Proctor Thankful for One More Chance

The 2011 season wasn't supposed to unfold like this. Not for the team which had gone to eight straight bowl games. Not for the players who had made it their mission to reclaim the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. And definitely not for the senior quarterback who had waited so long to grab control of one of college football's most prolific offenses.

11 games in, and that fairytale ending afforded to Navy quarterbacks throughout most of the last decade has failed to materialize. For Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor, there won't be any lifting of trophies before an ESPN camera crew in late December, and the springtime visit to the White House experienced by his predecessors will instead feature Air Force senior Tim Jefferson – again.

It's been a bitter pill to swallow for the Big Bear Lake, California native, who has battled through injury and adversity only to become the first Navy senior quarterback to end his career on a losing season since Brian Madden closed out Navy's forgettable 0-10 campaign in 2011.

Finishing off a less than stellar season isn't something most football players are thankful for. Neither is shrugging off the nagging pain which still gripes him from a dislocated elbow injury he suffered against East Carolina in October. But Proctor – who leads the Mdis in rushing with 817 yards and 12 touchdowns – isn't most players. Following a loss to San Diego State two weeks ago and the subsequent Thanksgiving holiday, Proctor took some time to step back from the tumult of the wins and losses to think about life on and off the gridiron.

"A season like ours -- where we have all these expectations and all these big things – and you lose…it takes a toll on you, without a doubt," said Proctor. "This Thanksgiving we had a chance to really just sit back and think about what we're thankful for. You know – family, friends, the Brotherhood, all those things. When you put things in perspective, yea, the season has been rough. But we all have great families, wee all have great friends. My life is good."

One thing Proctor can be thankful for is his head coach. Back in August, Ken Niumatalolo didn't envision his team sitting at 4-7 with one more game to go, but despite the close losses and questions of "what if?" the third year headman said he's proud of his seniors.

"Our season hasn't gone the way any of us in our program would have liked it to have gone," Niumatalolo said during the Army-Navy luncheon. "I'd have liked guys to have played a little better – us coaches, to have coached a better – but none of that changes. Our record doesn't change the way I think about these guys."

Niumatalolo said he was especially proud of Proctor and fellow senior Aaron Santiago. Like Proctor, Santiago fought back from injury this season, making a remarkable recovery from a broken arm that kept him out for six games. Both seniors played key roles during Navy's brief glimmer of hope in early November, helping the Mids defeat Troy and Southern Methodist to keep the team's then-slim bowl chances afloat.

That he was even able to play in those two games was no small accomplishment for Proctor, whose dislocated elbow is still far from healed. Despite the pain, he manages to stay lighthearted about the matter, and projects he'll have just enough left in it for next Saturday's Army-Navy game.

"It's hanging in there, literally," he said with a chuckle.

"It slides in and out sometimes," Proctor continued. "Sometimes I can't control it and it'll pop out while I'm sleeping, but I get through it. I think I definitely have a few more play actions in me for Army."

Whether or not those play-actions can amount to big-plays downfield remains to be seen. After coming back from a game hiatus and hitting four of six passes in Navy's win 42-14 win over Troy, Proctor has gone just nine of twenty-two with an interception. Against San Jose State he appeared to miss several open receivers – mistakes, which uncorrected, which will only be amplified against a well schooled Army defense on December 10th.

Not that Proctor isn't aware of the challenge army's defense poses, and not that he and his teammates will be lacking for motivation in the program's marquee game. Hearing him talk about Army-Navy is enough to send goosebumps down your spine, and enough to convince even the most idealistic of West Point backers that the Navy senior quarterback will not tolerate the program's nine year winning streak coming to an end.

"We feel as a team we have something to prove," Proctor said. "We have a lot to prove. We're not playing in a bowl game this year – and that hurts – but like you said, it's for all the marbles. It's a big one, and we have to get it."

If intent to win is a must, then enjoying and remembering the experience are givens. After quarterbacking in Navy games for the last three seasons, Proctor -- who was recently informed that his service selection will be Naval Aviation -- faces the prospect of having only 60 more minutes of action in a football uniform left. It's a sobering reality for any football player – much less one so committed to the Brotherhood of Navy football, and one which he and his teammates will carry with them when running out onto FedEx Field on Saturday.

"(We will) just try to savor the moment – one last time running on the field with each other," Proctor said. "You hear past players talk about it, how they wish they could have done it one last time."

"That's what we have – one last time. So we've just got to savor it."

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