Photo: Jaxson Deaton (73)
#AFAN (Air Force/Army/Navy) stories: My series is about more than academy football players. These stories are about future officers selflessly committed to serving their country during a seemingly endless war on terrorism. There are only 0.5 percent Americans making up the military. Throughout our history Cadets and Midshipmen have answered the call to serve in times of war, but this is a generation of volunteers.
--- “I get to work daily with heroes that joined the military AFTER we were attacked on 9/11, AFTER the war started in Afghanistan and AFTER the war started in Iraq. I would like to think I’m that brave, but I’m not so sure."
-- Phil McConkey, 1979 Navy grad and New York Giants Super Bowl champion
By TOM SHANAHAN
The old football maxim is quarterbacks get too much of the credit and too much of the blame. Overlooked somewhere in that mix, win or lose, is the play of the offensive line.
With Army slumping to 3-4 following last year's 11-2 record, Black Knights senior left guard Jaxson Deaton doesn’t shy from accepting a demand for improved play from himself and his teammates up front. The second-year starting left guard not only accepts the responsibility, he believes there is no better scheme for an offensive lineman to influence results than playing in Army’s triple-option.
“My brother plays at Texas Tech," he said, referring to Dawson Deakins, a starting center. "They throw the ball the time. He’s a very good player, but sometimes the quarterback can have a bad game. If our offensive line has a good game, we’re going to win.”
The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder from Frisco, Tx., admits a lack of consistency has contributed to Army’s three-game losing streak as the Black Knights return home to face San Jose State (3-4), a Mountain West Conference member, at noon Saturday at Michie Stadium.
“We’re starting to get the fullback (dive) going,” Deaton said. “Once we can soften up the middle, they’re not going to be able to keep eight bodies in there. We can start getting the ball outside. That’s what’s exciting. We haven’t played close to our potential yet, but we’ve been in close games. The most we’ve lost by is nine (to Tulane and Western Kentucky). Last year we won the close games, but we’ve been on the wrong end of close games. We’re planning on turning that around.”
Army’s last three losses have been to Tulane, 42-33; Western Kentucky, 17-8; and Georgia State, 28-21. But the numbers Deaton points to were posted last week despite the loss. Starting fullback Connor Slomka carried 10 times for 89 yards, quarterback Kelvin Hopkins 20 for 70 and backup fullback Sandon McCoy 19 for 71 with two touchdowns.
“We see ourselves as the front line of our winning culture,” he said. “We’re trying to be more consistent. The small things are making a difference. Offensive linemen are the hardest working group in football and we pride ourselves in that. We’re working hard as a group. We just need to translate that into wins.”
The second-half surge Army faces would be tougher without Deaton, who last year earned second-team All-Independent schools honors and was named to the 2018 All-Sports Illustrated Bowl team. He had originally committed out Frisco High in Texas to Central Arkansas.
“I was committed for a long time before I de-committed,” he said. “I took a visit (to West Point) and really believed in Coach (Jeff) Monken and the program. I learned a lot about Army on my trip. There is more to this than guns and what you see in the movies. There is so much organization and leadership. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I fell in love with Army and the relationships I made here.”
His senior class has only known winning – 8-5, 10-3 and 11-2, including three straight wins over Navy and a back-to-back Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy victories.
Following San Jose State, the Black Knights play Air Force in their first leg of defending the CiC Trophy. Navy beat Air Force three weeks ago; the Army-Navy Game is Dec. 14 in Philadelphia.
For bowl eligibility, Army must win three of five against San Jose State, at Air Force, Massachusetts, at Hawaii and Navy. The Black Knights also have a home game Nov.16 against VMI, but they can’t count that toward six wins. They already have one victory over a Bowl Championship Subdivision school, Morgan State.
“Our most important game is this weekend,” Deaton said. “We have to go 1-0 the rest of the way. We still have our team goals to win the CiC and make a bowl game, but we don’t want to get caught up in the looking ahead syndrome. We have to focus on this week before we play Air Force.”
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Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light http://tinyurl.com/knsqtqu
-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.
Don’t believe the myths at Duffy Daugherty’s expense about Bear Bryant’s motivation to play the 1970 USC-Alabama game or myths about the Charlie Thornhill-for-Joe Namath trade. Bear Bryant knew nothing about black talent in the South while he dragged his feet on segregation.
David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in.”