Mike Galpin looks and acts the part of a big-time college football player. He's well known and respected on campus, handsome, cool and a free spirit. He plays the game with a confidence that borders on arrogance.
But Galpin is not at Southern California. Notre Dame or Oklahoma. He is a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Academy isn't much different from any school with high academic standards. But the basic difference between Navy and other schools is a big one: Elsewhere, things are done by choice: at Navy they are done because it is the law.
"Saluting, the discipline, the uniforms . . . it doesn't bother me," Galpin said. "I've kept my personality and my individualism. I haven't changed. All of that stuff is just part of the game. When I graduate, it'll all be worthwhile. I've made friendships that will be with me forever. I played great football. I traveled and I'll have a job when I get out."
Galpin, who earned 12 varsity letters in four sports at Damascus High School in Germantown, Md., will graduate from Navy in June with a degree in resources management. He is a cocaptain of the team and an All-American candidate at safety.
What is it like from that of other midshipmen/And what rewards is he missing at the academy that he might be reaping at one of the athletic super schools? A 24-hour day spent with Galpin and conversations with his friends provided some answers.
"I have a 'Vette and it's all paid for, said Galpin. "I've done all I wanted to do. The best way to sum up what the academy means to me is if I had to do it all over again, I would - gladly."
11:45 a.m. - Galpin leaves his military law class, meets running back Joe Gattuso and heads for lunch at Bancroft Hall.
There are 12 acceptable uniforms at the Academy and this day Galpin is wearing No. 12, the least formal called white works. It has a loose fitting white pullover top and baggy white pants. Galpin is wearing very old U.S. tennis shoes.
Gattuso is wearing what most Mida wear each day. It is affectionately known as WUBA, or work uniform blue alpha. That's black shirt, black pants, black tie, black shoes, black socks, white hat and black belt with brass buckle.
Gattuso has his letteman's sweater on. That means he doesn't have to wear a hat.
On the way to lunch they stop at the control station in Bancroft Hall to sign out.
"Everybody else has to line up and march to meals, but because we have meetings and things, we don't have to go through that," Galpin said. "We can sign out instead. They have to know where you are all of the time."
"Hey, all right," Galpin says to his assembled mates as he takes his accoustomed seat at the head of the lunch table. He immediately gets on cornerback John Sturges who has just had his hair cut.
If an officer sees a Mid whose hair he thinks is too long, he can instruct that Mid to cut it to the officer's satisfaction. Sturges is steaming because when he went back to the officer to have his haircut inspected, he found the officer was on leave for two weeks.
"Way to go, Sturge," Galpin said.
Galpin's hair appears to be longer than that of the others.
"Do you guys have a position meeting today?" tackle Kevin Ryan asks running back Leon Miller.
"I've got a class now," Miller replies.
"American prejudices, what the hell is that?"
"Not American prejudices, man. I already know how to discriminate against white people," Miller answers.
"Tell us how to do it," someone shouts.
Lunch takes only 15 minutes and almost en masse, Galpin, Sturges, P.J. McCormack, Gattuso, Leon Miller, Glenn Flanagan, John Kurowski and Jim Degree leave the table. Some go to class, some go back to their rooms for a quick nap. Galpin, Sturges, McCormick and Flanangan head for the defensive secondary meeting.On the way they pass the rest of the brigade lining up to march to lunch.
At the meeting, they go over tendencies of their next opponent. In this case it is Pittsburgh. The meeting lasts 45 minutes and when it's over, Galpin gets a couple more reels of film and studies them.
2 p.m. - Galpin heads back to his room for a few minutes before going to practice. His roommate is a non-athlete, John Skogsberg. Most of the rooms house three men, but Galpin and Skogsherg have a two-man room.
Their beds are against opposite walls and there is a large desk in the middle of the room. Each has a closet and there is a wash basin and a stall shower in the room. The toilet is down the hall.
A rock group poster is on the wall above Galpin's bed next to a poster of a cat sitting on a stool, playing a guitar and singing, "Love to eat them mousies/Mousies what I love to eat. Bite they little heads off/Nibble on they tiny feet."
Also on the wall is part of a white towel with C.O.D. stenciled on it in large black letters.
"That stands for Children of Death," says Galpin. "P.J. (McCormick) came up with that name for the secondary."
The secondary started wearing those towels this year to bring them more together.
"We were afraid of what coach (George) Welsh might say, but we went ahead and did it," Galpin said. "Coach was cool. He said it was our team and we could do what we wanted to do."
The Children of Death are fourth in the nation in pass defense.
Galpin turns on rock station on his clock radio.
Fifteen minutes later Galpin is ready to go to practice.
He passes a lieutenant on the way, Galpins salutes, says," Hey, what's happen'n'" and smiles.
Galpin, ever enthusiastic, gets to the locker room more than an hour before he has to be on the field.
"He's not a real rah-rah guy, says McCormick, one of his closest friends, "but he gets people going. He's always hyper, always excited. I can't ever remember seeing him down."
"He's a natural athlete. He came here as a quarterback. Then he got moved to receiver and now he's a safety. he knows how good he is, but he's always willing to help people under him. He's a very confident person. He's been that way as long as I've known him."
The chatter in the Navy locker room is different from that heard in most locker rooms. There are no radios blaring and there is little horsing around. Profanity is at a minimum. The conversation isn't about girls, but more about school than anything else. Galpin's voice can be heard above everyone else's.
He never passes anyone without speaking and most of his teammates and the regular Mids as well look at him as a special person.
"Galp has a lot going for him," says Miller, one of the few blacks on the team. "He can adapt to anything. "That's why he gets along so well here. He has a lot of stars for conduct and scholarship. He's one of the smartest guys at the Academy, but he also has a lot of street smarts in him, too. I have a true love for him."
3:35 p.m. - The kickers, passers and receivers file out to the practice field for 10 minutes of extra work. Formal practice begins with exercises, led by Galpin and Gattuso.
While most of the Mids are quiet and serious at practice, Galpin's voice, again, can be heard above everything.
During the 11-on-11 drills, one of his close buddies, defensive end Eddie Reid is chewed out by a coach for messing up on a particular play and the coach orders him off the field. Reid resists, trying to explain that it wasn't his fault. The coach doesn't want to hear it and signals to the sideline for a replacement. Reid is still trying to plead his case when Galpin calms him down.
"Go on off, Eddie," Galpin says, "you'll be back in two plays anyway."
Two plays later the coach is signalling Reid to go back in. Galpin winks.
5:45 - Practice is over. "It's usually not this long, but this was a heavy work day," Galpin says.
Back in the locker room, Galpin recalled how he ended up at Navy rather than Notre Dame, where he had dreamed of going all his life.
"They flew me out to Notre Dame and everything," he said. "That was the last trip I took because I knew that was where I wanted to go. They kind of offered me a scholarship, their last one. But while I was there, a guy they had offered one to earlier, but thought wouldn't take it called and said he wanted it. That took care of me.
"After that there was no question as to where I would go. It was Navy all the way. Next to Notre Dame they played as tough a schedule as anyone, and I wanted to see how I stacked up against the big boys.
In the back of his mind, Galpin always wanted to play professional football, but when Notre Dame didn't want him anymore, he felt then that the odds on his making it as a pro were slim.
"Because of that, the five-year military commitment I knew I would have after graduation didn't faze me."
But he feels a little differently now. He's proved he can play with anybody and the visions of beign a pro have returned.
"Now I wish there wasn't that five-year commitment," he says. "If there was a way I could play pro ball now, I would, but I know I owe them the commitment. It's only fair. They took care of me, and I'll take care of them."
6:15 p.m. - Dinner this particular night is ham, sweet potatoes, broccoli and orange sherbet. "When are we going to have tacos?" Galpin pleads. "I want tacos."
"Pass the bread please," says Gatuso.
A loaf of bread is hurled at him.
While they are eating, Kevin Lynch, a nonplayer better known as The Grinch, stops by the table.
"You should have seen this guy try to fry me today," the Grinch says.
A Mid can get fried, or put on report for any number of offenses. He gets a certain number of demerits, depending on the seriousness of his offense. For each five demerits, he is put on restriction, meaning his free time is cut.
The Grinch was fried for wearing his uniform improperly. Ties are never supposed to be united and all coats are to be buttoned. He had his shirt collar opened and his reefer, or heavy outer coat, unbuttoned with the collar turned up.
After dinner until 7:45 or 19:45 as they say at the academy, is the only free time the Mids have.
Galpin uses it to sit on his bed and strum his guitar.
Athletics, musicianship and smarts run in the Galpin family. Galpin also plays the trumpet, and his 14-year-old brother Rob plays cymbals in his high school marching band. His brother Terry is a sophomore at Navy and plays safety on the junior varsity football team. He also has an 8-year-old sister. His father, an Iowa State graduate, is an electrical engineer for IBM. The family lives in Manassas.
There are mandatory study hours from 7:45 to 10:30. A Mid cannot leave his room during that time unless it is on official business.
Lights are to be out at 10:30, but many Mids study well into the night. Galpin has been known to do that.
But, he says, "I usually go for the rest."
6:45 a.m. - Breakfast is cold cereal, doughnuts, toast, eggs and orange juice. Galpin passes on the eggs.
There is no training table at breakfast, so the players eat with the rest of the brigade.
7:15 a.m. - "If this was a reulgar school I wouldn't have gotten up this morning." Galpin says, as he straightens up his room. "We have quarters formation at 7:35. I can sign out for and pass up all other formations and drills except this one."
Actually no Mid has to drill that much. There is a practice parade for the entire brigade of 4,300 Monday and a dress parade Wednesday. Each lasts 45 minutes. That only goes on for five weeks in the fall and five more in the spring.
7:55 a.m. - Galpin's first class is fluid mechanics, the study of motion of a fluid without regard to the forces that cause the motion.
"Galpin doesn't carry himself as an intellect, but he is," says McCormick. "He's in the upper 10 per cent, but he doesn't really want people to know that."
"I'm not really that smart," Galpin says. "I have to work at it. I don't fool around in class. I listen to the prof and I know how to study."
8:55 a.m. - Galpin had 10 minutes to get to his material management class. He calls this a fun class. They spend the day working problems. From there he goes to economic and defense management, the only cause he has that is taught by a civilian. There are 24 Mids in that class, making it the largest he has.
His last class is military law.
Lt. Druker, the instructor, spends this day handing back and going over an exam. Galpin, as expected, received a high B.
"The only problem here," Galpin says of the academy as he heads back to Bancroft Hall, "is that you don't have the freedom to get up and go when you want to, but freedom is in the mind anyway. I love it here."