An Inside Look at Plebe Summer, Part III

In ten starts last year, Navy cornerback Rashawn King recorded 53 tackles and intercepted one pass. This year, more will be expected of the Raleigh, North Carolina native as the Navy defense will look to improve on a season that saw the unit give up 36 points a game. However, before King can think about playing Towson on Aug. 30, he needs to make sure he fixes any arrogant plebes in his squad.

After about five minutes of the conduct brief for plebes, I found myself thinking about the upcoming football season.  The presentation, given by a well-spoken and animated Navy lieutenant, was important for the plebes to hear because it outlined what they could and could not do as midshipmen. Nevertheless, it was fairly uneventful from my perspective.  So I decided to continue my conversation with Rashawn in one of the adjacent rooms in Mitscher Auditorium.


I first wanted to follow-up on some of my observations from breakfast.  I wanted to know why exactly King's squad was allowed to laugh and be somewhat relaxed during the meal.  And what was with one of his plebes putting peanut butter and jelly on their pancakes?


"I let them eat what they want.  I don't like people messing with me when I eat, so I try to treat others like I want to be treated.  I make them eat square meals [with the arm motions] though," said King.


"We are usually more locked on, but every now and then, I'll let them have a cool atmosphere so they can learn about each other – and so I can learn about them.  I want them to build squad unity."


King further explained that if it had been a bad day for the plebes, performance wise, then there wouldn't have been any laughing at breakfast.  He even offered to "turn it on" if I would have liked during lunch.  I said that wouldn't be necessary, not because I would not have enjoyed seeing it, but because I was planning on actually eating lunch elsewhere after having skipped breakfast.


As far as ‘turning it on,' I was curious if I would be witnessing the plebes do any push-ups or other physical training in Bancroft Hall.


"We strictly follow the rules, [and that means] no push-ups in the hall," said a determined King.  "We can do MPT (Motivational Physical Training), but there are a lot of rules on when you can do it.  Not 30 minutes before a meal or an hour after a meal and so on.  We have this card [to remind us of the parameters of MPT].  You can do 40 jumping jacks, 30 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, and five minutes of arm circles…"


I could tell that King did not agree with the restrictions on physical training, but it did not seem as though they prevented him from doing his job.


"Sometimes it feels as if your hands are tied because you can't drop them [for push-ups].  You want to fix a lot of these cocky ones and stuff like that," said King.  "You just have to get creative within the rules and regulations.  It's kind of hard.  So that can frustrate you.  But our platoon has been pretty good.  We have fixed a lot of the problem ones, and we just continue to stay on them.  We try to play with the cards we have been dealt."


King's summer training did not start with plebe summer.  He explained to me that he spent two and a half weeks in May with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, a Marine Corps Unit based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  He then had just over two weeks of leave which he spent with his family in Raleigh.  Whereas most midshipmen have four weeks of leave in the summer, varsity football players average about two weeks of free time because after their training commitments, they all start camp in late July.


As a summer detailer, King's typical day begins at about 5:30 a.m. with morning PEP and ends around 10:00 p.m. or so depending on what meetings he has to attend after the plebes go to sleep.  There is very little free time, but when King gets some, he "lifts and runs sprints" to "stay in football shape."  Plebe summer detailers also get one night of liberty a week.


Perhaps King should take advantage of that liberty because once football season begins, he will probably have even less free time.  Speaking of football season, I had several questions on that subject, so I just dove right in.


So the secondary could be one of the strengths of the team, I ask. 

"You think so?" responds King, and for a second I thought he was about to drop me for some push-ups for assuming I knew what I was talking about.  I have to say his response was very Paul Johnson-like.  I was extremely impressed.


King did admit that the secondary "does have some depth," and that there should "definitely be a lot of improvement," but he was hesitant to go any further than that in his analysis.  Considering the defense gave up 36 points a game last year, he was probably justified in not agreeing with my assumption.


One thing fans should definitely not assume, according to King, is that there will be a drop-off in vigor and emotion on the sidelines with the departure of Paul Johnson.  King says that won't happen with Coach Niumatalolo or Coach ‘Knee-ooh-mat" as he refers to the first-year head coach. 


"Coach Niumat is more intense about everything.  The standards [compared to Coach Johnson] are even higher.  And Coach Niumat expects more of us in the [Bancroft] Hall.  He doesn't play a lot of games with misrepresentation with the football team.  He says if you are cheating me up there, then you're cheating me down here on the field when I need you in the fourth quarter - with the game on the line.  He's pretty serious about all aspects of the person."


(Note: This interview took place prior to Army changing their policy regarding Caleb Campbell, but I felt King's comments concerning the situation were worthy of including in the story.)


My next question is about Caleb Campbell.  He was in the middle of training camp for the Detroit Lions and I wanted to know if, having played against Army, King was surprised the cornerback was drafted.  I of course wanted to also know what he thought of the policy.


"A lot of [Navy] players were surprised [that Campbell was drafted], especially the offensive players, but I think it is good for him and good for Army.  I definitely think it will help with their recruiting, and their admissions period. It will help them get better officers.  I hope he does well.  I hope he represents [Army] well," said King.


"This [policy] was passed from higher-ups and one thing I learned from plebe summer is you don't really need to question their decisions because it's not really going to change because of your complaining.  You play the cards you are dealt."


But did King, who aspires to be a Marine Corps officer, think Campbell was getting off easy only having to serve in a recruiting role?


"I think you can serve in different ways," replied King.  "[But I think the policy should all be the same [for all service academies].  It's not just football, it's with all sports."


Finally, I was curious if the policy was a hot topic of conversation amongst the Navy players.


"We get these articles from [Navy Sports Information Director] Scott [Strasemeier] like every other day, but I don't waste my time on [the policy].  I know what I want to do…for me personally, I am going pro-Marine Corps – hopefully."


And with that, we are off to Lejeune Hall with Rashawn's squad, who for some of them, are about to learn how to do the backstroke for the first time.  After swimming, we are scheduled to return to Bancroft Hall for an hour of military instruction. Then after lunch, the plebes will take part in damage control training on the seawall next to the Severn River.  While there I plan on asking the detailers (and perhaps some plebes) if they can pronounce ‘Niumatalolo.'  That should be very interesting.




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Photos copyright 2008 David Ausiello for Top Stories