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Before Army-Navy battle, Lutherville midshipman carries ball to Philadelphia

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Any graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis is expected to emerge with leadership skills intact, but Midshipman First Class Tim Cadigan was chosen this week for an opportunity to add a highly visible and prestigious honor to his resume.

Cadigan, a Lutherville native and graduate of Calvert Hall College High School, is in charge of the Naval Academy's 30th annual running of the Army-Navy game ball, which began Friday afternoon in Annapolis was slated to end 125.5 miles later at the 50-yard line of Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

"It is really one of the greatest opportunities I've had to learn all of the skills that are necessary to be a good junior officer and a good leader," Cadigan said.

The 21-year-old said the football run is one of the only events that's conceived, planned, coordinated and executed completely by midshipmen, which puts a lot of pressure on him and his fellow organizers to ensure everything is done correctly.

Cadigan said for years, a brigade activities committee organized a ball run up to the site of the annual Army-Navy game, but that ended in 1982.

In an effort to keep the tradition alive, an officer recognized that each company had just enough people to handle the ball run itself. Every year since — with the exception of 1983's game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Cal. — the 13th Company has left Bancroft Hall the day before the big game to deliver the game ball.

"What better way to ensure we have good luck on Saturday morning than to make sure we get unlucky number 13 out?" Cadigan said.

In his previous three years at the Naval Academy, Cadigan and the 13th company have done their part in the Naval Academy's victories over Army on the final Saturday of college football season.

Last year, Cadigan was second in charge of the run to FedEx Field in Washington, D.C. But instead of simply running down Route 50 Saturday morning, the 13th ran up through Baltimore and Towson and spent the night at the Fire Museum of Maryland, which Cadigan said is "30 seconds from his house."

This year, the ball will be carried through Baltimore City, past the Inner Harbor and up Bel Air Road to Route 1, which will bring the company to its overnight resting place at a firehouse in Oxford, Pa.

Though he doesn't get to bring his classmates home to Lutherville this year, Cadigan and his fellow fourth-year classmates are hoping to start a new tradition once they arrive at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday morning.

In years past, the company has been treated to a small breakfast outside of the stadium with doughnuts and coffee. It sufficed, but was relatively informal.

This year's reception will include many parents — including his own — bringing all kinds of breakfast sandwiches, souffles, bagels and doughnuts, to be cooked up on a grill and enjoyed in a camper. Cadigan hopes it will set a new precedent and allow the midshipmen who have lived with each other for four years to spend a special morning with each other's families, and get to know one another in a different way.

For Cadigan's own family, the knowledge of how much work their son has put into the logistics of the annual run will make this weekend even more special.

His father, John Cadigan said Tim, the oldest of five siblings, was excited about his placement in 13th company during his plebe summer. Combined with the workload of his honors history thesis and the day-to-day pressures of being a midshipman, John Cadigan said it's been "a jam-packed fall" for his son.

"He tends to want to do things to the letter and the best of his ability," John Cadigan said. "That's kind of his hallmark, so I know he was really pleased when he got some really positive feedback (on his efforts) from some higher-ups at the academy."

John Cadigan said the Army-Navy game is a proud day for parents of students at both academies. But knowing the work Tim and his classmates have put in to carry on the long-standing tradition of the game ball trek to midfield will be up there with graduation and his commissioning in May as his proudest as Tim's father.

"It's certainly something I know I'll never forget," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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