At the end of every football season, every senior that wears the Black & Gold will make that one final trip down the walkway and expect to see their all too familiar opponent standing on the other side of the field, waiting to engage in the historical Army-Navy classic. That walk is unlike no other and for the last time these seniors will charge out onto the field of Lincoln Financial and hear the roar of the Army faithful with bragging rights at stake, along with a bowl berth being just one victory away.
Most of this year's seniors didn't come to the Army with tons of fanfare and in the last four years, this group did not complied tons of victories or play in any bowl games
yet. But what this group has done is help lay the foundation for where Coach Rich Ellerson and his staff are taking the Army program.
To honor this group, GoBlackKnights.com will take a look back at some of their careers.
2009 SENIOR CLASS
The two star high school product also came into the program as a defensive end, but was eventually moved to the offensive side of the ball. His presence on the left side of the offensive line after missing several games during the early part of the season, added stability up front.
How He'll Be Remembered? It was Fritz's commitment to Army that was a major reason why his older brother, Ted transfer from playing with the Iowa Hawkeyes and join his brother as a member of the Long Gray Line.
Hill came into the program where he watched and learned, while he waited his turn. As a junior, he stepped into the starting role as the field corner and never relinquished the spot, where he started 22 consecutive games.
How He'll Be Remembered? Affectionately know amongst his fellow cornerbacks as the "old man", it was against Ball State this season, where Hill registered his first career interception with 4:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter. The interception resulted in Army getting the ball on the 41 yard line and an eventual Black Knights' score that came as a result of another first. Which was Ali Villanueva's 24-yard touchdown reception from freshman quarterback Trent Steelman. It also signaled the Steelman's first touchdown pass of his Army football career.
Battled through injuries his first two seasons, but played in all 12 games as a junior and did not miss a game during the 2009 campaign.
How He'll Be Remembered? Hunter worked extremely hard preparing for his final season in the Black & Gold and is showed, as he was voted team's most improved offensive player for the 2008 spring practice.
Coming into the season, Johnson was the seasoned veteran of a very inexperienced offensive line. It was clear in 2007 that Johnson would be a mainstay upfront and that he has been ever since.
How He'll Be Remembered? Although Army did not prevail in their game against Rutgers this season, it was Johnson's block on the Scarlet Knights' defensive end that opened the door for freshman Lonnie Liggins to hit paydirt from 17 yards out and give the Black Knights' fans a glimpse what the future slotback can do.
Prior to this season, Marren played in only one game in three years. Coming into spring ball he was "penciled" in as the backup to Josh McNary, but when the dust settled, he ended up manning the other defensive end position. Going into the final game of the season, the resurrected senior is 8th on the team in total tackles.
How He Will Be Remembered? If there is any player that has benefited from Ellerson's arrival and philosophy of getting the right player in the right position, it has been Marren. Coming into spring practice, he dug deep down inside, he was not concern with projections, but he established himself in practice and propelled himself to a starting role and was a significant contributor to this year's defense.
Prasnicki was a 2-star prospect from Rockbridge County High School (VA), and was on the Black Knights' radar early on in the recruiting process. Throughout his career, he had battle Carson Williams and Chip Bowden for starting role, and was never able to jump ahead of them. However, for his senior year he made the switch to free safety. Although he is playing behind Donovan Travis, which means little game time reps, he has been more than capable when called upon.
How He'll Be Remembered? He was a player that didn't ask questions but went out every day and tried to do his job to the best of his ability. Prasnicki has been willing to sacrifice his preferred position (quarterback) for the good of the Army team.
Despite being injured on and off throughout his career, The Florida native has been an exciting running to watch when he was able to get onto the field and get untracked.
How He'll Be Remembered? In 2008, Smith put on a one man 4th quarter show as Army beat Louisiana Tech. On just four carries, he rushed for 41 yards and scored two touchdowns, where he pulled off a 32 yard scamper on 4th & 1 during the game winning drive.
At 6-foot-3, 286 pounds, Sprague has been a constant on special teams, where his contribution has been a benefit to the Army's kicking game.
How He'll Be Remembered? Although most of his game reps have come during special teams, he has been a significant contributor on both the field goal and extra point units. For Sprague, it didn't matter if it were simply an extra point or a field goal, he played it as if it were 4th & 1 with the game on the line.
Coming out of Miami Palmetto High School, Thayer was slated as a defensive end and although he did not see action his first three seasons in the Black & Gold, his contribution as a scout player can't be measured. This season, he has appeared in all eleven contest and has registered nine total tackles and one quarterback hurry.
How He'll Be Remembered? He has been a consistent and relentless player over the last four season.
The one-time Baylor commit became known to Army fans on signing day because Coach Ross considered Ugenyi to be as a major coup for the program. But Ugenyi, who was only a two star recruit while holding offers from Army, Indiana and Baylor. With the hiring of Head Coach Rich Ellerson, which resulted in the change in defense, the Georgia native made the switch from defensive end, where he was a two year starter to tackle.
How He'll Be Remembered? Ugenyi has been consistently personable from the time he was being recruited to the present. Some may even say that he did not live up to his potential, but he has the respect and admiration of his teammates
as such he was selected as one the team's captains this season.
At 6-foot-10, 282 pounds, Villanueva , who was on his way to a stellar career as an offensive tackle was deemed as an NFL possible at that position by former New Orleans Saints All-Pro and Army Head Coach, Stan Brock. However, upon the hiring of new head coach, Rich Ellerson, Villanueva became another success story for the program's ability to maximize the potential of a player outside of their projected position. He was recently selected to the East-West Shrine game as a tight-end and you better believe that NFL scouts will be watching his play very carefully.
How He'll Be Remembered? The fact that he has surprised the heck out of everyone, including this writer, who did not have the foresight that the coaching staff demonstrated in moving the 6-foot-10, 282 Villanueva from tackle to wide receiver. The surprise has been his consistent progression as a receiver, coupled with his clutch catches throughout the season. The one that was probably the most impressive was his sideline catch in the closing drive against VMI that showed his hands, concentration and athleticism.
The one-time Arkansas Razorback commit and like Ugenyi, Williams was viewed as a "big-time" get for former head coach, Bobby Ross. At 6-foot-4, 212 coming out of high school, his was your typical pro-style quarterback that would ideal for Ross' offense. In addition to Army and Arkansas, he held offers from Vanderbilt and UAB.
How He'll Be Remembered? Not stepping away from the program that two years ago committed to running the triple option versus the pro-style offense for which Williams was recruiting for. Williams' commitment to Army football and West Point is testimony to the character of this future Army officer.
OTHERS: KYLE BATES; MATT COULTHARD; ANDREW DIEUGENIO; DEAN LISANTE; KENRIC LULL; BRIAN MCSWEEN; JOSEPH PUTTMANN; PHILLIP SMITH; KARL THOMPSON
GoBlackKnights.com would like to thank all of the Army Black Knights' 2009 senior class for their contribution over the past four years.
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