It’s a rivalry that’s dated back more than a century, but it’s unlike any in our country. Some rivals simply can’t stand one another, vying on and off their respective playing fields.
The Army-Navy game is different. Yes, it’s football between two rivals. When they walk off the gridiron, though, these two programs are fighting for one cause.
That’s the message NFL Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins wants everyone to understand, as the latest edition of the rivalry kicks off at Lincoln Financial Field, home of Dawkins’ Philadelphia Eagles, on Saturday afternoon.
“The thing about it is we look at it from a football perspective, absolutely,” Dawkins told Fox News Digital while promoting USAA, the official sponsor for the Army-Navy bout, which will be gifting vehicles to military families ahead of “America’s Game.” “But for those of us who understand the significance of our military, we recognize that they do a whole lot more than just play on the gridiron and go against each other and battle each other. They do a whole lot more for the country itself. That’s pretty much the greatest reason why it’s ‘America’s Game.’”
Dawkins is working alongside someone who was his rival heading into this game: Former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. He called it “a blessing” to work with Witten and gift recycled rides, which USAA has been doing all year. The two cars given out by Dawkins and Witten prior to the game will make the total 100 vehicles throughout the year.
Witten also shares Dawkins’ sentiment with Army and Navy being foes for a couple of hours before heading back to their respective academies to eventually protect the country as a whole.
“I don’t know that there’s anything that we have with our young athletes and just our young military members that kinda exemplifies the togetherness and the brotherhood and camaraderie like this game does,” Witten explained to Fox News Digital. “Certainly, this is competitive football. Great programs. But ultimately, we realize as professional athletes, as fans watching the game, football’s just a small piece of this.
“For them to put their lives on the line, to compete show sportsmanship that way and walk off unified, I think it’s a great message for our entire country to be unified and what that represents. Let’s celebrate these athletes, let’s celebrate both West Point and the Naval Academy and cheer them on.”
As head coach now with Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas, Witten is also seeing the game from a different point of view, a lens he looks at the Army and Navy players with.
“From a player’s perspective, you’re looking at it in a different regard, looking at matchups, stems and routes. When you become a coach, you really pull back and take a bird’s eye view. Certainly the football piece I’m really intrigued by. These kids can have so much on their plate day-to-day from a school standpoint, from an academy standpoint and still play the game at such a high level. I have the utmost respect for them.”
It’s a true celebration of our great nation, which includes ceremonies prior to kickoff with other military members and those about to embark on their journeys in their respective branches.
When those cheers ring out from the stands, Dawkins knows it isn’t for one team or the other.
“I went to Clemson,” he said. “Not everybody would cheer for Clemson, right? So the point is everybody will cheer for our military because of, once again, what they’ve done for our country.”
“These young men that are going to go out there and play the game, these young people that are going to be on the field before and celebrating our country,” Witten added. “Man, they’re true heroes, and we need to honor them that way. It’s awesome to see the game of football, one we all love, kinda bridge that gap between the two. It’s really a special moment.”