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Army's Broad Ax Trophy Is A Symbol Of The Defense Itself

by Erin Summers

Five years ago Miami started a new trend in college football with the introduction of their "turnover chain," and since then sidelines have seen turnover planks, trash cans, belts, robes and even Mardi Gras beads.


Army Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody said he was the last guy who would jump on a trend like that, until he came across something the embodies his defensive philosophy to a tee. It started on a trip to Notre Dame and a newspaper article that caught Coach Woody's eye.


"[It was] a nice little quote about defense," Woody recalls. "'Defense is a demanding taskmaster, a relentless taskmaster, and to be played well it would cause one to give himself. Full sweat and effort are its trademarks, and when forcefully applied it is an instrument as an ancient broad ax.'"


"An ancient tool used to hew logs and has a very wide blade," Army Head Coach Jeff Monken says about the broad ax, "And so you swing an ax with a wide blade and it cuts a large path. I think that's just a kind of mentality and spirit of the defense that, to say that we're going to cut a wide path with our defense and swing a big stick."

Army senior DB Marquel Broughton holds aloft the Army Broad Ax he earned with an interception while singing the Alma Mater with his teammates after earning it with an interception during the Black Knights' game against the Univ. of Connecticut on September 18, 2021 at Michie Stadium on the campus of the US Military Academy at West Point.

"So we just took that as a bit of a moniker," Woody continues. "Something that is a weapon, something that can be swift, something that can be powerful, deadly, and just sort of think of our defense in that same sort of manner."


The broad ax has become quite popular for the Army football team. It not only represents their fast, physical play but it is also given as a reward for superior defensive performance.


"It's really hard for me to get it back from 'em whenever we give that ax to the guys," Woody says. "I also give it to a guy that demonstrated the best effort [and] attitude during the course of the week, and he gets to keep that thing. Rewarded on a Friday in our team meeting, he gets to keep it overnight and hold on to that until game time."


Senior linebacker and team co-captain Arik Smith says: "It's kind of a little memento to give the people, kind of keep the culture there and visible so everybody understands what they're working to achieve."


"I think they enjoy it," Woody says, "I think they like the symbol of it and understand that's our deal. That's just how we play. We play fast, physical and to be able to have some sort of representation of that is a good thing."


Whether it's the ax or Coach Woody himself, something is working for the Black Knights defense in the 2021 season. Army ranks top five in the NCAA in rushing defense and top ten in total defense.


"This is a hard game to play," Woody admits. "It's a hard game to win. Any time that you can be successful in it I do think it's a good deal to be able to enjoy it and celebrate it a little bit."


If you watch an Army game you're likely to see the ax on the sideline at some point. And, like Coach Woody said, why not have some fun while putting in the hard work?



edited for web by Joe Harman