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President Trump presents Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to Army team of ‘fighters’

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In the third quarter of last year’s Army-Navy game, Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry broke off one of his long runs he had throughout the historic annual game.

With his eyes locked on the end zone to add to his team’s lead, Perry missed a few tackles and raced down the snowy field in Philadelphia.

Army defensive lineman John Voit then made a last-ditch effort to stop him. As he sprinted from behind, Voit lunged his 260-pound frame forward, extended his arms and tripped up Perry only 11 yards from the goal line.

A few plays later, Navy settled for a field goal — the last points it would score. Army scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and won the game, 14-13.

The victory marked back-to-back wins for the Army Black Knights against a familiar foe. It was also the first time the Black Knights had earned the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in more than 20 years. Army had beaten Air Force earlier in the season.

On May 1, President Donald Trump officially presented the trophy to players during a ceremony at the White House.

“It’s just been an awesome journey here at West Point,” said Voit, a 23-year-old senior from Wildwood, Missouri. “But for my class to be able to end our careers on that note and bring the [trophy] home and leave that kind of legacy here, it’s unbelievable. You wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”

Army went on to beat San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish the season at 10-3, which was the best record an Army team has had since the 1996 season.

In the ceremony at the White House, Voit and fellow team captain Ahmad Bradshaw gave the president a team helmet and jersey.

“When each of you stepped out on the field you had the pride of knowing that you played for Army, you won for Army,” Trump said. “And very soon you will be officers and leaders in that incredible group of heroes called the United States Army.”

Head coach Jeff Monken then stepped up to the lectern to address the crowd in the Rose Garden.

“This is not only a team of tough, talented football players. This is a team of fighters,” Monken said. “Just as they battled with the tenacity and unrelenting spirit to a 10-win season, a second-straight bowl victory and service academy dominance ... they’ll battle like warriors leading our nation’s next generation of Soldiers to victory on other fields, on other days.”

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said the team showed “grit” when it pulled off the come-from-behind win against Navy.

“It’s an important quality, an important trait that’s essential as much for football but obviously for future leaders in the United States Army,” Esper said. “And that’s what we’ll hold them in great stead in the challenges they face ahead, particularly for the graduating seniors.”

Senior Bryce Holland, who is the starting center on the team, described the White House visit as a privilege many past Army players have not been able to experience.

“The Army team hasn’t been back there since ‘96,” Holland said. “For us, it’s a huge honor to be that first team to go back there and restore everything — the trophy in the Army’s hands.”

The Navy game, he said, was a hard-fought win to secure the trophy. The snowy conditions and a formidable opponent tested the team’s perseverance. Throughout the season, he said, the team had several close games that prepared them.

“We have that culture of pushing through adversity,” said Holland, 21, of Chandler, Arizona.

When the Navy quarterback sprinted down the field during that third quarter play, Voit’s training kicked in to make the touchdown-saving tackle.

“We’re told to run after every play no matter where the ball is on the field,” he said. “I was just doing my job, just like all the rest of my teammates, and I had the opportunity to get him. I swiped at his foot and thank God he went down.”

Voit, who is branching Infantry with plans to be stationed at Fort Drum, said he is now prepared for the next challenge.

“It’s an honor. I can’t wait for it,” he said of being an officer. “I’ve been training for it ... I’m ready for the ride.”

Holland agreed and looks forward to Army life after he graduates next December.

“Being a Soldier is my No. 1 priority,” he said. “That’s the reason why I came here.”

Holland, who has been named a captain for the 2018 team, helped orchestrate a stout offensive line last season that led Army to have the nation’s top rushing attack with 362 yards per game.

While next year’s offensive line will have four new players, Holland believes there is still a lot of potential in them to form another solid offense and lead the team to a repeat.

“No doubt in my mind,” he said of the trophy. “We’re keeping it at West Point.” n