Navy Coach Gives Recruits Some Straight Talk

I lightened things up at Navy's media day on July 31 during the one-on-one interview portion. I also asked coach Ken Niumatalolo about Caleb Campbell. Turns out it was a hot topic with recruits – and so too may be his response to one of my questions. Also: Who was surprised Kaipo is not a captain? And what did Jarod Bryant and Clint Sovie not want me to publish? Don't worry, I did anyway.

Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo


GM: What was your reaction when Army decided to take Caleb Campbell out of camp and reverse its policy?


KN: Well, I felt for the kid from the standpoint of…from the beginning I thought the whole thing was wrong…for that to happen.  I thought eventually that was what was going to happen because I have never seen it where the policies were different.  I was actually kind of stunned when the [policy came to light].  I knew eventually that it would come back to this – that the three [service academies] would be the same.  It wasn't a matter of if it was going to be done; it was a matter of when.


GM: But Campbell and Air Force players can still apply for the NFL after two years of service, and Navy players can not, so technically it is not the same for all three.  It seems like the media is still missing this, because it is still not even.


KN: You know Dave, what has kind of happened, it got to a point with recruiting, I started telling kids when they said, ‘Coach, but Army said I could go to the [NFL],' and I just told them the straight truth.  I said ‘Now wait a minute, it's us, Army and Yale recruiting you and you're going to the NFL?  You better wipe that off your mind.  You just better think about going to college and getting your degree – and don't even think about the NFL.'  Some of these guys were talking like that and I don't want to crush these kids dreams but reality sometime has to set in.


GM: This is you talking to kids this past year when you were recruiting?  And so, the Army policy came up with recruits?


KN: Yeah, it came up.  The kids would say, ‘Coach, Army says they are going to allow us to go to the NFL.'  Originally, I told them don't worry about it, that would never happen [because] we will all be the same.  But then when it started to come out [with Campbell], the recruits started to say, ‘Coach, what is going on?'  So then I'd back up and say, ‘Ok, who is recruiting you?  Us, Army and an Ivy League school…you're chances of going to the NFL are slim to none.'  So once I wiped that [idea] away, I went back to [comparing] the schools.  They are all great academic schools…great career opportunities [at each one] - although we feel [at Navy] you've got more [opportunities].  And with football, we're on top.  For us, we just went back to that in recruiting.  Some things might be equal, but football, it's not the same.  We are better than them."




Clint Sovie


GM: What position is the strength of the team?

CS: Well, being a linebacker, I have to say linebacker.  (Pause) No, actually the strength of the team honestly is – that's a tough question right off the bat – I think it is in our d-line and our o-line.


GM: Really?


CS: The reason I say they are the strength is because the strength of any team is on its line.  If they are not the strength, then we are in trouble.


GM: Do you expect a lot out of Walsh, Frazier, and the defensive line?

CS: I do, and they expect a lot out of themselves.  Mike Walsh and Nate Frazier have been working hard this summer.  I have not seen two guys work as hard who are that big.


GM: Can you keep Nate from jumping offsides this year?


CS: I think Coach Green handled that last year.  I don't think Nate's going to want to jump offsides anymore.


GM: Was there running involved?


CS: I'm sure there was. 


GM: With Jeff coming back, do you feel as though there are three captains on this team?


CS: Captain is a funny role.  You have to take care of the admin stuff as far as football goes.  And you are looked to as a leader and it's a great role to take.  But I think every senior on this football team can play a captain role.  Jarod and I were lucky enough to get it.


GM: Were you surprised Kaipo was not named captain?  He is a pretty popular player and the starting quarterback.


CS: I think Jarod is the epitome of a Navy football player.  His job for the past two years has been to be the back-up quarterback.  And when he steps in he does not complain.  He does not let anybody on the team know if something is bothering him.   If there has been something, I've never heard it.


GM: So you think Kaipo is a complainer?


CS: No, I'm not saying that all.  People just respect Jarod for everything that he has gone through.  You know, coming in as Mr. Alabama, and having all of these accolades.  He is just a great athlete.  Just like Coach Niumatalolo has said, he needs to get on the field. 

GM: Who is going to be the spokesperson between the two of you?


CS: I don't know.  Whoever can get up and talk in front of a lot of people.  We haven't figured that out yet.  I'm pretty sure though that he is going to be the poster boy.  He's the pretty boy.  I'm gonna call him out.  He's the pretty boy.


GM: Is there any team or game on the schedule you are looking forward to the most?  Everybody keeps saying Towson, but I'm not buying it.  Perhaps Rutgers?

CS: I am going to say Towson as well.


GM: What was your reaction to hear that Caleb Campbell had been drafted, and what was your reaction when you heard Army changed the policy?

CS: My initial reaction [when he got drafted] was good for him.  To say that you come to [any] college and play football and say you wouldn't want to play in the NFL is bogus.  I don't think anybody could actually say that. When they took it away from him, well, it's two-sided.  You can argue the point that he needs to serve because of tax dollars.  And you can argue the point that they gave him the opportunity in the NFL – let him have it.  It's tough.  I'd like to see a fellow service academy guy go and play in the NFL.  It would be neat to watch.


GM: Do you think Eric Kettani has pro-football potential?


CS: Don't tell him I said this, but yeah, I do.  You can't put it in the paper because he will talk about it.  (Laughs)  Eric is a good guy, but I do think that he has pro ability.  The problem is it's tough to get to the NFL from a service academy.


GM: If you had to write the policy, what would it be?

CS: I'm going to be quiet on that one.




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