EXCLUSIVE: AN INSIDE LOOK AT PLEBE SUMMER

It's not everyday that reporters get a chance to go inside Bancroft Hall. However, I got to do just that – during the Naval Academy's summer training no less – for an inside look at what a typical day is like for the school's newest recruits. My host was one of Navy's best football players, who just happened to be filling one of the toughest leadership roles the Academy offers for midshipmen.

My day at the Naval Academy starts at 5:50 a.m. when I arrive in the parking lot adjacent to Rip Miller Field and Ricketts Hall – the headquarters of Navy football.  As I make my way to the field to view the plebes do their morning workout, I notice a familiar face walking by me – Buddy Green.  Here it is the middle of July, before 6 a.m., and Navy's defensive coordinator is arriving at work. 

 

Since I am a little early, my public affairs escort, Jenny Erickson, has yet to arrive, so I decide to continue to make my way to the field as I already hear the plebes chanting on the other side of the bleachers.  As I go to take a seat, I notice two gentlemen in red shirts are immediately aware of my presence.  Without much hesitation, one of them begins to make his way towards my location, probably to inform me that PEP is not open to the public.  I quickly pull out my media credentials and during our introductions, I inform him that I am legit as I am just waiting for my handler from public affairs – who just then spots me from the parking lot.  This is my first time meeting Jenny, so we exchange pleasantries as we make our way towards the field to look for the squad I will be following for the day.

 

It turns out the squad's company (November Company) has not yet made its way onto the field for PEP (Physical Education Program), but several other companies are already in position.  Jenny informs me that November Company is made up of two platoons – 25 and 26 – and eight squads.  The squad we were looking for was the 2nd squad of the 25th platoon of November Company.  And the squad leader we were looking for who is going to host me on this warm and muggy Annapolis day is Navy senior cornerback Rashawn King.

 

King's squad arrives at 6:06 a.m. and they quickly form a line on the artificial turf field and turn to face downtown Annapolis.  (Note: In the early 90s, plebes faced Bancroft Hall instead of downtown in what was reportedly an attempt to reduce the amount of noise directed towards the local civilians – most of whom were probably still asleep.) 

 

PEP begins promptly at 6:10 a.m. with a greeting from the leader of PEP – a twenty-something-looking Marine officer who I'm thinking is about to have a lot of fun with the Naval Academy's Class of 2012.  The PEP leader is in shape – good shape, and from my first glance at the plebes in King's squad, they, well, are still getting in shape.  Don't get me wrong, the plebes look fit, but the Marine looks like he could run a marathon or two today.

 

The workout begins with a few round trips – or follow-the-leader type light jogs up and back on the semi-hard fake grass.  After about three minutes, the round trips are over and the plebes take their first of what I'm thinking will be plenty gulps of water from their canteens.  The sun is not yet up, so the weather is still somewhat comfortable – probably about 75 degrees or so I estimate.

 

After the round trips, the plebes begin to stretch.  They stretch mainly their legs, which leads me to believe that they will be using them very soon.

 

My guess is correct as the PEP leader informs the 1,259 plebes that they will now do their interval runs, and with that announcement he begins to bark out the groups he wants to go first.  It takes about ten minutes to clear the field of plebes and their detailers, and by that time, they were all running around Rip Miller Field as well as several other multi-purpose sports fields.  As they are doing this, Jenny brings me over to meet Rashawn King.

 

The first thing both Jenny and I had noticed about Rashawn is that his calves are the size of softballs.  They are enormous which makes me wonder why he is not out there with his plebes running what I am told is about a three mile fast-paced jog.

 

"I have to take the PRT (Physical Readiness Test) this afternoon, so I have to take it easy this morning," explains Rashawn.  "If I fail the PRT, I can't go to football camp [later this month]."

 

I have to admit when I found out a few days ago that Rashawn was going to be my host, I was looking forward to seeing him work over his plebes, from a physical standpoint, but I guess I caught him on the wrong day for that.  (Note: The PRT consists of two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups and a 1.5 mile run.)

 

As his squad continues to do their interval runs, Rashawn and I have a chance to talk about his plebes and his experience so far this summer.  My first question though is about comparing plebe summer workouts to football camp.

 

"Camp is going to be a lot harder than plebe summer.  I try to let them know that if you can't handle it out here, it's going to be a lot worse on the football field," said Rashawn.

 

By "them," Rashawn is referring to the two football recruits who are in his squad.  Did he plan on having them in his squad, I wonder?

 

"It happened randomly actually.  It's kind of funny.  [The other squad leaders and I] were just picking names before they all got here.  We didn't know anything about them.  I was picking people with cool names.  I just happened to get most of the jocks.  It kind of fits our [squad's] personality," said Rashawn.

 

The two plebe recruits in King's squad are: Alex Teich, a slot back from Houston, Texas, and Jabaree Tuani, a defensive lineman from Madison, Tenn.

 

For Teich and Tuani, King says that they better be able to handle plebe summer if they want to make it on the football team.

 

"Physically, there is really no comparison [to camp].  With football, you are getting hit all the time and you still have to know your plays and where you are going. If you don't, the coaches are going to yell at you, which is a little more personal than some random detailer [doing it]," said King.

 

King continued, "There is also more distance running during [plebe summer] so it's more demanding for the bigger guys.  But at football practice, you will be sprinting…out of breath a lot of times…a lot faster pace."

 

It has now been about thirty minutes since the plebes went on their interval runs as King shouts to a plebe, who has completed the three miles, to make sure all of his squad-mates made it back alive.  The plebe King is ordering to get a ‘muster' turns out to be his assistant squad leader, Teich, who just got promoted.

 

"Assistant squad leaders [are plebes who] can be fired, hired or retired.  Most of them have been fired already because they have given false musters or got lost.  I just hired Teich," said King.

 

I was curious to know whether or not Teich and his fellow plebes knew that King was a football player.

 

"When we did our first initial counseling, I asked them if they knew I was a football player, and they did.  I didn't tell them beforehand, so I don't know how they figured it out," said King.

 

According to the starting cornerback, it's a good thing that the plebes know that he is a varsity athlete.

 

"I think it gives the plebe football players an opportunity to see the future – to know that they can get through this place and play football.  It motivates them to perform well for me, and I think they respect me more."

 

Since the plebes are stretching once again before they continue their workout, I quickly ask Rashawn who on the coaching staff he would like to see out on the field doing PEP.

 

"I would definitely have to say Coach Green – I'd like to see him out here [at PEP] to get some love," says King, who was aware of the defensive coach's early morning routine.

 

"He doesn't sleep," remarked King.

 

As for what football player could use a little PEP in their life, Rashawn was quick to respond.

 

"Kaipo is getting a little fat these days, so I don't know [if he could handle] PEP, but I'd like to see [senior fullback Eric] Kettani out here…definitely."

 

The stretching is now over and the plebes have been instructed to get into the push-up position just as the sun comes up over the Chesapeake Bay to warm things up a bit.  The plebes have been working out now for about 45 minutes, but the fun is about to start.  The push-ups are quickly followed by sit-ups, lunges, and a variety of bicycle-like kicking exercises that I'd prefer never to do myself.

 

In between some of the aforementioned bicycle kicks, Jenny points out to me that former Navy football star Reggie Campbell is on the field helping out with PEP.

 

Reggie and I speak for about five minutes right in the middle of PEP.  He explains to me that he is ‘stashed' at the Academy in the Physical Education Department for a few months as he awaits his flight slot in Pensacola.  While he is talking, I'm wondering to myself why he isn't leading this workout.

 

It's going on about 7:20 a.m. now, and the plebes are finally in their cool-down stage so I make my way back to the bleachers to snap a few photos before they all leave.  After I am through, I go back towards the field to where Rashawn's squad has formed up to jog back to Bancroft Hall.  That is when I hear one of King's plebes say the following:


"Mr. King, sir, was that Mr. Reggie Campbell, sir?"

 

It turns out Campbell had followed me over to King's squad and one of his plebes caught a glimpse of the former Navy standout, and he was in awe.  Actually, ‘awe' does not quite grasp it.  The plebe was ‘star struck' when he saw Campbell and it was obvious.

 

Now this may not seem like a big deal to the casual reader of this article, but as I would later find out, this plebe's reaction, combined with several other statements by midshipmen throughout the day, painted a pretty good portrait of the current stature of Navy football both on and off the Annapolis campus.

 

Speaking of my day, it was about to pick-up as Jenny was about to lead me inside Bancroft Hall for an up-close and behind-the-scenes look at plebe summer training.

 

PHOTOS

 

Photos copyright 2008 by David Ausiello for GoMids.com

END OF PART I


GoMids.com Top Stories