By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
When you have played football for Army, you are forever part of a brotherhood that keeps you coming back, even when you are an active player in the National Football League.
So it was on Saturday when offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers and linebacker Josh McNary of the Indianapolis Colts returned to West Point to act as two of 10 Honorary Captains for the annual Black-Gold Spring Game.
“I am always happy to be back with the guys, and it is great to be here at West Point with them,” said Villanueva moments after the coin toss on the field of iconic Michie Stadium. “We are all part of the brotherhood and it is a humbling experience to be asked to come back here.”
McNary echoed much the same sentiments while speaking at the end of the first quarter of the offense vs. defense scrimmage-style game, which the Black won 56-38 before enthusiastic Black Knights fans.
“It is surreal to be here again during my current life as an NFL player, where I never dreamt of being in the show,” reflected McNary. “It is always a pleasure to remember and be with the quality people who are here and who have done so much with their careers, and it is an honor to be part of the Army brotherhood.”
But they weren’t the only NFL connection on-site at this sacred ground, where so many legends have taken the turf though the decades. Shafer Swann, son of NFL Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann, played for the Black team as, appropriately, a wide receiver like his father, and he already is all-in with the Cadet tradition.
“It’s been going great here as I become a member of the brotherhood,” said the 6’2” sophomore wide receiver who grew up in Pittsburgh. “The game went well today, and there’s nothing better than spending time with my teammates during the spring as we prepare for next season.”
One of those teammates shared the same thoughts as to the significance of this annual event.
“I thought everyone played well and we are on the right track heading into the season in September,” said offensive lineman Colby Enegren of Massachusetts, who sat out the game with a knee injury but will be ready for the season. “We need to transfer the success we saw here today and continue conditioning through the summer to stay with what we built this spring, and simply have a great offseason to carry into the fall.”
An upcoming season that Head Coach Jeff Monken emphasized in his inspirational post-game speech to the squad, as he thanked them for their spring performance and stressed the need for continued work during the offseason to continue the momentum into the games that count come September.