By Sean Kimmons, Army News ServiceMay 6, 2019
WASHINGTON -- The Army football team visited the White House for a second year in a row Monday to reclaim its most prized possession.
For the first time ever, the Black Knights secured the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in back-to-back seasons after beating Navy in December. A win against Air Force earlier in the season completed their sweep of rival service academies.
President Donald Trump officially presented Army players with the trophy, which has been around since 1972 and is adorned with three silver footballs for each academy.
"Every time you went to the field, you proved that you [were] Army strong," he told a crowd gathered in the Rose Garden.
In his remarks, Trump also said he is considering a waiver for athletes at service academies so they can play professional sports before fulfilling their active-duty service requirement.
"We're going to see what we can do with it," he said. "I think it's a great idea and I think it's really fair, too."
Athletes now have to serve at least two years in their respective military branch before they can pursue a career in the pros.
"I would imagine it would make recruiting a little bit easier," he added.
Last season, the Black Knights finished 11-2, the most wins in school history, and were ranked 19th in the final Associated Press poll.
"This is a tough team and these are tough players," head coach Jeff Monken said during the ceremony. "They fought their way to 11 wins and 21 wins in the last two years."
Monken, who earned coach of the year honors by winning the George Munger and Vince Lombardi awards last season, said his team had "incredible loyalty" that helped them succeed.
"That has allowed them to experience record-setting success in a program with an already unbelievable football history," he said.
Last season ended with a 70-14 rout over the Houston Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 22, giving Army its third straight bowl win. Army's 70 points tied a Football Bowl Subdivision record for points scored in a bowl game.
In that game, quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. rushed for 170 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that was the longest in Army bowl history.
Hopkins, a junior at the U.S. Military Academy, also became the first Army player to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in a single season.
"We were blessed to have a great season last year," Hopkins told the crowd. "We're looking for [another] great one next year. Go Army!"
The sweetest victory came Dec. 8 in Philadelphia against Navy in what is also known as "America's Game" and one of the biggest rivalries in college sports.
Army held Navy scoreless for much of the game until the Midshipmen scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and then a field goal with less than 30 seconds left. An onside kick then failed and Army pulled away, 17-10, for its third consecutive win over its rival.
Trump, who attended the game, congratulated the Army players on a great season and thanked the cadets for their selfless commitment to the country.
"The lessons you learn on the football field will help you to lead on the battlefield," he said. "And hopefully we won't have too many battles, because we're building a military so strong that nobody is going to mess with us."
Monken also expects more accomplishments for his players once they commission to Army officers.
"Just as this team fought this year against opponents who wanted to take their place on the victory stand, they'll fight against those who want to take what's ours as a nation," he said.