When I was 14 years old I went to the Navy football camp with nothing more then the afterthought that Navy had been very bad for most of my life. I was the smallest kid in the group, and between dropping passes and getting burned in coverage for much of the camp, I wasn't really having that good of a time.
On the second to the last night a guy who I had never heard of addressed the high school players. They said he was Navy's Head Coach, but I have to admit that at the time I didn't even know his name. He spoke in a a typical southern accent, and talked about football, life, and God. When he spoke people listened, even 14 year old kids who could barely make their freshmen high school teams, much less dream of playing Division 1-A football. When he was done, I asked one of the other guys who that was. He looked at me quizzically, and told me it was a man named Paul Johnson.
I left the next day thinking nothing of it, that it must have been just another guy in the line of Navy coaches who fielded bad teams that my Father and I would watch once or twice a year at the stadium. I had no idea that I was only months away from following the team incessantly, and just a few years away from taking that passion and starting a blog.
Five years later I can't help but think back to that moment. I grew up a Navy fan, but I didn't become one until that day in the summer of 2003 when I heard Paul Johnson speak and it clicked, at least as much as it can for a local fan anyway. I will always be a Navy fan, that will not change. Not through coaching changes, not through losing seasons, and not even through being an Army ROTC cadet. But even I can't deny that as we move closer to the inevitable decision, that a very real and tangible experience of my fandom hangs in the balance with it.