Calvin Cass made his college decision and left his family with a dilemma Sunday.
Whom will they root for when Army plays Navy?
Cass, a St. Augustine Prep senior running back, verbally committed to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Cass' father, also named Calvin, graduated from West Point in 1990. The elder Cass played running back for Army.
"My mom (Marshella) came up with an idea of wearing a shirt that says 'Beat Army' on one side and 'Beat Navy' on the other," said Cass, a resident of the Sicklerville section of Winslow Township. "She doesn't want to show any bias between her son and her husband. But my sisters are on the Navy bandwagon right now."
Cass, 17, said he is prepared for the disciplined life at a military academy.
"Being that my dad graduated from West Point, I was raised in household where (military academy) values are what I value every day," Cass said. "It will be about maintaining what I already have as a value standard in my household."
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Cass carried 257 times for 2,001 yards last fall. He scored 37 touchdowns and was named a first-team Press All-Star. St. Augustine finished 8-2 and won the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference.
Cass was one of the region's most durable backs. He carried 53 times for 261 yards and three touchdowns as the Hermits beat Cedar Creek 41-40 in overtime on Thanksgiving to clinch the conference championship.
Cass visited the Naval Academy over the weekend. The Midshipmen finished 8-5 under coach Ken Niumatalolo this past season. Cass said the Navy coaching staff figured prominently in his decision.
"They're genuine," he said. "They care about every player. They take the time to make sure that you personally are getting better off and on the field. They understand that going to the Academy is not just about football. It's about education and becoming a leader."
Students must be nominated to attend the Naval Academy. This nomination can come from several sources, including members of Congress, the president, the vice president, Navy reserve officers and children of military personnel killed in action. Cass said his nomination was part of the recruiting offer Navy made to him.
Cass must serve five years in the Navy after graduating. He admitted that commitment caused him to pause before making his decision. But conversations with current Navy players eliminated any doubts he had.
"They told me to look at it as coming out of college with a job, especially in this economy" Cass said. "After you've done your five years, you're set for anywhere you want to go because you came from the Naval Academy. They put me at ease with it."
St. Augustine coach Mark Reardon said Cass has the perfect temperament and personality for a military academy.
"It's how the kid is wired," Reardon said. "He's a very motivated, tough, hard-nosed type of kid who wants to be great in everything he does. That's the prescription for the military academies."
Cass' story is an unusual one. He played wide receiver for most of his first three seasons at St. Augustine. He shifted to running back toward the end of his junior season and was an immediate success. Cass rushed for a CAL-record 336 yards in his first start, a 34-13 win over Paul VI on Nov. 11, 2011.
"He's a talented kid. He's a tough kid, and he's a hard worker," Reardon said. "When you have those three components, eventually you rise to the top. That's what you're seeing."
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