A Naval Academy midshipman who tends to worry to lot is known as a "sweat."
Mid Phil McConkey is the "sweat" of the football team. "I was sick for two months after the Army-Navy game last year," he said yesterday. "I even vomited."
"With 67 seconds left to play, a touchdown pass atempt to split end McConkey failed. Navy lost 17-14.
Placekicker Bob Tata said, "Phil worries about everything."
Navy football coach George Welsh said McConkey is more "concerned" than worried. "He always wants to do his best."
McConkey explained it this way: "I have a lot of stored-up energy I left out by talking or complaining."
McConkey's "stored-up energy" has made the 162-pounder a contender for All-America honors. Welsh has coached six Navy teams and says, "McConkey is the best we've had."
The 21-year-old senior from Buffalo, N.Y., led Navy in receptions last year with 34 for 596 yards and four touchdowns.
He was third in the country in punt returns in 1977 with 19 carries for 257 yards. Against Syracuse, he returned a punt 67 yards. McConkey ranks first the nation in punt returns among returning players this season. He is the holder of five Naval Academy record in the punt and kickoff return areas.
Welsh attributes McConkey's success to his "versatility." He run so fast," said Welsh.
"McConkey never has a bad day. He is very consistent." Tata said, "Phil 101 percent every play. He has trouble understanding why everyone else can't."
According to Welsh, McConkey has no weakness. "He goes deep as well as he comes inside."
McConkey disagreed. "I wish I could do better on my down-field blocking," he said.
If the season goes the way Welsh plans, McConkey will have little time for blocking. Referring to McConkey's chances of becoming All-America, Welsh said: "I don't know. But I know one thing - we're going to get the ball to him an awful lot."
"Being in contention (for postseason honors) will make me work harder," said the receiver.
McConkey is not self-centered. His primary goal, he said, is to "have a winning season. Team goals are more important than individual." His popularity among his peers and "team-first" attitude were responsible for his being elected cocaptain, according to Welsh.
McConkey is the main negotiator between players and coaches. "Being cocaptain here is different from the job at other schools. There are a lot of administrative duties," he said.
Although Navy has had few winning records in recent years, McConkey said. "I'd rather be on this team and win than be at Michigan and be a Heisman Trophy winner."
Sitting in the parade-ground area with several Plebes, chanting. "We're fired up," McConkey said. "I didn't come here to be a football player. I want to fly a jet. One day, I could be responsible for a $24 million jet." He plans to attend flying school in Pensacola, Fla., after graduating.
The Mids have relatively little time to practice football and course none of the players have aspirations of becoming pros. They know when they graduate they have to serve five years on active duty in the Navy.
When the scholarly athletes manage to defeat a high-rated team, jubilation abounds. "When we win, there is a lot more satisfaction," McConkey said.
One of the highlights of McConkey's career was last year's initial season loss to then No. 1-ranked Michigan.
Tata said: "It was so funny. The newspapers said we would lose by 250 points."
McConkey recalled. "101,000 people watched us lose, 14-7. We should have gotten killed by them."
McConkey said he expects big things in his final season as a Midshipman. The tradition at the academy is that seniors rule the campus and "ride high" their final days.
"As freshmen, we were not allowed to date or drink," McConkey said. "We couldn't have a car, either."
Now McConkey owns a metallic-blue Corvette. "Things are changing at the academy," McConkey said. "And the first classmen are going to have a strong input in changing this season if things go the way I plan."