No pain, plenty of gain for Mids' Smith

After missing '03 game with appendicitis, safety can't wait for '04 kickoff

Army-Navy notebook

College Football

December 02, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Josh Smith vividly remembers the misery of it all.

On the television screen in front of him, his teammates were playing Army in the snow and mud at Lincoln Financial Field and Navy's leading tackler was longing to be with them - out of the toasty room.

"I was just laying in a hotel bed up there watching the game," said Smith, referring to Philadelphia.

"It hurt a lot. I had the mentality of getting myself ready to play and, three days before, I got appendicitis. It was a crushing blow. I had no idea something like that was going to happen."

Smith attempted to talk physicians into delaying the surgery until Saturday night after the game, but they would have none of it.

So, he consoled himself with a visit to the team at its hotel, offering congratulations for a 34-6 win.

More than any other Midshipman, the defensive captain is aching for his shot at the Black Knights this year.

"I definitely want to get back out there and play the game," he said. "This being my last one is going to make it very special."

The senior safety and co-captain is bidding to become the first Mid since Andy Ponseigo (1981-1983) to lead the team in total tackles for three straight seasons. He currently leads with 101 stops, 15 ahead of linebacker Lane Jackson.

Eckel happy to go home

No one is happier that the Army-Navy game is often played in Philadelphia than Navy fullback Kyle Eckel.

"It's a pride thing to go home and play in the city you grew up in," said the 240-pound bruiser. "It's a city that cares about sports and is very loyal to its people. The attitude speaks for itself. It`s something you pay attention to."

Eckel was truly at home in the awful weather last year, rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

"Going home is just another motivating factor. It helps fire you up. You're thinking about giving everything you've got on every play," he said.

After his academy career ends and he participates in two postseason All-Star games (East-West Shrine and Hula Bowl), Eckel may face a quandary.

His play has captured the attention of NFL scouts, who were particularly impressed by 102 yards running against Notre Dame, but there is also the five-year service obligation.

"I'm treating both as two separate things," he said. "The military is one entity, football the other. That has to wait. It's something I'll find out about after the season."

Eckel wants to be a Navy pilot.

Jones says he's ready

Army's star rusher, Carlton Jones, is expected to be at full strength after suffering a pulled groin muscle during the team's last game, Nov. 20 against Alabama-Birmingham.

The Middletown (N.Y.) Times Herald-Record quoted Jones earlier this week as saying: "I think I'm 100 percent today. I can run normal. I'm making my cuts. We had a week off. I don't think it was too serious."

Jones has gained 1,171 yards on the ground and scored 17 touchdowns. He is only 167 yards short of breaking Mike Mayweather 's single-season Army record.

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