Midshipmen 1949 - 1953
(Authentic Reproduction)


Navy hadn't posted the type of winning seasons West Point had during the War years but they had been competitive. Former standout player and then head coach from 1934 through '36, Tom Hamilton, was called in from the Pacific Fleet to take over the team in 1946. To this point in time, the Naval Academy, unlike West Point, had never hired a full-time or civilian head coach, believing that the football program like all other aspects of Academy life, should be directed by a Naval officer. Hamilton was an excellent choice and a true American hero. All American Single Wing tailback, head coach, and Naval officer, he established the fabled Navy V-5 Preflight Program that conditioned and prepared over 250,000 cadets for WW II assignments. He was captain of the carrier USS Enterprise and won commendations for the invasion of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, for the two battles of the Philippines Sea, the invasion of the Philippines, and assaults on Formosa and Iwo Jima. Later elected to The College Football Hall Of Fame, Hamilton understood the change taking place in college football and the mind-set of returning veterans. Thus he took the head job on this second go-'round at the Academy for a planned upon two year period but had poor results in 1946 and '47. With fewer than two dozen varsity players and with many leaving the Academy after the War, 1-8 and 1-7-1 with losses to Army summarized the disappointing 1946 and 1947 seasons. As Athletic Director, Hamilton took a bold step and hired Navy's first civilian coach, George Sauer. Former Nebraska All American, Green Bay Packer player, and Kansas coach Sauer, a revered player in the 1930's and member of The College Football Hall Of Fame, took the reins and was comfortable working with AD Hamilton as they had spent time in combat together on the USS Enterprise. Sauer used a passing offense but the results produced but three wins in two seasons. The 21-21 tie against third ranked Army in the '49 contest was considered to be a victory by the Middies and Sauer moved on to Baylor where he was very successful.


Eddie Erdelatz was named the new head coach for 1950. He was a former player and assistant coach at St. Mary's of California and then at the University Of San Francisco. He joined the Navy during WW II and became an assistant at the Academy. After two years as the defensive coach of the Forty-Niners, he returned to Annapolis and though agreeing to work within the confines of Navy rules and regulations, immediately angered most of the brass with his insistence upon treating his team as an entity that was quite separate from the rest of the Academy Middies. He quickly elevated the level of play despite the lack of quality depth, using coaching principles and techniques from the Forty-Niners. FB Fred Franco and swift HB Bill Powers were the keys to his first team at Navy that went 3-6 but two of the three victories were big-time games. The Middies beat highly rated USC and their flashy HB Frank Gifford and then whipped undefeated and number-two ranked Army 14-2 using a combination of the Notre Dame Box and Single Wing formations instead of their usual T-Formation. In 1951 FB Franco was the leading rusher, a former teammate of Joe Paterno at Brown before transferring to Navy. The 2-6-1 record was tempered by winning the last two games of the season which included a 42-7 stomping of an Army team depleted by the infamous "cribbing scandal". In 1952 the 6-2-1 record came from the defense, ranked second in the nation and its All American middle guard Steve "Ike" Eisenhauer. FB Franco led the team with a per-carry average of over four yards and shot-putter Bob Cameron doubled as the team's QB. FB Joe Gattuso used his wrestling skill and low-slung physique primarily at LB but also filled-in well in the backfield. Mr. California physique winner Alex Aronis took a starting OG position. Using the Split-T the only two losses came against the number one and two teams in the nation, Notre Dame and Maryland with the latter being a brutal affair that saw four Mids and three Terrapins ejected for fighting and numerous injuries.   


1953 was a significant season with the re-introduction of two-way ball and limited substitution.  Navy finished at 4-3-2 and for the first time had the entire team outfitted in Riddell plastic RT helmets that were a beautiful gold color, a standard that would last Navy into the Twenty-First Century. They were hampered by a mid-season offensive slump where they could muster but thirteen points in three games, and lost four of the final five. Named to the very first Academic All American team and also a consensus All American was two-way guard Steve Eisenhauer who was later elected to The College Football Hall Of Fame for his ferocious line play. Eisenhauer was one of the players that typified what Navy football stood for and a poster boy for all that was respected in this nation. His accomplishments, in addition to being a two-time All American and Academic All American included the procurement of two graduate degrees, one in aeronautical engineering, combat service in Vietnam where he flew 120 missions and won numerous medals for valor and bravery as a Marine, and significant community service upon his retirement from active duty. Soph QB George Welsh was a slick ball-handler and Gattuso now doubled as FB and LB with muscle-man Aronis as a two-way guard, teaming with Eisenhauer. The unique chemistry and friendship among the players on this team allowed them to play beyond their talent level and earned them the nickname, "The Team Named Desire". 


Erdelatz's "Team Named Desire", still very much intact from '53, would not be denied in '54 behind QB Welsh and All American Maxwell Trophy winner, junior end Ron Beagle. Named Eastern Champions with their 8-2 record, they decisively defeated Ole Miss 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl. FB Gattuso was the leading rusher with 525 yards and handled the punting chores. Aronis played up a level to offset the graduation loss of Eisenhauer and the defense allowed only Pitt and Army to score more than seven points. End Beagle again was All American in 1955 and finished his Navy career with sixty-seven catches for 859 yards and eight TD's, and he could thank the development of QB Welsh for assistance in his entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame. Beagle, considered to be the team's best pass rusher, was also a two-time All American lacrosse player. Out of Purcell H.S. in Cincinnati, he would pave the way for Roger Staubach years later to go from Purcell to Annapolis. Welsh set a school record of 1319 passing yards (and led the team in interceptions as a defender) and Erdelatz complimented Welsh by stating, "He's a right-handed Frankie Albert". Welsh would return in the 1970's to lead Navy football back to respectable levels as its head coach, move on to Virginia where he restored their former glory, be named ACC Coach Of The Year five times and also earn entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame. The 14-6 loss to Army cost the Middies the Eastern Championship which instead went up to West Point and kept Navy and captain John Hopkins from the Gator Bowl despite its fine 6-2-1 record and number five national ranking. Gattuso finished his athletic career at the Academy by winning twenty-one straight wrestling matches and finishing number three for the second year, in the NCAA Wrestling Championships as a 167-pounder. He was also runner-up in the Olympic Trials. 1956 found the Naval Academy ranked number sixteen by virtue of a solid 6-1-2 mark, Navy again had a potent offense, this time with QB Tom Forrestal (57 completions for 808 yards) and HB Ned Oldham. Bob Reifsnider from Baldwin H.S. on Long Island was a soph sensation and All East at tackle. They whacked Notre Dame 33-7 but were tied 7-7 by a strong Army team.

If interested in any of these Navy helmets please click on the photos below.