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Legacy to uphold for Army inside linebackers

Film session for Army’s inside linebackers dove back into the team’s archives.

New position coach Justin Weaver showed James Nachtigal’s 2018 Armed Forces Bowl highlight video Tuesday. Nachtigal’s three forced three fumbles and 16 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, sparked one of the most lopsided bowl games ever, a 70-14 win over Houston.

Weaver talked to his players about living up to the legacy set by a long line of inside linebackers over Jeff Monken’s 10 years at West Point.

The list, including Nachtigal, goes on and on.

Cole Christiansen of the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

Seahawks’ linebacker Jon Rhattigan.

Andrew King.

Jeremy Timpf.

Arik Smith.

2022 leading tackler Leo Lowin.

“It’s something (the linebacker legacy) that we talk about on a daily basis because it means a lot,” said Weaver, who was Army Prep’s head coach and defensive coordinator in 2022. “I told them, ‘It’s bigger than you and the guys that have come before you have really laid a strong foundation and precedent about what it means to play linebacker at Army West Point’ and we have to make sure on a daily basis that we show that every time we stepped across those white lines.”

There’s certainly a standard to hold. One of Weaver’s first linebacker meetings was another film session of all-time great inside linebackers featuring Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis. Weaver’s early messages were clear to his players – every championship team has a great defense and every great defense has a group of great inside linebackers.  

“He’s (Weaver) preaching the fact that we need to be leaders on the field, leaders in the meeting room, leaders in the weight room, leading in the locker room,” sophomore linebacker Brett Gerena said. “Stepping up that leadership role while also playing with what I like to call swag, being nasty and violent and running to the ball. That’s what we are doing right now and doing very well.

“He wants us to be better men and he wants us to be better football players. He told us his happiness is around us and every day coming up to football and that means a lot as a coach.”

Gerena is one of five returning inside linebackers that received snaps in critical situations last season along with Lowin, Kalvyn Crummie, Spencer Jones and Cam O’Gara. The returning talent brings out a lot of competition and camaraderie within the group. It also pushes younger players to step up. Weaver mentioned freshman Andon Thomas as someone who has stood out in his first few months on the coaching staff.

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