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Pulling for Will’s team, the USA and ‘The Coach’

By Steve Williams

If local fans of the Tennessee Vols would like an additional college football team to follow and pull for this season, may I suggest Navy.

The Midshipmen have a special connection to the Knoxville area with the passing of Will McKamey this past March. The former Grace Christian Academy standout was a rising sophomore slotback and a popular cadet on Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s Naval Academy team.

In fact, Navy’s team slogan this season is “I Will.”

His spirit, no doubt, will be powerful among the Midshipmen when they play their season opener against Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes on August 30 at noon at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium.

There will be no schedule conflict with Tennessee that day, as the Vols open their season on Sunday night, August 31.

McKamey was Navy’s kind of football player.

“We recruit Will McKameys,” says Coach Niumatalolo.

Translation: Good football players that may be an inch or two short and a star or two shy on the recruiting board but stand tall when it comes to character.

McKamey, a TSSAA Mr. Football award winner in 2012, died March 25 from complications stemming from a head injury he suffered after collapsing March 22 during spring practice.

Knoxville Catholic High product Joey Gaston, Navy’s starting junior right tackle, is among seven Tennesseans on the the Midshipmen’s current roster.

WORLD CUP: This wave of excitement in America has more to do with being USA fans than fans of soccer, I believe, and is spiked by the United States being an underdog country in the sport.

Still, soccer is a great game, and when a goal is scored, it is quite exhilarating I must say, because of the rarity of it.

Having lived through “Group Death,” USA will play Belgium in the quarterfinals Tuesday afternoon. I plan to be watching.

ROCKY TOP: The P.A. Announcer called him “The Legend” and “The Coach.” Jon Higgins is a veteran player in the Pilot Rocky Top Basketball League. He finished his basketball career at UT in 2002-03 and is now Central High’s head basketball coach.

How many high school coaches do you know that still play the game against current college players, as Higgins does? I don’t know of any other.

Higgins still enjoys it.

“It’s a great experience every year,” he said after playing for Campus Lights in a 115-109 overtime loss to DeRoyal Industries last week in Knoxville Catholic High’s air-conditioned gym. “I try and come out here and help the young guys,.and give them some experience when it comes to playing this game.”

Higgins didn’t have a good shooting night, hitting only 2 of 6 shots from 3-point range for six points. But I still remember the day he swished in a shot from behind the half-court line – a 50-footer – to stun Georgia Tech 70-69 in Atlanta.

“As I get advanced in age, it gets hard for me to run up and down all day and still be able to knock them down, but that’s no excuse,” said Higgins. “I’m a better shooter than 2 for 6. I’ll pick it up next week.”

Higgins’ team had the last possession in regulation with the score tied at 99, but Jon said his role is no longer to take the last shot.

“I would have loved to, but you’ve got to understand, this is for current UT players and for the fans. Nobody in the stands wants to see me shoot the last-second shot. They want to see Josh Richardson or Demontre Edwards shoot it. I understand that and I try and let them get the win for us. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t pull it off tonight.”

The Rocky Top League continues tonight with three games starting at 6 and wraps up another summer of hoops with Wednesday night’s finals.

It’s a must-see attraction, particularly if you’ve never been, with a chance to see current and former UT players in action up close. They might even end up in your lap. And it’s free.

 

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