Photo: Micah Capra makes tackle against Nevada
Micah Capra practiced dutifully yet watched on Saturdays from the sidelines his first two seasons. Now, though, he is another uncanny example among academy athletes that overcome their inexperience when called upon in the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series.
Capra, an Air Force senior second-year starting defensive tackle, was ready for Army and Navy despite the pressure of learning on the job. He recorded a career-high five tackles in his first Army gae last season. In a win over Navy last month, he set a season-high four tackles.
“They’re huge rivalry games,” Capra said as his only explanation for elevating his play. “My teammates expected me to give whatever I’ve got and that’s what I did.”
Air Force (3-5), having already defeated Navy 35-7 on Oct. 6 at home, travels to face Army (6-2) at noon Saturday at Michie Stadium. That means the Falcons can clinch the CiC for the second time in three seasons and third in five with a win over the Black Knights. That would salve disappointment over what will be their final record with at least five losses.
“This is our championship game,” Capra said.
Meanwhile, Army’s CiC quest is just beginning. The Black Knights can repeat with a win over Air Force followed by capturing the Army-Navy Game on Dec. 8 in Philadelphia. Army's 2017 CiC was its first since 1996 and the Black Knights have never won it two years in a row since its inception in 1972.
“The service academy games aren’t just huge for the academies,” Capra said. “They’re huge for those in the general Air Force, Army and Navy. Everybody comes together to watch those games. You’re representing something bigger than yourself. You’re representing your branch of the service.
The CiC Trophy is the No. 1 goal for Air Force over the Mountain West Conference title. Same with Navy and the American Athletic Conference games (Army remains an independent school
“It’s a huge weight on your shoulders, but it’s awesome to represent something that big," he said. "We come from a team that doesn’t quit no matter how much we get ahead or behind, and that comes from both sides of the ball. It’s a unique dynamic.”
Another explanation for Capra's play may be that he was pre-ordained for a service academy football career.
His father James served in the military, his oldest brother Doug is a Navy graduate and his other older brother Mark is a U.S. Coast Guard graduate. Of three boys among six siblings, he was the one born with college football talent and size for line play.
“I knew about the academies, and I strived for it,” he said, adding he heard from Navy but wasn’t offered while he never heard from Army. “When Air Force offered me to play football, I went with it.”
Famed movie director Frank Capra was known for his "rags-to-riches" stories of the American dream. Micah Capra isn't rags to riches, but he is living the academy football player's dream.
It might sound unusual that only one of the three academies offered Capra -- after all, they each look for athletes they can develop, ones with strong academics and those willing to commitment to a military lifestyle. But actually that it quite often the case they only heard from one.
"I guess that shows you there is a different dynamic at each of the schools," Capra said.
As a lightly recruited athlete, his first two years were spent learning college-level techniques, gaining strength and adding weight to fill out a frame that now measures 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds. He didn’t get discouraged despite not playing his first snap until his junior season. He kept working in the weight room, crediting strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan, and added defensive line coach Tim Cross pushed him.
“He knows how to motivate people,” Capra said. “He knows the academies are hard when you’re not playing much, but he never gave up on me.
“The guys of above never gave up on me, either. They were always teaching me something new and kept me driving. They looked at me and told me someday I would be in their spot and they wanted me to be the best I can.
“Those were two big factors, but my family life was another. My parents always said to never give up and one day I’d finally make it. I did.”
Capra was a part of the CiC Trophy Air Force won in 2016 as a team member. This year he wants to be part of the CiC on the field.
“Last year we didn’t come away with a win (against Army), and that’s another driving factor for us this year,” he said. “We want to win the championship.”
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Navy (2-6, 1-3) returns the AAC play when the Midshipmen play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Cincinnati (7-1, 3-1). The Bearcats have 45 points in the AP poll equal to 30 and 116 points in USA Today equal to No. 27.
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