Larry Dixon fought successfully to stay dry eyed as he made his post-game comments, but once he reached Army head coach Jeff Monken — the first of three people he embraced as he left the room — there seemed neither a desire nor even a possibility that he was going to maintain that status. A team captain. The Black Knights’ leading rusher. An Army player who went four seasons without a victory over Navy. And, now, a player who had almost certainly played his last-ever game.
“You talk about being a senior and playing in your last game, but they don’t ever prepare you for the last tine leaving the locker room,” Dixon said after Army’s 17-10 defeat to Navy Saturday. “My freshman and sophomore and junior years it was easier to leave the locker room because we weren’t that close as a team. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was part ways with my teammates right there. At the very least what coach Monken has done, and I’m grateful for that, is that he that he created a family. I truly feel like these guys are my family.”
Looking first at fellow senior Joe Drummond on his right and sophomores Josh Jenkins and Jeremy Timpf on his left, Dixon said, “Joe is my older younger brother and these guys are my younger brothers. I really feel like we’re tighter than we’ve ever been and at the very least I have to say thank you for that, because it was big.”
“When it comes to this program going forward though, we know we’re leaving it in very, very capable hands,” he said. “This staff has done a fantastic job this past year to really getting Army football back to relevancy and back to competitive greatness. That’s the only thing that could possibly be in our future. You look at the juniors, the sophomores and the freshmen who will be upperclassmen next year, we’re leaving behind some tremendous leaders and some tremendous players and they’re only going to get better as their time here goes ahead. I’m excited to see what Army football does in the future.”
After a 4 – 8 season — including the Black Knights’ 13th straight loss to Navy — Monken has no business claiming his work is even remotely close to done. Nor does he. The Black Knights did win one more game this season than last, and as opposed to last season’s 34-7 loss to Navy, they remained competitive against the Midshipmen. Of course, that could be also perceived as window dressing, and Monken never gives off vibes as an interior decorator.
“I am excited about the future of this program,” he said. “I wasn’t delusional thinking that everything was going to change at the snap of a finger when I entered the room saying these are the changes I am going to make. Those things take time and it takes more than a season. It takes building a program from the bottom up and getting the philosophy and the culture where I feel it needs to be in order for a championship football program. I think we are well on our way, but we haven’t gotten there yet. I am absolutely confident that we will get there.”
Dixon, despite leading the Black Knights in both rushing (90) and receiving (20) yardage Saturday, still felt the need to absorb much of the fault for the loss.
“I feel like I let my team down,” he said. “I let the players around me down and so it’s going to be hard to go through that and think about that.”