Steelman brings steely resolve to Army for Navy game

Army quarterback Trent Steelman (8) pitches the ball Army quarterback Trent Steelman (8) pitches the ball to running back Raymond Maples during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Temple in West Point. (Nov. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Trent Steelman has rolled up some impressive numbers as Army's quarterback, but probably the most imposing one is 46.

Steelman started the season opener as a freshman and every game since except for three in 2011 when he sat out with a left ankle injury. He will make the 46th and final start of his college football career Saturday against Navy at Lincoln Financial Field and no doubt add to most of the seven academy records he holds.

But to hear the 6-foot, 207-pound Kentucky native talk, you know he would love to exchange the numbers for a win Saturday and bring the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy home to West Point for the first time since 1996.

"We've always talked about finishing our career the right way," Steelman said. "To bring that trophy back to West Point would be almost unimaginable because it hasn't been done in so long. To have that feeling and to share that feeling with all the other seniors would be something special."

Steelman gave Army (2-9) a shot at the trophy last month with a 41-21 victory over Air Force, a win that broke a six-game losing streak to the service academies that play FBS football. Now he looks forward to the chance of posting the Black Knights' first victory over Navy (7-4) since 2001.

The fact that Army had close calls against the Midshipmen in each of the last two seasons makes Steelman's resolve stronger, if that's possible.

"The word 'almost,' we say it every year," he said. "We're almost there, one play here, one play there. To know that we haven't been able to close it, it's a heartbreaker. I think the past two years, we've had the same talent. We've had the same skill level, but for one reason or another, we haven't been able to cash in and close out the ball game. I think that's the biggest disappointment."

Steelman's journey into the record books almost ended before it began. After receiving no scholarship offers from FBS schools, he reluctantly chose the Black Knights. But three days into his year at Army's! prep school, he called his father to tell him he wanted to come home.

The fact that his father heard what he had to say and then hung up sent a clear message to Steelman, who stuck it out in prep school and headed to Army to be part of head coach Rich Ellerson's first freshman class.

The numbers over four years have been remarkable. His three touchdowns Nov. 17 against Temple gave him 44 for his career, breaking the academy record of 43 set by Army legend and Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis. He also holds the records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,152) and career (3,224).

However, it's the chance to compete that means the most to him, especially with his last game a few days away.

"Any time I get the chance to put on that jersey, it's always a proud moment just knowing that you're playing for the love of the game and something much bigger than going on to the next level," Steelman said. "Playing football is the best part of our day. It's a time to get away from everything else that's going on in life and just go and have fun."

The hike in fun and pride for the seniors will be exponential if they achieve their goal Saturday and live on in the memory of Army fans.

"I can think about it, but until it happens I really don't know," Steelman said. "I know that leaving this school with that type of legacy would forever have an impact on West Point knowing that the trophy is back in our hands."

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