When Chuck Johnston visited Annapolis, he was impressed by the display case used to show off the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
The Military Academy has an area set aside for that price, too, and Johnston, center for Army's football team, and his teammates are confident they will bring it back from Philadelphia Saturday.
Army won the trophy, emblematic of service academy football supremacy, the first year it was offered, in 1972. Navy has held it since, winning four straight from the Cadets in the process. This year each team defeated Air Force, so Saturday's nationally televised contest will decide possession.
Johnston, a 6-foot-4 235-pound junior, was a tight end, defensive tackle, punter and placekicker at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md. His freshman year coincided with the school's opening and his experience at West Point hasn't been much different football wise. The Cadets literally started from zero, after hitting bottom with 51-0 and 19-0 losses to Navy in 1973 and 1974.
As a freshman, Johnston saw spot duty as a defensive tackle, but in spring drills he was tested at center. he began his sophomore season as an offensive tackle,then quickly was shifted to permanent duty over the ball.
"I wasn't too happy about playing center," Johnston said. "I though I had a good shot to start at defensive taklce my sophomore year, and a center does get hit in the head a lot, especially by teams that put a nose guard over you.
"it's not as bad as I thought it would be though.
"They originally shifted me because of my lateral movement. it fit into the type of blocking we had, but it was harder for me. This year we've gone to drive blocking and it wasn't that much of an adjustment. It's a matter of technique, not using your hands."
Johnston is not required to snap for kicks - "That's where you really get your head smashed" - and he has remained anonymous, which means he's doing a good job. Folks only hear about centers who make mistakes.
"People still don't know who I am around here at West Point," Johnston said. "It doesn't matter. I used to be a catcher on the high school baseball team and I liked handling the ball on every play. It's the same idea at center."
Army has two seasons, the Air Force season and the Navy season. The Cadets, 6-4 overall, won the first one, 31.6, at Colorado Springs.
"With the corps, playing the Pittsburghs and Notre Dames is all right," Johnston said, "but they want Air Force and Navy. We had something to settle with Air Force. We beat them last year, but they said the officiating was bad and we won because of the home field.
"Navy is a buildup process that takes 11 weeks. It's sort of a life-or-death thing. The last four years we've lost and last year we shouldn't have lost as bad as we did (38-10).
"As the saying goes around here, this is the year. We're very confident. Of course, I'm sure they're confident, too. This isn't the kind of game you want to go into unless you expect to win."
Johnston remebers those first two years, though, and he knows the attitude is different this time.
"My freshman year we were 2-0 and everybody was talking Orange Bowl," Johnston said. "A nine-game losing streak gets the air out of your tires.
"Before, during the two-week Army-Navy period, you'd hear guys say they couldn't wait till football was over.This year everybody has been enthusiaatic, right from the start. The team captains (quarterback Leamon Hall and defensive tackle Chuck D'Amico) have unified the team. This time we can't wait to get out there against Navy."