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College Sports

Navy quarterback, attackman Xavier Arline will juggle football and lacrosse during spring semester

Navy's Xavier Arline, a junior attackman, is shown playing in a game against Colgate last season. Arline, who also took over as Navy football's starting quarterback late in the fall, will also participate in spring football practice and attend team meetings.

Navy football has a new head coach in Brian Newberry and new offensive coordinator in Grant Chesnut. Those two men are revamping the offense, tweaking the triple-option elements and adding short passing concepts.

One would think that under the circumstances Newberry would want starting quarterback Xavier Arline fully focused on football. However, Newberry believes it is important to honor a commitment made during the recruiting process, and as a result Arline will be playing lacrosse this spring.

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Arline has been participating in all lacrosse activities since practice began earlier this month and intends to do so until the season concludes in late May. It will be a spring semester spent juggling two sports as Arline is also determined to remain thoroughly engaged with the football program.

A plan to coordinate those dual commitments was formulated during a meeting involving Arline, Newberry and lacrosse coach Joe Amplo.

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“I should start by saying thanks to all the coaches, especially Coach Newberry and Coach Amplo, for the way they’ve handled this. I’m so appreciative of how open and accepting they’ve been to letting me pursue my dreams,” Arline told The Capital this week. “It’s going to take a ton of effort and sacrifice, but I have a lot of support behind me and whatever it takes to be successful in both sports I’m willing to do.”

Arline has already gotten a glimpse of the challenge ahead of him as there was a day recently when he had football and lacrosse meetings, a lacrosse weightlifting session and lacrosse practice. Twice during that day he slipped into Halsey Field House to play pitch and catch with whatever skill position players are available.

“After lacrosse practice, I take my pads off and go over to the grass field and throw the football with the receivers and slots just to stay in tune,” said Arline, noting the day in question came before spring semester classes began and his various military duties resumed.

That will be a typical daily schedule for the next five months and will get even more hectic during the four weeks in which Navy football is conducting spring practice for four weeks in March. Arline is committed to attending all position meetings and participating in all 15 spring practices for football.

“Being that I’m an offensive leader of this team, I feel it’s important to be present as much as possible,” Arline said of the football activities.”

“Like I said, it’s going to be tough and time-consuming, but in my mind well worth it. How many people get the opportunity to be a starting quarterback and starting attackman at the same time? It’s not very common and I’m blessed for the opportunity.”

Navy quarterback Xavier Arline gains 17-yards on a run in the first quarter of the Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA on Dec. 10.

Coaches compromise

There was a period of uncertainty about the dual-sport arrangement after Ken Niumatalolo was fired as football coach. After Newberry was promoted to the post, he was approached by Arline about playing lacrosse.

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Arline withdrew a commitment to North Carolina after a scholarship offer to play football and lacrosse was withdrawn. The Shoreham-Wading High product reopened his recruitment and chose the Naval Academy after Niumatalolo and Amplo jointly agreed he could play both sports.

Newberry knew about the agreement and felt bound to honor it.

“Would I love Xavier to be exclusively football? Yes,” Newberry said. “However, I also understand and respect that a promise was made during the recruiting process that he could play lacrosse.”

Newberry was mollified by what he heard during the meeting with Arline and Amplo. He received assurances from both that football would come first whenever there were conflicts between the two sports, to the point Arline might miss a lacrosse game if it falls on the same Saturday as a critical intra-squad scrimmage session or something similar.

“Xavier understands how important it is that he goes through spring camp, attends all the meetings and that his teammates see he is involved with everything. He loves football and is totally committed to this program,” Newberry said.

Arline took over as Navy’s starting quarterback for the final four games after classmate Tai Lavatai suffered a season-ending knee injury against Temple on Oct. 29. Arline directed a spirited second-half comeback versus Notre Dame, led an upset victory over No. 20 Central Florida then acquitted himself well in the Army-Navy game.

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Lavatai will not participate in spring practice while rehabilitating from knee surgery. That leaves Arline as the only quarterback on the roster with game experience. He also assumes the role of elder statesman in the quarterback meeting room, mentoring youngsters such as sophomores Teddy Gleaton and Blake Horvath.

“There is definitely a lot more responsibility on my shoulders as far as being an offensive leader. My approach is to make sure I’m being the best version of myself, coming out there with a great attitude and being a leader of the offense as a whole, being a presence out there,” Arline said. “Hopefully, showing the ropes through my actions, to guys like Teddy and Blake to understand what it takes to be the quarterback in this offense.”

Arline acknowledged the inevitability of suffering body fatigue at times during the spring semester and noted it will be important to spend extra time in the training room. A robust rest and recovery plan must also be put in place.

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Navy's Xavier Arline, a junior attackman, is shown playing in a game against Colgate last season. Arline, who also took over as Navy football's starting quarterback late in the fall, will also participate in spring football practice and attend team meetings.

Impact player

Amplo was willing to make some concessions in order to have a major impact player part of the lacrosse program. He agreed with Newberry’s assessment that Arline has the work ethic and time management skills to make the arrangement work.

“We all need Navy football to be good and Xavier is a big part of that program. We want to make sure he gets every opportunity to grow as a football player, provide leadership and be part of that team’s development for next season,” Amplo said.

However, Amplo made sure Arline’s commitment to lacrosse was at the same level as football. He sent a clear message that lacrosse is foremost on the mind whenever the talented attackman is engaged with the stick sport.

“When you’re here, you are 100% a lacrosse player. Nothing else matters. When you’re over there you’re 100% a football player,” Amplo said. “We’ll understand as long as you are fully engaged when you are with our program. Xavier is jumping in elbow deep and wants to be a leader on this team.”

Arline did not play lacrosse as a freshman in spring 2021 as Niumatalolo felt it was imperative he participate fully in spring football camp to learn the triple-option offense and develop in terms of on-field technique.

Lavatai wound up winning the starting job and Arline spent most of his sophomore season as the backup. With Lavatai established as the clear-cut starter, Niumatalolo allowed Arline to play lacrosse last spring.

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Niumatalolo allowed Arline to play lacrosse last spring, however, he sustained a hamstring injury during the 2021 Army-Navy game and was not recovered by the time lacrosse practice began. He was not full-go until a month into the season and wound up playing in just six games.

“Last year, Xavier was trying to learn through osmosis as opposed to learning through experience and participation. This year, he’s healthy and totally focused,” Amplo said. “I think the greatest difference is his mindset. This year, he knew exactly what he needed to do physically and mentally to get prepared for the start of the season.”

Arline made his collegiate debut against Lehigh on March 5, marking the first time in almost two years that he tread the lacrosse turf. He started and scored a goal against Colgate, but aggravated another injury after scoring a goal against Johns Hopkins.

“Last season was tough. Lacrosse started in January and I wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I was really at a disadvantage from the get-go. I clawed back then got hurt right before the Hopkins game, which was another setback,” Arline said. “It was humbling and frustrating mentally. I had to persevere and push through even though things weren’t going well.”

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Arline was rated the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit in the class of 2020 by Inside Lacrosse. Prospects with that type of billing are expected to become All-Americans at the Division I level. Navy fans finally got a glimpse of the impact Arline could make when he totaled two goals and two assists to spark a 12-11 overtime upset of archrival Army on April 23.

“In the Army game, Xavier was the best player on the field and was almost unguardable,” Amplo said. “Xavier does things athletically on the lacrosse field that are unique and special. He absolutely has all the tools to be one of the best players in the country.”

Arline is excited about the up-tempo philosophy being installed by first-year offensive coordinator Michael Phipps, an Annapolis native who was hired away from Georgetown. Amplo believes the dynamic attacker will thrive in the fast-paced system.

Navy spring football practice will begin in late March and last four weeks. Knowing that Arline will not be available as much, Amplo said it’s imperative for the coaching staff to accelerate his learning curve between now and then.

“If Xavier shows the aptitude that I think he has as a lacrosse player, I would be comfortable with him practicing on a limited basis then showing up on game day toward the end of the season,” Amplo said.

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Ultimately, Amplo is proud that he and Newberry have both comprised a bit in order to fulfill the recruiting pledge to Arline.

“It’s two head coaches working together to give an important athlete to this institution an opportunity to be successful,” he said. “I’m extremely confident Xavier is going to be able to handle both sports and encouraged that this will work out for all of us.”

Navy lacrosse opens the season Feb. 4 at home against Mount St. Mary’s.


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