Just one happy family to Person

Navy Notebook

College Football

November 04, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Joe Person has been attending football homecomings in Annapolis nearly his entire life.

"It's always special, something I grew up with," said the Navy offensive tackle, who is the fourth member of his family to play for the Midshipmen. "All I've known collegiately is Navy football. My brothers all influenced me to go here. It was almost like we weren't skipping a beat."

When Navy hosts Tulane tomorrow, Person will be on the field and his oldest brother, Andy, and parents Bill and Suzanne will be in the stands cheering on him and his team.

Andy, the school's career record-holder with 44 tackles for a loss, graduated in 1996, has completed active duty and will be making his first homecoming visit since leaving. Chris (1998) is out of the military, as well, but is living in San Diego, and Dan (2003) is also in San Diego undergoing more training after graduating from flight school.

"My parents have been unbelievable," said Joe, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound junior. "I don't think they've had an open Saturday in the fall for about 12 years. And my dad even said, `Good game' after we didn't play well at Rutgers. Unless I had a high school game, I can remember going to homecomings all the time and taking trips to see my brothers."

Which brother was the most accomplished is often the source of some disagreement, but Joe admitted Andy "was probably the toughest. That is a pretty good argument in the family. But we're all pretty much the same."

The three Persons who preceded Joe all played defensive line, where Joe also played in prep school. "But I like playing on offense," he said. "We're a different breed."

Line coach Todd Spencer, who is in his ninth season at Navy, said the family "is blue collar and has outstanding character. All of them have that competitive zeal and thirst for victory. Joe had a great fall camp, but the injuries have impaired his development. But he's a tough guy who fights through it because he loves to play."

"Andy was really good," said head coach Paul Johnson, who was the offensive coordinator when the eldest was a senior. "But Joe could end up being a two-year starter if he keeps improving."

A native of Havertown, Pa., Person was a prep school (Episcopal Academy) teammate of record-setting Navy fullback Kyle Eckel, who helped last year's team to 10 wins for the first time in nearly 100 years.

"I think Kyle was the same in the eighth grade as he was in college," said Joe. "Believe it or not, he was even better as a linebacker than he was as a fullback, the star of the whole team. I always keep in touch with Kyle because he can always brighten up the mood."

Person rotates with senior Marshall Green at tackle on a line that Johnson has evaluated as "spotty." His performance has been somewhat hampered by nagging shoulder and knee injuries, but he said, "I can play through them."

"We took a step backward last week," said Joe of the group. "I messed up some assignments myself. We have to clean up some. We could have played harder and better."

Cracking down

Johnson promised a heavy work week for the Midshipmen because he thought they were outplayed physically in the 31-21 loss at Rutgers on Saturday.

"We're going to have a little toughness check," he said. "I felt we got `out-toughed' for the first time since I've been here. We have plenty of contact in practice, anyway."

He said Navy is never going to outrun or outsize most of its opponents, but said there is no excuse for some of the things that happened in New Jersey.

"Like lining up for extra points and field goals and guys taking it [the play] off and just watching," he said. "Or blocking a guy, then turning him loose to see that guy make a play on the other side of the field. Mental mistakes I'm not going to put up with anymore."

Et cetera

Tryouts for the "12th Mid," an innovation used in games twice last season, will be held Monday. The Midshipman selected from among 18 seniors will be part of the coverage on the first Navy kickoff to Temple on Nov. 19. The player will wear No. 12, courtesy of Navy legend Roger Staubach, who has given permission to "un-retire" the number for this occasion. ... Navy is coming off its season lows for rushing (207 yards) and total offense (331) and dropped to fourth nationally in rushing.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Tulane@Navy Tomorrow, 1:30 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 12 1/2

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