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After death of Army cornerback, Navy football coaches offer show of support

After death of Army cornerback, Navy football coaches offer show of support
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, right, greets Army coach and close friend Jeff Monken after their meeting last year. (Matt Rourke / AP)

During the early morning hours of Sept. 11, Army cornerback Brandon Jackson was killed in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., in a one-car accident. He was 20 years old.

His funeral Monday in New York brought together hundreds of people, including 10 busloads of U.S. Military Academy cadets who made the trip from West Point, Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken and one of Monken's closest friends: Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo.

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Monken worked as an assistant for Niumatalolo in Annapolis from 2002 to 2007, and even rooted for the Midshipmen against Army in 2013 — just two weeks before he was hired away from Georgia Southern and named head coach of the Black Knights.

So even with the two service academies undefeated and poised for a potentially huge Dec. 10 meeting in Baltimore, Niumatalolo was there for his friend, along with members of his coaching staff.

That's the essence of the Army-Navy rivalry: fierce on the field, civil off it. Monken reportedly plastered "Beat Navy" posters up throughout the Black Knights locker room and practice facility as soon as he was hired, while Niumatalolo was conflicted — probably still is, too — about having to face his former colleague annually.

"I was happy because that's what he wanted, but of all the jobs, you had to pick Army? Couldn't you have picked another job?" Niumatalolo told The Washington Post in 2014. "I'm happy for him. I just wish it was at another school."

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