When Leopards football played Army the day before Veterans Day, the team got the chance to show solidarity with service members despite being opponents on the field. While they honored the military, wearing customized helmet designs featuring the faces of loved ones who have served, Lafayette came up short during gameplay losing 31-13 to the Black Knights.
Despite Army being an Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team, a subdivision higher than Lafayette, the Leopards held their own and only trailed by 11 points at the half.
In the second half, however, Army capitalized on several Lafayette mistakes. Early in the third quarter, senior kicker Jacob Bissell’s punt was blocked off the face mask of one Army’s defensive players. The Black Knights returned the ball to the one-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown to extend their lead 24-6.
Lafayette was unable to gain any significant yardage on their ensuing drive. Army then put together a back-breaking 77-yard, 11-play drive that earned the Black Knights their final touchdown of the game.
To start the fourth quarter, Lafayette was able to put together an impressive drive. It ended with the teams’ first touchdown of the game, with the completion of a three-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Sean O’Malley to senior fullback Will Eisler. Although the game ended with an expected loss for Lafayette, the game was about not only football, but also honoring America’s veterans.
Instead of wearing the traditional maroon ‘L’ on the side of their helmets, the ‘L’ on each player’s helmet featured a picture of a veteran who is close to the player. The plan to honor service members in this way came from Anthony Martin, director of football equipment, who originally presented the idea to the team with a mockup of himself and his grandfather. Team members on the whole have a number of family members who are either actively serving or have served in the past.
“My veteran [on my helmet] was my dad, he served in the Navy from 1985 to 1989,” said sophomore linebacker Major Jordan. “I was happy that I could play for him and all of the other veterans.”
While some players like Jordan chose to honor veterans they were close with, others chose to honor more distant relatives or close family friends. Freshman offensive lineman Joe Grundhoffer chose to honor his late grandfather.
“[My veteran] was my dad’s dad, my grandpa. He served in the army for about ten years, but he actually died before I was born,” said Grundhoffer. “I’ve always wanted to meet him but I never had the chance so I thought it was special to be able to put him on my helmet. I could have chosen my cousin, who is currently serving in the army, or my other grandpa, but it’s a different kind of special to have this connection to him because I never actually met him.”
With the veterans showcased on their helmets, players were especially aware of the sacrifices their opponents may be asked to make some day. The team made sure to honor not only past veterans, but future ones as well.
“After the game, the whole Army team went over to the cadets while their alma mater was played,” Grundhoffer said. “Our team took off our helmets and stood there, we wanted to pay our respects to them.”
“[West Point] is a special [place] in general, but it was even more special playing the day before Veterans Day,” Jordan said. “The game had a little bit more of a purpose for the veterans, and we respect the guys we were playing and what they do for us, allowing us to live in this great nation. So it was a moment of pride to be able to honor them.”
The 154th rivalry game takes place tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at home.