“It’s ingrained in you.” Former players share perspective on Army-Navy Game

Former Navy football players Tom Paulk, LaVaughn Kelley, Shalimar Brazier

NORFOLK, Va. - Neither Tom Paulk, LaVaughn Kelley nor Shalimar Brazier grew up with the Army-Navy Game.

"I was looking at football as a whole and, at the time, the Army-Navy rivalry didn’t have a significant impact for me," Paulk, a Chesapeake resident, said.

"I really don’t recall watching it at all," Kelley, who lives in Virginia Beach, admitted.

"I grew up in Detroit, Michigan," Norfolk resident Shalimar Brazier explained in an interview at Norfolk Christian - where he and Kelley serve as assistant football coaches. "I didn’t know a lot about the Army-Navy Game."

But quickly after enrolling at the Naval Academy and joining the Midshipmen football team, these Mids learned there's no middle ground when it comes to the greatest rivalry in sports.

Navy football

"We are serious about that game and play it like there is no other," Paulk, who played for Navy from 1976 to 1979, noted.

"No matter what the rivalry is around the nation, it does not compare to the Army-Navy Game," Brazier, a defensive back from 2000-2004 affirmed.

Known as America's Game, being a part of Army-Navy as these three men were, will alter your perspective. And the altar is exactly where Kelley nearly left a good friend when his friend's wedding conflicted with the Army-Navy Game.

Former Navy football players LaVaughn Kelley, Shalimar Brazier

"I was chosen to be the best man and that’s the only reason I was there," Kelley, a defensive back from 2001-2005 recalled. "I almost reconsidered. I did my toast, I was like ‘Rico, I love you’ and I had to leave."

Many, if not most, will argue this rivalry is second to none. But the Midshipmen do, indeed, hope to be second in one regard: second in line to sing the alma mater postgame - the spot reserved for the winning team.

"The only thing I’m worried about is singing second," Brazier said. "We are going to sing our song second – no matter what. I still get emotional every time we sing second. It’s just something in me that makes me get emotional when we sing Navy Blue and Gold."

The Navy Midshipmen run out on the field before the game against Army. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

"It’s ingrained in you," Paulk explained. "It’s important to you – it’s important to your friends. We care. We count the record."

Tom, LaVaughn and Shalimar might not have grown-up with the Army-Navy rivalry, but now they'll grow old with it.

Saturday, News 3 will broadcast the 119th Army-Navy Game.

Tom, Shalimar and LaVaughn are members of the Hampton Roads Chapter of the US Naval Academy Alumni Association. With nearly 900 members ranging from the Class of 1943 to the Class of 2017, it's the second largest chapter in the country (northern Virginia/Washington, D.C.). The chapter's focus is to support the missions of the Naval Academy and its Midshipmen as well as the Naval Academy Alumni Association and the Naval Academy Foundation in Annapolis by initiating and sponsoring activities which perpetuate the history, traditions, and memories of the Navy and Naval Academy that bind alumni together.