Several institutions and universities have unveiled space-themed uniforms in recent years; none have been represented in outer space anywhere near as much as the Naval Academy.
The Naval Academy announced on Monday its football team will wear astronaut-themed uniforms for its annual game against archrival Army on Dec. 10 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This year’s specialty uniforms have been titled “From the sea to the stars.”
Navy athletics and Under Armour partnered to design the alternate uniforms, receiving special permission from NASA to include two historic logos.
“Under Armour has done a great job over the years. This is a great theme and I know our kids are really excited about it,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We use that a lot in recruiting — that we have more astronauts than any other school. Obviously, that’s a pretty prestigious honor and to be able to encapsulate that with these uniforms is pretty sweet.”
The official “meatball” logo, a blue sphere with NASA emblazoned across, has been incorporated onto the sleeve of the football jersey. Meanwhile, the “worm” logo, big block red lettering spelling out NASA, is prominently displayed on the helmet.
The white uniform with red stripes and the American flag mimic markings on the NASA spacewalk suit. The Helvetica font was used for the numbers and wordmark. This typeface has been used by NASA extensively for decades, from the space shuttle to signage and printouts. It is one of the most ubiquitous typefaces in the world.
The gloves are white and red with the astronaut pin on the palms.
The pants’ side panels feature the NASA astronaut pin which was adopted in 1963. It was first given to Mercury 7 astronauts. The silver pin is awarded to astronauts after completing basic training and the gold pin is awarded after completion of a spaceflight mission.
Greg Morgenthaler, Navy’s associate athletic director for equipment operations, works closely with Under Armour on alternate uniforms. Morgenthaler said the idea to highlight the academy’s connection to NASA and outer space has been discussed since 2018.
“This uniform design has been four years in the making and it was only a question of when it would be used,” he said.
Other programs that have used space-themed alternate uniforms include Air Force, which recognized the newly-created U.S. Space Force with specialty uniforms it wore for the service academy showdown against Navy. Central Florida and Rice have also won uniforms reflecting their locational ties to the space program.
The Naval Academy has a proud and unmatched lineage of graduates joining the space program. Alan Shepard was the first and Nicole Aunapu Mann is the most recent of 54 graduates who have become astronauts.
Shepard, a 1945 graduate of the academy, was a pioneer as one of the initial seven NASA astronauts and the first American to go into outer space. Shepard’s second space flight was on Feb. 5, 1971, when Apollo 14 landed on the moon and he went on two moonwalks.
In 1985, Naval Academy graduate Bruce McCandless II (Class of 1958) took the first untethered spacewalk, venturing further away from the confines and safety of a ship than any previous astronaut.
The helmet features individually hand-crafted paintings of the iconic photo of McCandless untethered with the Earth in the background. That photo famously appeared in National Geographic and the Naval Academy Athletic Association made contact with the widow and son of McCandless to gain permission to depict the groundbreaking astronaut as part of the helmet design.
The other side of the helmet features the classic NASA logo with the Moon behind it. The astronaut pin is also depicted on the stripe of the helmet from front to back.
The cleats are all white to mimic the astronaut moon boots with shiny dots to represent stars. The socks are royal blue with a red navy word mark inside of the iconic NASA “worm” logo patch.
Aunapu Mann, who played varsity soccer at Navy, became a NASA astronaut in June 2013 and was launched to the International Space Station as commander of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Oct. 5.
This marks the 14th consecutive season the Midshipmen will wear special uniforms for what has been billed as “America’s Game.”
The tradition began in 2008 and Under Armour has partnered with the Naval Academy Athletic Association in the past to create uniforms that have paid homage to the Marine Corps, U.S. Navy fleet and Navy football’s two Heisman Trophy winners, among other themes.
One of the more popular designs was the “Don’t Tread on Me” uniforms that incorporated elements of the First Navy Jack used by the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. Those uniforms featured that famous phrase, 13 red and white stripes and a moving rattlesnake.
Last season, the Midshipmen sported “Fly Navy” uniforms, which recognized the fighter jets the service utilizes along with the aircraft carriers that launch them.
“Every year, the uniform gets tougher to top. That said, I think this year’s is the best uniform, from head to toe, that we’ve ever done,” Morgenthaler said. “We did not leave any detail unturned.”
Members of the Navy football team gathered in the IMAX theater inside the Terwilliger Center during the lunch hour to see the uniforms for the first time. Following a video presentation, former wide receiver now graduate assistant Marcel Gleaton walked into the theater fully dressed in the uniforms and the players went wild, Morgenthaler said.
Morgenthaler said three Naval Academy graduates who served as astronauts — Aunapu Mann, Chris Cassidy and Kayla Barron, served as consultants for the uniform design. Aunapu Mann is slated to deliver a spirit spot from outer space that will be broadcast during the Army-Navy game.
Army vs. Navy
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Saturday, Dec. 10, 3 p.m.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 1430 AM