Under ordinary circumstances, Navy tailbacks Mike Sherlock and Eddie Meyers might have become a bit disenchanted with their two-series-and-rest situation and gone to Coach George Welsh with college football's version of a "play-me-or-trade-me" edict.
But then the U.S. Naval Academy isn't a typical football-conscious university and Sherlock and Meyers aren't your everyday glory hungry players trying desperately to attract the eye of the NFL scouts.
For the past two seasons, the two players, both of whom have the ability to start at other major colleges, have alternated at the tailback spot and done well. So well, in fact, that Mid fans have wondered why Welsh hasn't experimented with using both in the backfield at the same time. Sherlock and Meyers couldn't be less concerned.
"I'm completely satisfied with the way things are," said the 5-foot-9, 200-pound Meyers, who rushed for 114 yards on 17 carries in the 24-10 upset over Pac-10 power Washington Saturday. "At the beginning of the year, it would bother me some that I wasn't going to be the No. 1 back. But not any more. Mike comes in and does a good job. He's a good back. I realize I can't play the entire game and I want to be 100 percent in the fourth quarter."
One reason Meyers felt he should have nailed the starting job was his Academy-record 278 yards on 42 carries and three touchdowns in the team's finale against Army last year. The junior, who started the year as the fifth-string tailback, finished it as the team's leading rusher with 651 yards on 106 carries.
"I was still up in the clouds after that game," Meyers said. "Maybe I thought I should be the starter but I wasn't really thinking rationally. Had things changed I might not be doing as well as I'm doing right now. I like things the way they are."
What Meyers didn't say was if it wasn't for a rash of injuries to a good, dependable Mid backfield last year, he never would have had a chance to show his ability. One of the players who went down was, ironically, Sherlock.
The 5-11, 194-pound senior, who was alternating with Steve Callahan, had a wonderful first five games. He had rushed for 590 yards on 116 carries and was among the nation's top rushers. He was concluding a 59-yard touchdown run when he pulled a hamstring and didn't play again in '79.
Sherlock, who had 63 yards on 19 carries against Washington, said, "My injury gave Eddie a chance to play and with the success he's had, he deserves to play as much as I do. Neither of us has anything to prove so we can go out and help one another. . . Since we play the same spot, the one on the sideline can tell the other what he has observed.
"I don't really think it matters who starts because both of us play an equal amount of time. We both stay fresh and a team can't key on one of us. Both of us have different running styles."
An excellent running team, Navy (5-2) is averaging 240.2 yards per game. Meyers has 514 yards on 107 attempts and two touchdowns. Sherlock is second with 352 on 81 carries and two scores. Sherlock has been hampered with a sore foot and has missed some playing time.
Welsh and the other Mid players feel lucky to have players the caliber of Meyers and Sherlock playing with them rather than against them.
"I wonder some time if they get a feel for the game by just being out there a couple of series before being replaced," said Welsh. "Each one might have better individual statistics if he played more. But, both are so good, we have to get them both in there."
"Just watching Mike and Eddie take the shots they take makes me want to forget my hurts," said Navy's all-America candidate, guard-tackle Frank McCallister. "You don't have to give either of them much room to run. I know when they come back to the huddle, they are hurting sometimes but they go right back and give 100 percent on the next carry."
Right now, both Meyers, a bullish runner, and Sherlock, more of the slashing type, are completely healthy. And going into Saturday's game against third-ranked Notre Dame (6-0), that is an asset.
"It would be nice to have a good game against them," said Meyers, who quietly admits he would like to rush for 1,000 yards this year. "There was no pressure on us to beat Washington and they will be no pressure on us against Notre Dame. I think we're capable of putting two great back-to-back games together. If our mental attitude is right, we'll play a good game."
"The important thing is we're not beat up. Both Eddie and I are having good years and there's no reason to change anything," he said. "Against a team like Notre Dame, it's a blessing to go in with two good tailbacks. I know Eddie feels the same way I do about this one. Getting 100 yards isn't nearly as important as winning. But if both of us get 100 yards and we win, all the better."