Sept. 13, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
Just days away from the start of the 2011 Navy sprint football season, NavySports.com spent some time with senior captains Zzmarr Stone and Matt Williams. Stone, the team's defensive captain, and Williams, the offensive captain, and the rest of the Midshipmen will open the season on Saturday with the Allegiance Bowl in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., against Army.
Talk about practice leading up to the start of the season and how the team has progressed.
Matt: I think we're starting to feel a lot better. The learning curve is pretty steep to start the season, so things are coming together well now. We've felt really confident in the last few practices and are getting excited for the season to begin.
Zzmarr: I'm very excited. We lost a lot of key components from last year, but a lot of the new guys are stepping up and it looks promising.
Talk about some of the guys that you have noticed stepping up in practice so far.
Zzmarr: Defensively, Will Parker is stepping up - making the switch to our strong side linebacker position. T.J. Leonard is looking really good, too. Alec McGlaughlin and Steve Meidus have looked really good so far, so I'm excited to see what they can do.
All in all, it's a young team and they are all performing to our expectations.
Talk about what losing the final game of last season did to motivate you for the offseason and in preseason practices.
Zzmarr: It definitely fueled the fire during the summer and we're counting down the days until the season starts. It brought us closer together as a unit and we're just itching to play.
Matt: It's really given us something to strive for this past offseason. We also got some encouragement from some past Navy sprint football players as well.
Now that you are both seniors entering your last season, have you had a different mindset coming into this fall.
Matt: I guess it will be our last year of playing football. We're trying to take it day-by-day and only trying to worry about making the team better.
Zzmarr: I had a moment last week when I was with a few of the defensive guys at lunch. We were bonding and I tried to just take it all in. We've got a lot of expectations to live up to and a legacy to uphold, so there is a little pressure, but nothing that we can't handle.
I'm definitely trying to enjoy each moment as it comes.
Going into your last season in 2011, do you have a favorite sprint football memory?
Matt: For me, I would say it was after we beat Army my sophomore year. We had just come back to beat Army in a great game. It was just a great time after the game with my teammates.
Zzmarr: I don't think I could top the 2009 Army game. It was the perfect way to end a season.
Do either of you have any game day rituals or routines that you need to follow to get prepared to play?
Matt: I've never really been a superstitious person. I know some people have some crazy routines, but I just listen to the same music before games.
Zzmarr: I have a superstition that I always need to wear mismatched socks. I also listen to the same song for pregame on my iPod.
I always try to get a good night's sleep two nights before the day of a game.
You're entering your second season with Maj. Maury as head coach and also have several of your former teammates now on the coaching staff as assistants. Talk about your comfort level with the coaching staff as you enter this season.
Zzmarr: At first, when you have a new coach or coaches, you're kind of feeling each other out and there is always that intimidation factor. Now we feel more comfortable in both approaching Coach as players, and also as captains, to let him know what's going on, as well as being more receptive to feedback.
The coaching staff is very receptive and we have a lot of feedback and communication.
Matt: We're definitely a lot more comfortable. In getting a new coach last season, there was some uncertainty in the offseason as to who the assistants would be. I was around most of this summer and the coaches were always in watching film and preparing for the season.
I think Coach Maury is a lot more comfortable with us as players this season, too.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
Zzmarr: I'm not sure if I'll stay in the Navy - I'm taking that a day at a time. I definitely want to own my own business. I'd like to get my master's degree and hopefully be starting a family by then, but we'll see.
Matt: I'm going to take my service one day at a time and will stay in as long as I'm enjoying what I'm doing.