Midshipmen 1971 - 72
(Authentic Reproduction)



In 1971 there was improvement, despite injuries, as the team went 3-8 with a few close losses, including the 24-23 heart-breaker to Army. Sub QB Fred Stuvek passed for 1125 yards in relief of injured Al Glenny with end Larry Van Loan catching forty-one of those. Again it was MLB Chuck Voith, with twenty-four tackles against Duke and DT Glen Nardi as the defensive cogs. For the Army game, Forzano added one-inch white flanking stripes to the gold shell for a distinctive look which may have inspired Navy to a terrific performance despite the close 24-23 loss which was played in front of 97,047 screaming fans, the year's second largest crowd for all of college football. Van Loan broke a collarbone after only one reception and unsung George Berry stepped into to fill the void, teaming with QB Stuvek for heroics that almost resulted in a great win. In 1972 Navy wore the plain gold helmet but again added the one-inch flanking stripes worn in the '71 Army game, for the September 23rd game against Penn State, the following week's contest against Boston College, and as a motivator in the November 4th game against Notre Dame in Philadelphia. Wearing the alternate helmet may have helped in the 27-20 win over BC but the Middies dropped the other two, the Notre Dame game by a brutal 42-23 margin. The 4-7 record was very much a product of the 1046 record-breaking yards gained by 5'9", 180-pound RB Cleveland Cooper. Stuvek and Glenny again split QB duties and WR Bert Calland filled in for the injured Larry Van Loan, ranking nationally with 61 receptions for 650 yards. LB Chuck Voith and All East DT Nardi finished their careers as the defensive leaders. On February 1, 1973, Forzano, with a 10-33 record, resigned to join the Detroit Lions as an assistant. When Lions head coach Don McCafferty suffered a fatal heart attack in 1974, Forzano became the new head coach, resigning on October 4, 1976 as the team failed to respond to his leadership. He left coaching to begin a successful business career. 


Former Navy QB of their great "Team Named Desire" George Welsh was brought in as the new head coach from his position as backs coach at Penn State where he had been for ten years. After graduation, Welsh had been Navy's QB's coach under Wayne Hardin and completed his active duty before coaching at Penn State under both Rip Engle and Joe Paterno. A stickler for fundamentals, he was convinced he could win at Navy and do it the right way. He returned to the traditional gold shell and went back to basics. He had RB Cleveland Cooper who ran for 898 yards but little depth on either side of the ball. WR Larry Van Loan missed most of the season with injury and the receiving chores fell to Bert Calland. The defense began to come on with the play of DE Tim Harden and DB/Monster Chet Moeller who sparked the 51-0 blasting of Army and overall 4-7 mark. 1974 brought another 4-7 finish but there was more improvement. RB Cooper who also enjoyed playing the saxaphone, finished his career as Navy's all-time rushing leader with 2582 yards. Welsh experimented with 225-pound Bob Jackson at QB in his option offense but moved him to HB. The 7-6 upset of Penn State featuring thirteen tackles by DB Chet Moeller and another victory over Army, this time by 19-0 giving Welsh two straight shutouts, highlighted the year. Rover/DB Chet Moeller received a number of All American mentions.


At 7-4 1975 was marked as the Midshipman's first winning season since '67 and again, they prevailed over West Point 30-6. The defense was the key, ranking third in the nation with DB/rover Chet Moeller making first-team consensus All American. NG Jeff Sapp, a quick 199-pounder, was the primary line force. The offense featured wingback Joe Gattuso, son of the Fifties Middie star and big Bob Jackson at RB who moved up to number-two on the all time rush list, passing great Joe Bellino by three yards. 1976's record dipped to 4-7 but once again, Welsh had the magic against Army, defeating the Cadets by 38-10, and they played Notre Dame tough in a 27-21 loss. NG Jeff Sapp picked up the slack for the departed Moeller and was named to a few second and third All American teams but the strength of the defense was in the linebackers and secondary. The offense was picking up behind QB Bob Leszcznski who threw for 1154 yards, and Memphis-area battering ram Larry Klawinski at FB. Moving wingback Gattuso to RB made him the team's leading rusher with Phil McConkey becoming the main receiving target. The 5-6 mark in '77 was sullied by Welsh's first loss to Army in a close 17-14 game. FB's Klawinski, and soph Kevin Tolbert of Long Island's Malverne High School ran the ball in support of TB Gattuso who set a single-season rushing record of 1292 yards while QB Bob Lezscznski threw for over 1500 yards. WR McConkey became the best punt return man in the Academy's history, ranking third in the nation with 257 return yards.


With QB Leszcznski, RB's Larry Klawinski, Kevin Tolbert, and newcomers Steve Callahan (766 yards) and Mike Sherlock, the '78 attack was potent, especially when augmented by the receiving of McConkey from the flank. He doubled as a feared return man and although he served his full service commitment, he ironically suffered from severe seasickness and became a helicopter pilot instead of serving on a ship at sea. When his service commitment was completed, he became a popular New York area personality, playing for the Giants primarily in a return role in 1984 and '85, going to the Packers for four games in '86, and then returning to the Giants for the remainder of that season through '88. He finished another three NFL years with the Eagles and Chargers. Winning the first seven games made for the 9-3 record that included a 28-0 shutout of Army and then a big Holiday Bowl win over BYU 23-16 as O-linemen Mike Dolan and Frank McCallister found their niche and paved the way for the talented backs. The defense was paced by All East DT John Merrill and rover Gregg Milo. FB's Tolbert and Klawinski returned as a one-two punch in 1979 with TB's Steve Callahan, Mike Sherlock, while Duane Flowers was limited by injury. This allowed newcomer Eddie Meyers to shake things up. TE Curt Gainer assumed the primary receiver role, augmented by WR Greg Papajohn. Guard McCallister manned the front line. Rover Gregg Milo, S Fred Reitzel, and DT John Merrill were defensive standouts. The 31-7 victory over Army with Eddie Meyers rushing for 278 yards, and a good defensive performance against Notre Dame in a 14-0 loss highlighted the 7-4 season.


1980's 8-4 season can be summed up with: "TB Eddie Meyers rushes, FB Kevin Tolbert blocks". Fred Reitzel, the best DB on the squad, was moved to QB with success with Greg Papajohn as his go-to WR. Center Mike Dolan and OG Frank McCallister were steady up front and again, Welsh had a terrific defense with MG Tim Jordan considered an "All" candidate by most and assistant coach Steve Bresnahan's son Chuck playing a great LB. The defense was sixth in the nation and posted eleven INT's. They defeated Army 33-6 but got bombed in the Garden State Bowl 35-0 by an aroused and intimidating Houston team.

1981 was a bit disappointing relative to expectations. Playing Ohio State close in a 31-28 Liberty Bowl loss with Eddie Meyers the game MVP, was no consolation after suffering a 3-3 tie with Army and finishing 7-4-1. Eddie Meyers was the story, especially with 298 yards and four TD's against Syracuse and a new Navy single-season rushing record of 1318 yards. Meyers finished his Annapolis career with 2935 yards, a record later broken by College Football Hall Of Famer Napoleon McCallum but he blazed a trail that softened Navy pro league eligibility rules by using his Marine Corps annual leave time to play for the Atlanta Falcons for six consecutive pre-seasons which allowed McCallum to play for the Oakland Raiders a few seasons later. The tough defense was led by MG Tim Jordan and LB's Chuck Bresnahan and Andy Ponseigo. Welsh shocked the brass with his decision to resign. They were extremely pleased that his teams were competitive, provided winning seasons, beat Army consistently, and most importantly, that unlike other Navy coaches who had managed to provide winning records, never asked for special privileges for the team or individual players. As a former Midshipman, he insisted that the players participate in every aspect of Academy life and complete all of their academic and military responsibilities. The team had outstanding morale since his arrival and he had gone a long way in repairing the ill-will that existed for years between the Brigade and the team due to resentment over the special treatment the team members had received in the past. Feeling he needed to move on, Welsh filled the Virginia head coaching vacancy and turned their program around as he had done at Navy, making them consistent winners until his retirement in 2000. Welsh was voted into the College Football Hall Of Fame for his great work. Gary Tranquill was hired from the West Virginia staff, a former QB and receivers coach under Welsh at the Academy, and guided the 1982 team to a 6-5 record which unfortunately, would be the last winning record that Navy had until 1996.

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