Clint Sovie finished taking his final exams at Navy on Dec. 15, and that should've given the senior linebacker some free time to focus on football and the Midshipmen's upcoming trip to the Texas Bowl. Instead, Sovie has been busy putting his life in order as he prepares to leave the academy.
He moved out of Bancroft Hall, the enormous dormitory where he lived for much of the past 4 1/2 years. He helped his fiancee, who is heading to flight school in early January, pack up her apartment. Sovie graduated Tuesday, along with defensive end Michael Walsh, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. And he continued to practice with the football team.
"It's a huge week," Sovie said.
"He's got things hitting him from all over the place," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "I have such great admiration for him. I saw him [last] weekend and thought about saying, 'On that one kickoff [against Army], you should've taken this angle,' and then I realized that the last thing on his mind is the wrong angle he took on a kickoff."
Sovie's schedule is especially full, but it's also somewhat emblematic of what the Midshipmen have experienced since their last game, a 17-3 victory over rival Army on Dec. 12. The academy's weeklong final exam period began just three days later, cutting into the amount of time Navy (9-4) could spend preparing for Missouri (8-4), its opponent in the Texas Bowl on Thursday in Houston.
Over the past week, Navy held four practices in Annapolis; two of them began at 5:15 a.m., none lasting longer than an hour and 15 minutes. The team will fly to Texas today and have three practices and a walk-through before facing the Tigers, who finished second in the Big 12 North and have one of the nation's top passing offenses.
"It is what it is," Niumatalolo said. "At what other school could you have practice at 5 in the morning and have 95 percent of the team looking wide awake? Here, it's a normal day. We try to do the best we can with practice and meeting times."
Said senior linebacker Ross Pospisil: "This is a great team we're playing. We need to be prepared - and if we have to get up at 5 to do it, so be it."
The Midshipmen view the bowl game as a reward for a fine season, but they still have goals they can reach. Navy needs one more win to tie the school record, set in 1905 (10-1-1) and tied in 2004 (10-2). The senior class is 34-18 in its four years in Annapolis; it is 2-2 against Notre Dame, 8-0 against service academies - and 0-3 in bowl games.
"It's kind of hard to describe," Pospisil said. "We've been blessed with accomplishing so many of our goals, and [winning a bowl game] is a goal that our class - since we've been freshmen - hasn't had a chance to reach. The bottom line is, this is the last game we'll all be playing and we just want to finish strong. Don't settle for the fact that we were able to keep the Commander in Chief's Trophy; let's fight and scratch and prepare for this game."
Sovie, 24, has been thinking about this game, the last of his career, for a while. He has spent nearly a quarter of his life involved with the academy; after graduating from the Bolles School in Jacksonville in 2004, he went to the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) for a year and then on to Annapolis. Sovie missed all but two games of the 2007 season because of an ankle injury; he withdrew from school to rehabilitate, thus preserving this final season of eligibility.
He has played in 53 games at Navy and has made 27 starts. He has been in the stadium for the past six Army-Navy games; he was a spectator in 2004 (NAPS) and 2007 (injured), and a player in the other years. Sovie is the only Midshipman to have played in a bowl victory; as a freshman, he was on special teams in the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl, a 51-30 win over Colorado State.
"It's been a long but fun ride," said Sovie, who was defensive team captain last season. "I don't have any regrets. There's times when I think, 'Man, I should be done right now.' I went to NAPS with a lot of guys who've graduated, and Jeff [Deliz, a former Navy safety and 2007 team captain] is done playing, and he was my closest friend. That aspect is a little hard. But the time I've spent with the guys here, that's time well spent, too."
Sovie's life will get even busier after the Texas Bowl. He and Allie Moreland, who ran track at Navy, will marry in March. Later that month, Sovie will report to Quantico - along with Walsh and former teammates Rashawn King, Jarod Bryant, Andrew McGinn and Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada - to begin his career in the Marine Corps.
So he wants to have fun next week and savor the final few days he'll have with his teammates.
"It's one of the last moments, really," Sovie said. "We'll have reunions, but otherwise we won't see each other much. This is one of the last times we'll get to hang out and enjoy that aspect of Navy football."
NAVY VS. MISSOURI
Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
Radio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM
Line: Missouri by 6 1/2