Bob Powers, the Navy quarterback, discovered on his summer cruise that the success of the Mids' 1978 football squad has created immediate benefits.
"Jim Grant and I were with two other first class midshipmen who played lacrosse and we went to see the captain and executive officer," Powers recalled. "The captain asked, 'Which are the two of you who played football? Jim and I identified ourselves and he told us, 'You take it easy, we'll put these other two to work."
It was a most relaxing cruise, since Powers and companions were in charge of a group of underclass women midshipmen on a small ship that spent much time in East Coast ports, little time at sea. However, the vacation ended with the start of football practice.
Powers is Navy's No. 1 quarterback and Coach George Welsh has thus far declined to designate anyone else No. 2. It is apparent that this Navy team will go just as far as Powers is able to take it.
That is a heady assignment for a young man who has reached his senior year without ever starting a college game and with a pass completion record or 17 for 45.
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Powers is considered more adept at running than passing, and Welsh intends to exploit that strength, despite the obvious injury risk.
"I was happy with Powers' spring showing," Welsh said. "He has taken charge out there and is more confident. I believe we can win with him. He's a leader and an adequate passer, and certainly a strong runner.
"When you're setting up what you have to do to win, you have to use your abilities. We're going to run him and hope that he can hold up."
For his part, Powers is excited about the opportunity that is finally his, after two years as an understudy to Bob Leszczynski.
"I'm looking forward to another good year here," Powers said. "I've worked hard, particularly on my passing, and I think I've learned a lot just backing up Bob. We should certainly be able to throw when we have to."
With a big, veteran offensive line and a fleet corps of running backs, Navy does not intend to pass any more than necessary. The big-play combination of Leszczynski and Phil McConkey, a key factor in last year's 9-3 record, is still present on the Severn, but only in an advisory role, as graduate assistant coaches.
McConkey stood at practice the other day and said, "They're so big this year." Welsh noted the same factor and said, "This may be the biggest team I've ever had here. We don't have the excuse that we're not big enough."
Size has been a Navy deficiency in the past, with most of those big, mobile linemen choosing to play elsewhere.
This year the offensive line lists, from tackle to tackle, John Taylor at 250, Frank McCallister at 246, Rick Bott at 251, Tom Feldman at 240 and Jerome Barker at 238. All are seniors except McCallister, a one-time starter at North Carolina who proved to be an exceptional blocker last year as a sophomore.
Anchoring the defensive line are tackles John Merrill, 257, and Steve Chambers, 246. Every starter on both offense and defense lettered a year ago, so Navy has unparallelled experience to go with that size.
Aside from finding some help for Powers, Navy's principal problem seems to be the maintenance of the great team spirit that helped carry the 1978 squad to victories over Pittsburgh, Duke, Army and Brigham Young, among others.
Welsh was concerned by the lack of intensity during spring practice and said, "We have the potential to be as good or better than last year. But we still have to perform. In the spring we did not have the enthusiasm that carried us through a couple of games last year. We've go to get it back."
"We need to get everybody to have the same feel as last year, playing together," said linebacker Tom Paulk, one of the co-captains. "We're all so close here that we should be able to do it. That's one of the benefits of football as far as anybody going to school like this. We get a chance to pal around and get away from a lot of the silly stuff."
A year ago, Navy won its first seven games before Notre Dame contributed its usual defeat. This time the schedule is conducive to thoughts of a similar start, if the Mids do not allow complacency to set in.
Citadel, Connecticut, Illinois, Air Force, William and Mary and Virginia are the first six opponents, before the Mids join the big boys with visits to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. None of those first six managed a winning record a year ago, but Welsh is not going to take them lightly. Instead, he plans to take them one at a time, starting with Citadel at Annapolis Sept. 15.
"We're never going to be good enough that we can look past anybody," he said. "We'll never have the talent that we can overpower people or have the great skill people that we can run by them."
Welsh fingered one of those softdrink cans with the "Beat Army" slogan that have become popular in Annapolis the last couple of years.
"I wish this read 'Beat Citadel,'" he said.