Navy had to work to land Mahoney

Mids thankful they persisted with linebacker

College Football


David Mahoney was a tough sell.

He wasn't convinced that the Naval Academy was the place for him during his recruiting period, and again and again he resisted advances that would take him to Annapolis.

"I was verbally committed to Western Kentucky when Navy started recruiting me," said the outside linebacker. "They were really recruiting Matt Hall [Navy fullback], who gave them my name. I said `No' five times. I wasn't interested.

"Then Hall called me to take a visit with him. When I came up here, the coaches sounded confident that they were going to change things around and that we could help do it."

"He was real reluctant," Hall said. "I threw in a little plug for him and kept on him. They [the Mids] were getting a late start in recruiting [because of a coaching change] and they were looking for kids. He didn't even commit when he left the recruiting trip here. It wasn't until the night of the Super Bowl that it happened."

"It was the staff's first year and we were struggling to get guys," said assistant coach Ivan Jasper, who was recruiting Hall. "We were trying to get whatever we could. David wasn't gung ho about coming here. It was almost to the point where we said, `Goodbye and good luck.'"

The chance to play NCAA Division I-A football with Hall as a teammate, the facilities and the opportunities available after graduation finally persuaded Mahoney to change his mind. He hasn't regretted it.

"I don't think I have. In three years, we've gone from 2-10 to 10-2, been to two bowl games and on TV a lot," he said.

Hall and Mahoney are roommates, longtime friends who have known each other since their Pop Warner days on Florida's Gulf Coast. They have realized their objective of playing college football together. As juniors, they are both starting and starring, albeit on separate units for the 4-2 Midshipmen.

Mahoney, from Fort Myers, is a big-play defensive specialist, one of those players from whom coach Paul Johnson expects excellence. He became a semi-regular late in his plebe season, a year after he and Hall prepped at the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island. As a sophomore and junior, he has not missed a start.

His best game so far probably came last season against tomorrow's opponent, Rutgers (5-2). He registered 10 tackles - three of them for losses - a sack, an interception he returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble.

"He's just a real good football player - a hard worker who understands the game," said Keith Jones, who coaches the outside linebackers. "He's got good athletic ability, is very strong and really plays hard."

Mahoney is getting into high gear after "coming out of camp a little banged-up. I had to step up emotionally. I think that's what I was missing," he said. "I'm trying to play with a little more fire. We have a young team and sometimes they have a little more nervous attitude. Last week, everyone was flying around and we didn't make many mistakes."

The linebackers as a group were marvelous in the 41-9 romp at Rice. For Mahoney, the final numbers were nine tackles - three for losses - one sack, one pass breakup and one recovered fumble.

He has moved into fifth nationally in tackles for a loss (1.83 per game). He already has 11 such stops this season, nine shy of the school record set by Eric Rutherford 21 years ago, and is on pace to challenge the career record of 44 set by Andy Person (1992-95).

Only 216 pounds - like most Navy players he is smallish for major-college football - Mahoney compensates with instincts, knowledge and technique.

"It's about knowing your abilities and being able to use them," he said. "The coaches make the game plan based around us, and you have to learn it and read all your keys. The rest is hustle and confidence."

Johnson first showered kudos on Mahoney after a notable effort in the last-second thriller against Air Force. "He made some really big plays, fought through some blocks and did good things. He needs to be a good player for us," said Johnson.

Hall and Mahoney have talked about becoming co-captains together next season. "We were captains at NAPS [Naval Academy Prep School]," said Hall, "and it would be pretty awesome to do that here, too."

Navy@Rutgers Tomorrow, 3:30 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Rutgers by 6

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