Reporting by Erin Summers edited for web by Joe Harman
Academy football is unique. These players have a military obligation upon graduation and going pro or achieving fame, while maintaining those commitments, can be difficult, to say the least. The list of players who have not been able to achieve both is long. However on the list of stand-out players are five names that are likely never to be forgotten. Army’s famed running back tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis each took home the Heisman Trophy in 1945 & 1946, respectively. While The Cadets’ Pete Dawkins won it in 1958 with Navy’s Joe Bellino winning it in 1960. In 1963 Roger Staubach took home the distinguished honor. Then, after serving a tour of duty in Vietnam, Staubach went on to have the most decorated professional career of any of the service academy Heisman Trophy winners, leading the Dallas Cowboys to a record of 85-29 as a starter and winning two Super Bowl titles. The former Navy QB was a Super Bowl MVP, went to six Pro Bowls and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. West Point’s Legendary Earl “Red” Blaik is one of the many coaching greats born from the service academies, a former Army player turned coach. In 18 seasons Blaik won 121 games and lost only 33 with 10 ties. Blaik’s Army teams won three straight national titles, in 1944, 1945 and 1946, and Balik earned AFCA Coach of the Year in 1946. Blaik coached three Heisman Trophy winners, Blanchard, Davis and Dawkins, as well as a total of eleven College Football Hall of Famers.
Blaik’s legacy continued as 20 of his former assistants became future head coaches. Sid Gillman won an AFL title with the San Diego Chargers in 1963 and Vince Lombardi, an Army assistant from 1948-53, became arguably one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. In 1947 Blaik became one of the first college coaches to use players strictly for offense or defence. It was also during Blaik’s time that the nickname “Black Knights” came to life. Under Blaik college football saw of the of best teams to ever play, the 1945 National Championship team, led by two all-time greats, Blanchard and Davis, “Mr. Inside” and “Mr. Outside.” In nine games that season Army took on six of the best teams in the country and beat them by an average of 45-6.