The Naval Academy routinely handles such game visitors as the president of the United States, but you know Navy is about to play a really big game when the word is passed that the man is coming.
Around the football-crazed academy, they're saying that Roger Staubach, the most cherished alumnus, may show up tomorrow at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium for the game between the unbeaten, 18th-ranked Midshipmen and the 5-1, 15th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers.
They're expecting a record crowd and are already selling standing-room-only spots. Probably someone will give Staubach a blanket to sit on.
You know it's a big game when wide receiver Phil McComkey says, "This is the biggest game of my life," and when he goes on to say, "Most of the guys feel that way, but they just don't show it."
You know it's big game when Coach George Welsh says, "I like to think of it as just one game," and then feels it as necessary to bar photographers from practice, The Publicity-starved Naval Academy is barring photographers from practice. And cutting down on newspaper interviews.
McConkey sneaked in a conversation on the way to practice yesterday.
"It's always botherd me that people think the Naval Academy has a football team just because it's a tradition, that because we were good years ago we still put out a team," McConkey said. "We know we're a football team, but skeptics look at our schedule and think we're not for real.
"Like Pitt, I don't know how serious they're taking us. They might think we're a fluke.
"We're as dedicated as Oklahoma or Penn State or anybody else, and if we play well, we can beat anybody. In years past, we had to play over our heads to beat the good teams, the Michigans and Notre Dames and Pitts. We don't have to hope for miracles any more.
"We know we're a good team. But bearing Pitt would prove it to other people. We're going against the best, against a team that won the national championship two years ago, and that's what it's all about."
"Beating Pitt," said fellow cocaptain Nick Mygas, "would not soldify in our minds that we're a good team. I think the guys know we play well. What it would do is show other people that Navy is really doing something,"
Welsh has been reluctant to heap compliments on his players' heads because he knows what that can do Navy is not the kind of team that can become overconfident, sleepwalk through games and still win. Welsh and the team set up just two goals before the season: have a winning season and get the commander-in-chief's Trophy back.
Welsh feels the team was tired from midterm exams and distracted by new demands from the media last week, and that had something to do with beating William and Mary by only 9-0.
"There have been camera crrews at practice and reporters in the locker room before practice, and I think it hurt our concentration," Welsh said. "There are more demands on my time, more phone calls at home at night. I'm not complaining.
"There are more people talking football at the academy, wishing you luck, asking you about the game, and that's a big part of why we're playing.
"This team has kept things in perspective, not let its emotions go too far one way, or the other. I think we've really got the right balance on this team.
"During the week, they've been businesslike, and then they are emotional on Saturday. There have been fewer ups and downs on this team, the practices have been steadier, and I think that's good.
"This team feels like it's a pretty good team. I think teams before had doubts that they could be competitive on Saturday. I don't think this team has any doubts that it can be competitive on Saturday. Nothing succeeds like success.
Mygas said the team went into last year's game against Pitt "feeling maybe we could win. This year, it's not maybe. It's a game we can win if we play well. This year, it's going to be a helluva game.
"I believe we are a little and a little faster than in years past. But basically, we're pretty much like the other teams. We can't say, 'We're going to be national champs.' We don't get 99 blue-chip athletes every year like Southern Cal and Michigan and Notre Dame, so when we accomplish something, it's very rewarding because we know how hard we had to work," Mygas said.
"This is the first time in a long time (three years) that we've been in the national rankings. I think people look at our schedule and think maybe we're lucky, but if you beat somebody known to be good, like Pitt, people can't say you're lucky.
"There probably is a little more excitement about this game. You can't ignore it. When we got ahead of William and Mary last week, the brigade started chanting 'We want Pitt.'
"The brigade is ready, and we're ready. I just wish it would get here."