Americans pause and remember 9/11 in many ways today, the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the crash of a fourth plane in a Pennsylvania field.
Army linebacker Andrew King’s method was a stirring performance that helped the Black Knights beat Rice 31-14 Saturday at Michie Stadium. This marks Army’s first 2-0 start since 2010 and first two-game winning streak since 1996.
King has said that his father Rhonny King’s work as a first-responder on 9/11 and the following months was his inspiration for him to commit to West Point. He wanted to serve his country.
Andrew explained that as a 7-year-old, he watched his father leave every day for work. Rhonny, then a New York Police Department sergeant and now a lieutenant, worked 12-hour shifts for two months in the aftermath of the attacks. He recovered remains and items among the debris that had been trucked to a Staten Island land fill. Items were returned to family and loved ones.
“It made me proud to learn that what he saw me doing when he was little would make him want to serve,” Rhonny told Today’s U Saturday night in a phone conversation. “As a parent you don’t know if your kid pays attention to what you’re doing. But kids see a lot. I couldn’t ask for a better kid.”
A year ago Rhonny King told Today’s U of the recovery work: “We’d find an ID, a shoe or a watch. It was something to help families with closure. This was at a time when people still had posters up hoping their loved ones were still alive.”
Andrew’s play against Rice also landed Rhonny on television. With the final moments of a clinched game ticking down on the clock, CBS Sports Network sideline John Schriffen pulled Rhonny out of the crowd for a short interview.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Rhonny told Today’s U about his moment on TV. “This is a totally different team. This team has maturity and the young guys are stepping into their roles. I feel really good about this season.”
Andrew, a 6-foot, 246-pound senior linebacker and team captain, led the Black Knights in tackles with six. He also recovered a key fumble and recorded a sack and two tackles for a loss.
His fumble recovery was a turning point in what may be developing into a turning point for the program under third-year head coach Jeff Monken.
With Army clinging to a 14-7 lead at the eight-minute mark of the second quarter, sophomore linebacker James Nachitgal pressured Rice quarterback Tyler Stehling, forcing a fumble. King recovered at the 35-yard line. Seven plays later fullback Andy Davidson scored the second of his three touchdowns on 2-yard run for a two-score lead.
King is not alone among today’s service academy players. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, many Army, Navy and Air Force football players said they became committed to serve this country. The service academy coaches say the pool of recruiting talent is deeper, although still very select.
THREE-FOR-THREE AT 2-0
All three service academies are 2-0 for the first time since 1996.
— Army opened with a win over Temple (28-13), a 10-4 team last year that won the American Athletic Conference East title. Rice had been a bowl team three straight years prior to finishing 5-7 last season. Army’s last bowl trip was a 7-6 record in 2010. Next up for the Black Knights is a road trip Saturday to UTEP.
— Navy, which finished last season 11-2 and ranked No. 18, defeated Fordham 52-16 in its opener and Connecticut 28-24 in its AAC opener. The Midshipmen travel to Tulane Saturday for an AAC contest.
— Air Force, the 2015 Mountain West Mountain Division champion, opened with wins over Alcorn State (37-21) and Georgia State (48-14). The Falcons have a bye before opening conference play Sept. 24 at Utah State.
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter: @shanny4055