A Conversation with the 12th Mids

I had the opportunity to speak with both Rich Lippincott and Clint Desjarlais, arguably the two luckiest midshipmen in the world. The two seniors will be representing the Brigade of Midshipmen as part of the kick-off team when Navy faces Temple this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The 12th Mids, as they are known as, spoke candidly about the opportunity to represent their fellow classmates.

Excerpts from our conversation are as follows:


What was your reaction when you found out you would be representing the brigade as the 12th Mid?


Clint: At first I was the alternate and I thought, well, I got an opportunity but I trained and it turns out Coach (Johnson) did me a favor.  Finding out that I (as the alternate) would be able to play as well was one of the most exciting things I've heard during my time as a midshipman.


Rich: I was ecstatic.  It is kind of a tradition in my company to be selected and it's a really big honor.  I have a chance to go play with the big boys in a Division 1-A game.  I am still shell-shocked


Who was the first person you told?


Clint: They told me to go report to the news reporters after practice.  I also told my company Senior Chief, who was the first person I saw when I returned to our company area.


Rich: My roommates…I saw the email…and the two of them were sitting at their desk…they were pretty excited. 


What is your biggest fear?


Clint: Sir, I don't have any fear. 


Rich: God forbid the guy runs it back.  I don't want the other team to score.  The important thing is the team winning.  Of course, there is always (the possibility of) looking like a fool, but I'm just going to go out there and do what the coaches tell me to do.  That has worked pretty well for the rest of the team.


What are you looking forward to the most?


Clint: Just looking forward to the moment and representing my company-mates and doing my best out there and honoring my family.


Rich: Just standing on the field.  I'd be happy just standing on the sideline.  Just getting to go on the field once is a thrill for me.


Have you overheard any good Coach Johnson one-liners at practice?


Clint: I haven't heard him speak very much.

Rich:  Not really.  He's very methodical.  He's everywhere.  I'm just trying to take in everything at practice.


What if you, Rich, miss a tackle and have to meet up with Coach Johnson on the sideline?


Rich: I don't really want to think about that.  Just seeing what happens from the stands in other games…I don't really want to think about that.  I know if we play well, we may have a chance to go back out there.  (Laugh) But I know I won't be replacing Rob Caldwell or anything.  I'm just happy to be on the sideline.


There are a lot of schools who would love to have Paul Johnson as their coach.  Ok, I have just anointed you as the Athletic Director at Navy…and it is time renegotiate his contract…what do you do?  What do you say to Coach Johnson?


Clint: The flag for your football team isn't just for any school.  Your football team gets to go out (on the field) with the American colors.  When you enter the field (with Navy), you get to represent the best America has to offer and you are helping to develop the future leaders of our country.


Rich: I'd compel him to stay by whatever means possible. 


What impact has Coach Johnson had on the team?


Clint: He has had a tremendous impact.  He is a level-headed leader.  He's fair.  He knows what he expects and he demands nothing but the best from the players.


Rich: He's always been here ever since I've been here.  It's amazing.  All we know is winning and that's what we expect.  If you trust (Coach Johnson), he will lead you to victory.  You crave to have those coaches.  It's the William Wallace effect…Coach Johnson is seven feet tall to us.


What is the mindset of the brigade regarding Army and their struggling football program?


Clint: We'll take them now, we'll take them later. We'll beat them now, we'll beat them later.  It doesn't matter, just bring it…whatever they have… There's really no sympathy.


Rich: We play every Army-Navy game like it's the last game on earth.  I have friends at Army and their down.  But when it comes to the Army-Navy game, all of that goes out the window.  We go into the game, and we expect to win and we support the team by getting as loud as we can.  We always back them up.


What will you do if you make a tackle on the kick-off?  Any celebration planned? 


Clint: I don't have anything planned.  I imagine I'll just take it as it comes.  I played hockey and I might have put a fist up when I made a goal.


Rich: No, I'm going to run right off.  I don't need to celebrate.  There are a lot of other players who will make much bigger plays than me.


Do you have any idea how lucky you are?  And how many former and current midshipmen would have given their right arm to be in your position?


Clint: I know what an honor it is.  I'll be graduating on the same field that I have an opportunity to play on.  I'm sure there are a lot of people that wanted to do this.  I'm humbled.


Rich: I definitely think I do.  At times, I think that this someone is going to tell me that this is a big joke and I'll wake up and it won't be happening.  Like I said, I'm extremely grateful for being able to step foot on the field.


Any special family members attending the game?


Clint: My brother is also in the Class of 2007- in the 12th company.  He'll be there and that's exciting.  He let me borrow some cleats while I was practicing on my own.


Rich: My father is coming to the game…it's the first time he's been out here from California since I've been a midshipmen.


How long did you practice for this?


Clint: I tried out (for the football team) in the spring.  I didn't make the cut.  Then I found out about two months ago from my company officer that I was going to represent our company in trying out for the 12th Mid.  I did everything I could to prepare myself.  Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.


Rich: I like to go to the gym and lift.  I'm not a fan of a lot of running.  I have to say that my respect for varsity players went up a big notch after I have seen the shape they are in.  They are on a different level. 


What Navy football player would you most like to emulate?


Clint: I'd probably say that I'd like to be like Jason Tomlinson.  He's athletically gifted and talented and yet he is one of the most humble midshipmen I've ever known.  I think humility with excellence is by far one of the best characteristics of a team player I've ever seen.  He is the best contemporary example I've ever seen.


Rich:  Anthony Piccioni because of his intensity…Rob Caldwell…I can name every linebacker we have…they are beasts…any guy on the line…I'd love to run the ball like Adam Ballard or Reggie Campbell.  (Editor's Note: Rich practically named the entire roster before I cut him off.)


What do you think you will take away from this experience?


Clint: The Bible says that fate is the substance of things hoped for - the evidence of things not seen.  And for me, it's chasing your dreams.  I chased a dream and to see that dream come to fruition drives me on to do greater things.


Rich: A greater respect for what these football players and varsity athletes in general have to go through on a daily basis.

How does it rank with other highlights thus far in your four years at the academy?


Clint: This is by far one of the greatest.


Rich: It's up there…I've shared in a lot of great experiences at the Academy, but this experience is definitely up there.


What did you learn about the football team that you did not know before?


Clint: They put all of their heart into everything.  I have been on sports teams in the past and they are by far the most cohesive group of guys I've ever met.  In fact, it reflects to me the family group of the Marine Corps.  Everything effects everybody and they work hard together and they support each other in everything they do.  They give a lot.


Rich: Their schedules from classes, to film sessions, to practices, to more classes…it's brutal.


What is your favorite Navy football memory as a fan?


Clint: Beating Army is always exciting, but I think the most exciting moment for me was beating Air Force at their stadium on a last-second field goal (in 2004).  I was at the game.


Rich: Last year's bowl game when we completely dominated Colorado State.  Being from California it was a great opportunity to see them.  (Another one was) watching Kyle Eckel run like a maniac over Air Force…and now watching Adam Ballard do the same stuff.  There are so many. 


Can you talk about the bond between the brigade and the football team?


Clint: The brigade is excited about football games.  They are excited about winning and they support the team.  When the football team is doing well, the brigade is doing well.  When the brigade does well, the football team does well.  It's very symbiotic.


Rich: It's strong…they have our support in everything they do.  Even through the losses.  We get to bask in their glory every week they win.  I particularly like when they sing "Blue & Gold" with the brigade – win or lose.


Will we be seeing any future spirit spots with Coach Johnson and/or his staff? 


Clint: I imagine anything is possible.

Rich: I'd love to say so being that my roommate is one of the big producers.  He's got a good one planned for Army.


If Navy is up by a substantial margin in the 4th quarter and the fans start chanting for you to cover another kick, will you slowly make your way to a place where Coach Johnson can see you?


Clint: I'll be ready on the sideline.  If they call me, I'm sure he knows who I am.  And if wants me, I'll be ready.  I'll have my helmet on the whole game.  It's just like the movie, Rudy.


Rich: If he chooses to let me go in, that's his prerogative.  I tend to not be the little puppy who sticks his nose in someone's face to get attention.  He's gonna do what he wants and that has what has made (Coach Johnson) successful.


Have there been any players in particular who have offered you support?


Clint: There have been a lot of players, but three in particular have offered a lot of support including

Sean Kearney, Eric Kettani and the quarterback, (pause) Kaipo…he encouraged me too.


Rich: The team was great about having us come out here.  They are extremely willing to help us out.  There very understanding.  I don't feel like there are any hard feelings.  That was the toughest thing for me, knowing that I am depriving a player of playing a down…they are the unsung heroes.  They deserve the attention, not me. 


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