PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Cole Christiansen wasn’t sure he would ever serve in the military, but a football camp in Hampton Roads led the Suffolk native to West Point — and to being a team captain in the 119th Army-Navy Game.
At the game in Philadelphia, the junior linebacker who attended Suffolk’s Nansemond-Suffolk Academy will be looking to help Army win its 10th football game and gain its third consecutive win over Navy.
So what’s it feel like to be leading Army in one of college football’s most prestigious games?
Christiansen is taking a smooth approach and not over-hyping his role going into his third Army-Navy Game.
“I feel a heightened sense of responsibility,” he said. “But I think my focus and my preparation – and my role in the defense – hasn’t changed. It’s just a little more voice and a little more responsibility.”
Christiansen isn’t a newcomer to a college football field. The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound linebacker has played in all 11 games in the 2018 season for Army.
He also played in every game in 2017 and six as a freshman in 2016, making the Hampton Roads native one of the most productive players for West Point from its 2016 recruiting class.
While he has thrived at West Point, it took a local university to actually help Christiansen first get scouted by Army.
Christiansen first was introduced to West Point through Old Dominion University at a football camp. The workouts and camp would lead him to an offer from Army’s defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, who was working the camp that Christiansen participated in.
“I knew what West Point was, but I didn’t know the gravity of how substantial this place really is,” Christiansen said. “And once I went and researched it, I knew that I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t come here.”
The decision is one that will lead him to the rank of second lieutenant in the Army once he finishes his schooling in 2020 — and one that he has learned a lot from outside of the football field.
Christiansen says that as much as he loves talking about football, he loves informing people about the broader parts of service that committing to West Point entails. He says the daily grind of school work and football that keeps his schedule as a cadet busy are the parts that he likes discussing when talking about West Point with others.
So what would a win over Navy feel like for the Army captain?
“It would mean a lot, because it was my objective coming here,” Christiansen said. “I wanted to be at the highest position I could be as fast as I could get there. And to win in the biggest game that we play. It would be a pretty incredible experience.”
While Army (9-2 overall) is favored over Navy (3-9 overall), Christiansen knows how hard it will be playing against an offense that that he says exposes weaknesses in defenses and can beat you with toughness.
“Being the tougher team (will win). It is a fistfight every year, no matter what the record is on either side. It’s a dog fight. So whoever the tougher teams is usually wins.”
The Suffolk native, who admits going home is like going into enemy territory with the abundance of Navy installations in the Hampton Roads area, will be wearing 54 for Army. He says his immediate family will be in attendance for the game.
You can watch the game Saturday at 3 p.m. on News 3.