By Greg Kelly
It was a perfect day for football. In fact, perfection was improved upon that day because I got a boat ride and talked to a US Army icon. Just recently I had the great pleasure of visiting the US Military Academy at West Point, New York to see a college football game.
Making the superb trip with me were my brother and sister and we got there thanks to first class service from Seastreak ferry. I highly recommend the excursion. It offers up an exciting and enlightening atmosphere for sports fans of all ages.
The day began with a sublime boat ride from the NJ bayshore to New York—a calm, cool, and colorful morning voyage. All the way north, the outdoor air was brisk and the banks of the Hudson River were awash in stunning Fall colors (with photo opportunities galore).
When we arrived at West Point with a full boat, it looked like the game at the 38,000-seat Michie Stadium was also very well attended. Most impressive to me was the section of cheering US Army cadets, looking sharp in their white hats and shirts, bathed in brilliant sunlight.
I had heard that during Army’s glory years, in the 1940s and 50s, college football ruled supreme as America’s leading fan sport. Back then it was common for national newspapers to run several full pages of news and photos on big college football teams like Army. Now I see why.
In Army’s 50-25 blasting of Eastern Michigan University on October 12, junior running back Terry Baggett rushed for a school record 304 yards and 4 touchdowns (including a 96-yarder). We saw history. It was the first 300-yard rushing game in Army’s 120+ years of football.
A tradition during Army home games is for a ceremonial cannon to be fired when the Black Knights score a touchdown (which caused me and my sister to jump out of our seats every time). And with seven Army TDs that afternoon, there was plenty of cannon fire at West Point.
One of the people who got to fire the cannon that afternoon was Pete Dawkins. He’s the man with perhaps the greatest resume in history—West Point graduate, Heisman Trophy winner, US Army General, Rhodes Scholar, Princeton PhD, and Wall Street financier. A Monmouth County resident and frequent Seastreak passenger, Dawkins was at the game because his undefeated 1958 Army team was honored during halftime. The cornerstone of that team was Dawkins, who won the Heisman that year in addition to being team captain and class president.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Dawkins several times and I thought a quick quote from him about the game would be appropriate. After firing the cannon from the back of the end zone, Dawkins headed toward the Army sideline as halftime approached. After waiting in the stands behind him, I started after him. I couldn’t get near the guy. Dawkins, who will turn 76 next March, moved with such a determined, yet graceful, swiftness that I later told him I thought he could have played in the game that day. I think he liked hearing that.
When he got to the Army side, where he was greeted like a hero, I finally got his attention. “Today is a super day for Army football,” Dawkins said. “I’m loving it. We’ve got perfect weather and it’s always nice when Army scores lots of touchdowns.” He calls himself “a rabid football fan, college and pro.” Back on the Army gridiron that day, Dawkins seemed the most content man in the world. For a moment it looked like the king was back in his court.
He likes boats too. In a previous interview, Dawkins had told me that when he first moved his family to Monmouth County he was worried about the daily work commute to New York City. That all changed when he found about the Seastreak ferry service (click here for their schedule). He described what became an ideal set up for him—home in a fine community like Rumson (where he lived for 25 years) and to work in lower Manhattan by boat in under an hour.
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Note: Be sure to jump on board for the next Seastreak ferry trip for college football at West Point on Saturday, November 9. The Cadets will play Western Kentucky at 12 noon. The boat leaves Highlands around 8 am. Visit Seastreak.com or call 800-262-8743 for details.