hospital [today]. I'm going into it with an open mind. Basically, the doctors will re-diagnose it and give me an honest opinion.

"If they say I'm not in any risk of serious damage, then I'm going to play. If they say I can't play, I'll just have to accept it like a man and get behind my team and do the best I can in leading them off the field.

"I don't talk to my teammates about the injury. Being on the field is great if it happens. But I can't let that deter from the overall mission of beating Army."

Snider discovered how close the Naval Academy community can be as it rallied behind him when his injury became public.

"It made me realize how special this place can be," said Snider, who was recruited by all three service academies. "I saw the prestige, tradition and mystique that existed at the Naval Academy and knew that's where I belonged."

Rowland talked privately with Snider at the pre-game luncheon at Veterans Stadium on Tuesday and told him he hoped to see him in uniform on game day. He knows personally how much of a bummer it can be watching this game from the sidelines.

"Sitting out last year's Navy game with a wrist injury was the worst 60 minutes of my life," said Rowland, who leads the Cadets this season with five interceptions and ranks second with 84 tackles.

"I kept thinking I could have helped us avoid losing if I'd played. But win or lose, you want to be a part of it, especially the seniors who won't get another chance to play in the best of all college games. That's why I'm rooting so hard for Snider. I found out we've got a lot in common."

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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