The Washington Post

Slotbacks set tone for Navy football

Navy senior slotback Gee Gee Greene gave the team a speech that Coach Ken Niumatalolo called one of the most memorable he has heard. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Navy senior slotback Gee Gee Greene was attending church Sunday in Glenarden, paying special mind to the sermon that morning. The guest pastor spoke about five ways toward a more fulfilling life, and among them were adaptation, perpetually moving forward and being accountable for personal choices.

On Monday night, Greene emphasized those principles to his teammates in an impassioned speech Coach Ken Niumatalolo called one of the most memorable he has heard.

It’s the type of initiative Niumatalolo has come to expect from Greene and fellow slotbacks Bo Snelson and John Howell. All are seniors and part of the most tested group on offense, which in the season opener Sept. 1 against Notre Dame in Dublin will have new starters at multiple positions.

“It’s a super impressive group,” Niumatalolo said Tuesday morning after practice, “and I told them I know they’re probably the most versatile group that can catch the ball, that can run it, that knows the offense. But they’re also pretty good motivational speakers too. A pretty well-rounded group.”

With junior Trey Miller ascending to regular starting quarterback and sophomore Noah Copeland starting at fullback also for the first time, Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper figure to lean on the slotbacks even more, especially during the first handful of games.

Greene has played in all 39 games during his college career, including starting the last 25 in a row. Snelson, meanwhile, has appeared in 36 games and was voted a team captain in February before an off-field violation compelled academy officials to strip him of that leadership role.

Howell is listed as a starter with Greene after playing 12 games last season. He started six times and finished with five rushing touchdowns, the second most on the team.

“Me, Bo and John, we’ve been here for four years,” Greene said. “We’ve played a lot of snaps since our freshman year. Us having that experience playing in big games, it’s good for us to stand up and help the team out and motivate them for the season.”

Empty effort

Niumatalolo stopped practice briefly to deliver a stern message to his players, whom he said were not putting out maximum effort.

“I hate our body language,” Niumatalolo hollered in between drills. “99.9 percent of you are just punching the clock.”

Niumatalolo used Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as an example for his players to follow, mentioning the future Hall of Famer has been able to last 17 years in the NFL because of tireless dedication.

The Midshipmen responded with a rousing finish to the morning workout that included customary field goal kicking at the end.

Senior tackle injured

Reserve left tackle Evan Campbell injured his ankle and had to be taken off the field on a gurney. The senior raised his right arm and gave a thumbs-up as medical personnel wheeled him into a waiting ambulance.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury or how long he would be out.

“It’s always unfortunate to see someone get injured,” Niumatalolo said. “This is a contact sport, and anytime in sports you can get hurt, especially football, but he’s such a good kid.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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