Two seniors chosen to reinforce Mids' kickoff coverage

Dreams to be realized in two Navy home games

College Football

October 23, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

A Naval Academy senior from a small town on Cape Cod will realize a lifelong dream, if only for one play.

Midshipman John Reuland of East Orleans, Mass., was one of two candidates from a pool of 17 to be selected yesterday by the Navy football coaching staff to be the 12th Mid at two future home games. The other, also a senior, was John McLaughlin of Deer Park, N.Y.

McLaughlin will participate on the opening kickoff next week when the Midshipmen host Delaware at homecoming, and Reuland will be a member of the opening-kickoff team Nov. 20 against Rutgers. Both will wear a No. 12 jersey, courtesy of Navy's 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, who has agreed to allow his number to be "unretired" for this project.

The 12th-man concept originated at Texas A&M, which has traditionally reserved a spot on the kickoff team for a walk-on player. E. King Gill was the first 12th man for the Aggies in 1922.

"I regret never having played high school football," Reuland said. "Hockey is the big sport in the Boston area and my high school didn't have much of a football team. It will be a privilege to be out there."

Reuland, 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, is a four-year member of Navy's club hockey team and last year was named an honorable mention All-American. He also was the top singles player on the tennis team at Nauset (Mass.) Regional High School.

At 6 feet 3, 215 pounds, McLaughlin is the co-captain of the Navy club lacrosse team, lettering in that sport five times at Deer Park (N.Y.) High. He also lettered three times in football, and his father, Mike, was a three-time lacrosse All-American at Navy.

"I was very impressed with the candidates," said Navy coach Paul Johnson, whose staff ran the group through sprints and agility drills earlier this week. "The two we did select were just a little faster and they had pretty good size. I feel comfortable with either one of these guys running down on a kickoff."

The idea was advanced by senior Tony DiFranco at the coach's radio show last month. Johnson took the ball and immediately ran with it. DiFranco was among those who tried out.

"It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing," DiFranco said. "I was surprised the coach thought it was a great idea right away."

Navy's players were skeptical of the concept at first, but then embraced it when the situation was explained by the coaches. There is a chance the 12th Mid will not even be involved in the play if the kickoff goes into the end zone for a touchback.

"I will guarantee you that they will get hit whether it goes into the end zone or not," Johnson predicted.

Said Reuland: "This is one of the greatest things ever, the experience of a lifetime. The camaraderie here is not like anything else."

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