Philadelphia Four months ago, linebacker Brian Zickefoose thought playing in the Army-Navy game might be the defining moment of his four years at West Point.
"After Sept. 11, though, I realized pretty quickly that football is down here," Zickefoose said, holding a hand near his left knee, "and that being in military service is up here," he said, raising the hand above his head.
"When you lose a football game, no one loses a life. It's just football," he said. "What these guys are going to be doing in six months is much more important."
The 102nd Army-Navy game Dec. 1 will take on new significance as a result of the terrorist attacks.
More than usual, fans are aware that the young soldiers on the field and thousands more in the stands are facing an unsure future that could include combat service.
Even the players for whom the Army-Navy game transcends the entire season have found themselves looking ahead to life after football.
"It has been difficult this year to maintain focus," Army coach Todd Berry said.
Many players, Berry said, have been anxious to finish with school and football and get into action in Afghanistan or wherever they are needed.
Navy linebacker and team captain Jake Bowen said his teammates are looking forward to the challenge, "maybe even more" than the Army-Navy rivalry.