One-on-one with Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo

A: Well, I might agree with him about the intellectual part. Sometimes there are guys who are book smart, but maybe from a football standpoint, some things don't come as fast to people. But I would say the discipline part is definitely a big part of what we do offensively. Being unselfish, what we do offensively and defensively, you can't worry about who gets the credit or the accolades. You've just got to be responsible and accountable for doing your job. I've always said that football is the ultimate team sport and being able to your job regardless of what it is. Not everybody can be the quarterback, and if you can accept your role, whether you're the long snapper or the scout team player, if you can accept your role and do it to the best of your ability, it makes your team stronger. So I'll definitely buy into the fact that having those types of kids at the academy definitely helps us with the football.

Q: It's unusual to have three weeks to prepare for the Army game. It's almost got to be like a bowl game preparationwise.

A: Well, it's the first time we've ever had this. Normally, we have a two-week break. It's the first time we've had three weeks. Last year, we were getting ready to go to Hawaii, so we spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii. Our young men never have had Thanksgiving at home. We've always been here practicing since we've been here. So this will be different for them, having this three-week break, but I think it will be good for our team and for our young men.


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Q: Being the head coach at the Naval Academy seems like a pretty cool thing. Great place to work. Great place to live. But when you took the job, it was not necessarily the perfect situation to be a rookie head coach. Paul Johnson had achieved almost legendary status here for turning the program around. Obviously, you were a big part of that, too, but were you worried that those shoes would be too big to fill?

A: I never really worried about filling any shoes because Coach Johnson and I are different people. He, obviously, was very successful. I was just trying to make sure that I could do the best job that I could do. I felt very comfortable in the fact that a lot of the coaches stayed — Coach [Buddy] Green, the defensive coordinator, Coach [Ivin] Jasper, the offensive coordinator, [defensive line] coach [Dale] Pehrson and some other guys stayed, and so, I think the transition …one good [thing] … I wasn't going to a new school trying to learn the lay of the land. I already knew it. I knew the plusses and minuses. I knew our strengths, our weaknesses. I knew I had big shoes to fill, so to speak, but I couldn't worry about that. Coaching and college sports, it's a bottom-line profession. You either win or else. When I was an assistant coach, that pressure was on. Those were the reasons I didn't really worry about it because I felt like I had a great staff and I'm a person of great spiritual belief, so I just relied on the Lord and didn't worry about the rest.

Q: You brought forward the triple-option offense, but you were part of developing the way Navy plays. That was a team effort on the part of the coaching staff. You were with Paul for a long time. Did that make it easier?

A: No doubt. I knew the lay of the land. It's like now. I'm the head coach and we're doing this interview, but I'm not doing everything. I've got two coordinators and all my other assistants and graduate assistants. Everybody in the program, our strength coaches, our athletic director and administration … it's a group effort in trying to be successful. I feel very fortunate that I have people who are very supportive from an administration standpoint and I have coaches here that know what it takes to win here, and I think that's helped the transition, and hopefully I can keep it going.

Q: Did Paul give you any sage advice on the way out the door?

A: I actually didn't see him. I was out recruiting. He had to get going with his job, and he was taking over. He had his own things to worry about starting a new program, and so he just wished me the best of luck.

Q: What do you think is the toughest part of this job?

A: That's a good question. Just trying to be successful. That's kind of a general deal, but people don't understand just how hard it is to win. Being successful because I'd love for our players to be successful because I know this is it for them, so hopefully their last memories of athletic competition will be positive ones. And also, just the thought that there are a ton of people that their livelihoods depend on us being successful — you know, my assistants and their families and their wives. So, when you've got other people relying on you to be successful and the program to be successful in order to feed your family, that's a lot of pressure.

Q: Obviously, there was a lot of focus on Ricky Dobbs early in the season. Obviously, the Army game isn't your last game. You'll have a bowl game also, but how important do you think it is for him to go out real strong against Army?

A: This is a barometer for everything … for your success as a class, as a team, in beating Army. For us, and for him, he knows that — with all the great accolades that he's accomplished and all the great feats that he's done — being able to beat Army as a starting quarterback for the years he was for two years would be the biggest feather in his cap.

Q: Do you think he got too much hype before the season and it might have affected him a little bit?

A: I don't know if it was too much hype. I think it was well-deserved. The kid had a heck of a year as a junior. But I think it affected him. I don't put it all on Ricky. I put it on myself. I don't know if I filtered it enough and helped him to kind of deal with that. But we were all rookies to that. Some of the recognition that he got in preseason, in my time here, we've never had that, so we're kind of novices to that fact. How much do we allow him to talk to people? Will this affect him? What events will we allow him to do? What won't we allow him to do? I think early on, it did affect him, but I think he's gotten over it and done well.

Q: Is there a moment in your three-plus years as coach that you could identify as the high point of that three-year period?

A: Going to the White House twice. That's always a high point, because that's our goal, to win the Commander in Chief's Trophy and take your team and your program and meet President Bush and, later on, President Obama. That's what you shoot for, so those have been great for our team to accomplish.

Q: Is there a particular disappointing moment over the past three years that kind of tugs at you?

A: Our three losses this year. Our first game, I thought we should have won, against Maryland. I felt like I could have done things better. Losing to Air Force. We hadn't lost to them in seven years. That was a huge loss. The Duke game was a big loss from the standpoint that we just came from a huge win versus Notre Dame and we didn't show up. I did a bad job as far as getting us ready, so those three losses stick out to me.

Q: Switch over to the life of a coach. It has to be quite a juggling act for anyone coaching a major college team, but you have a daughter playing major college lacrosse, a son who is going from high school to college and he's being recruited. You have a middle-school-age son. How do you do all that with an unbelievably consuming job?

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