Advertisement
College Football

Kip Frankland ‘all in’ for responsibility of wearing No. 68 in honor of fallen Navy football player David Forney

As a plebe in the Navy football program, Kip Frankland held the senior offensive linemen in the highest regard.

Center and captain Ford Higgins set a great example for how to carry yourself as a Navy football player. However, the most awe-inspiring blocker was left guard David Forney — the biggest and baddest of the bunch.

Advertisement

“I really looked up to that whole crew of seniors — David, Ford and Kendel [Wright]. Those guys were what we wanted to be,” Frankland said of his fellow 2019 freshmen. “Dave was a real role model. You had to love the way he played the game.”

Forney was a real road grader, steamrolling any defender that got in his way. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Walkersville resident was named first team All-American Athletic Conference after anchoring an offensive line that paved the way for Navy to set a single-season school record with 4,687 rushing yards.

Advertisement

Coaches use video clips from that season as a tutorial for how to block some of the staple triple-option plays. One of Frankland’s favorites features Forney on a trap play against Tulane.

“It’s Dave putting a guy in the dirt. He stands up, talks some smack then throws his hands in the air,” Frankland said. “I watch that clip at least once a month. It’s awesome.”

Forney was preparing to audition for NFL scouts at various combines when he died Feb. 20, 2020, after being found unresponsive in his dormitory room at Bancroft Hall. The 22-year-old died of sudden cardiac arrest, the state medical examiner ruled after an autopsy.

Navy did not issue Forney’s No. 68 for the 2020 season, although senior Billy Honaker wore it during the Army-Navy game as a tribute to his former running mate. Equipment manager Greg Morgenthaler put No. 68 back into circulation last season and it was decided it would be worn by the offensive lineman who best exhibited the traits displayed by Forney.

Starting center Pierce Banbury wore No. 68 last season and Frankland has become the second player selected. Offensive line coach Ashley Ingram pulled Frankland aside and made sure he understood there was a sense of responsibility that came with doing so.

“I wanted to make sure Kip wanted to wear the number because there’s a bit of a burden that goes along with it,” Ingram said.

Frankland did not hesitate, stating that he was “all in” with honoring Forney throughout the 2022 season. The Tennessee native, one of three team captains, walks around the academy campus wearing a memorial bracelet — known as a “steel heart” — that has MIDN 1C David Forney, February 20, 2022 etched onto it.

After being chosen to wear No. 68, Frankland called Rick Forney and promised to properly honor his fallen son. The 6-foot-1, 306-pound senior right tackle talks to the younger offensive lineman “all the time” about Forney and his legacy.

Advertisement

“I want to play my butt off at all times because whenever the Forney family watches Navy games, I want them to feel like they’re watching Dave,” Frankland said. “No 68 at Navy is never going to get tossed around. ... You need to have a chip on your shoulder and an angry attitude when you wear No. 68.

“I’m pumped to go out and represent myself and David.”

Forney started all 13 games, rarely missing a play during the 2019 season despite being in constant pain from nagging injuries. Frankland was the only Navy offensive lineman to start every game last season despite having a torn labrum that required him to wear a special shoulder harness.

“Kip is just a tough kid, one of those guys that just keeps getting into the huddle. That’s the ultimate compliment for an offensive lineman,” Ingram said. “He’s intense, he’s physical and he’s got an edge about him.”

Frankland, who broke into the starting lineup toward the end of his sophomore season, is known for his fun-loving attitude and ability to make teammates laugh. However, he’s all business out on the field and a master of technique.

Advertisement

“Kip’s very competitive and really likes to play football. He likes the grit and toughness of it,” said assistant coach Danny O’Rourke, who tutors the tackles. “He’s athletic with good quickness and can move.”

Rick Forney spent five seasons as a starting pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles system, reaching Triple-A Rochester in 1995. The Annapolis High and Anne Arundel Community College graduate is in his 17th season as manager of the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association.

With Winnipeg likely headed for the playoffs, Forney won’t be back home until late September and looks forward to attending a Navy football practice to meet Frankland in person. He comes to Annapolis as often as possible to visit David’s grave at the Naval Academy Cemetery.

“I just told Kip to play like Dave did: Lay it on the line and punch somebody in the face every play,” Forney said of their phone conversation. “I really didn’t need to say a whole lot. Before these guys take on the jersey number, I think they’re very well versed in who David was and what he was all about.”

Frankland will be the last Navy offensive lineman to wear No. 68 that knew David Forney. Starting in 2023, the honored jersey will be issued to a player who was not in the program when Forney died.

Rick, who is thankful to Ingram, O’Rourke and Morgenthaler for “keeping David’s memory alive,” struggles with the realization this will be the third Navy football season since his son passed.

Advertisement

The elder Forney said “it seems like just yesterday” that he and wife Erika were at BWI Airport waiting for a flight to Memphis for the 2019 Liberty Bowl. Seated nearby in the lounge was a big young man wearing Navy football gear.

“I introduced myself and found out it was a freshman from Annapolis named Jamie Romo,” he said.

Romo, a St. Mary’s graduate, is now a senior starting left tackle for the Midshipmen.


Advertisement