Navy defensive tackle Steve Chambers looked bored and out of place when he sauntered onto the field today for the Mids' annual football picture session. An imposing figure at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, no one was about to ask the senior why he was the lone player on the field without a helmet.
"We don't need helmets for this," said Chambers, trying to look interested.
"Besides, I'm used to this. To me, this is just another hot day. But it's okay because it doesn't last that long."
A slight drizzle cut short Navy's get-acquainted session with the media and the dozens of parents and friends who gathered to meet the players.
Chambers tried to hide among his wide-eyed freshmen teammates as he, Fred Reitzel, Ed Meyers, Ted Dumbauld, Terry Huxel and Frank McCallister were continuously called upon for pictures and interviews.
"Last year, no one asked me a question or snapped my picture," said Meyers, whose sensational 278-yard, three-touchdown day against Army last season earned him the unofficial designation as the player to watch in 1980. "This year people are talking to me. It's fun and I don't mind a bit. I know a lot of people remember my day against Army, but I'm trying to forget it. It's over now and I have to get ready for another year."
Meyers led the Mids with 651 yards rushing in 1979.
Other Navy players took being ignored in stride.
"Maybe this is boring to me because no one is taking my picture," said junior split end Greg Poppajohn. "Only superstars get attention. The others, like me, get froze out of the action."
When the season begins, one player who will not be forgotten is Poppajohn. The surehanded 6-4 graduate of Crossland High School in Temple Hills, is expected to be a vital part of the Mids' offense. The junior enjoyed a good spring practice and unlike many of his teammates, was injuryfree during the 20 days of drills.
"I just hope I can get through the season without an injury," Poppajohn said. "We should have a very good team if we escape injuries."
Much of the talk today centered around the opener Sept. 13 against Virginia in Charlottesville.
"Once this picture taking's over, we can get down to the business at hand -- playing football," said Meyers. "And Virginia is first."
Navy Coach George Welch said he felt his team could be a very good one if it manages to avoid injuries that plagued his squad last year. Several of his players who underwent surgery in the offseason are still hobbling and Welch is worried.
"Right now, those players -- split end Dave Dent, tackle Rick Welch -- are more of a concern to me than finding a quarterback, anyway. They aren't that important.
"I have no idea who our quarterback will be," laughed Welch, entering his eighth season as Navy coach. "In two weeks, we'll make a temporary decision."
Welch said at least four players will vie for the spot. Reitzel, a converted safety, appears to have a slight edge over sophomores Tony Colao, Tom Tarquinio and Jeff Korn.
"Reitzel had a very good spring and wants to play the position," Welch said. "He has every opportunity to win the position. We could play with two if things don't work out. We're not in an offense where our quarterback has to win games for us. We'll need to do other things to win, like block punts, run back a kickoff for a touchdown and hope our backs get a lot of yards."