I watched my first ever Army-Navy game in 1989. My cousin was a youngster at USNA so I thought I’d watch the game. Having grown up next to West Point, I knew the Army-Navy game was a big deal and I also knew that Army was pretty good. The year prior, Army played Alabama in the Sun Bowl where Alabama edged the Cadets 29-28. Army was led by Mike Mayweather, a stellar running back and one of the best Service Academy running backs in the last 50 years. Navy, on the other hand, hadn’t posted a winning season since 1982 and had lost to Army three times in a row. Army entered the game 6-4 and Navy 2-8, so I wasn’t expecting much of a game from the Mids.
Boy, was I wrong. Navy got out to a quick lead 9-0 lead and the game went back and forth for four quarters. With Navy trailing 17-16 lat in the 4th quarter, Alton Grizzard drove the Mids down the field. With 1 minute to go and facing a 4th and 2 on the Army 35, Grizzard barreled his way to a first down on a QB keeper. Grizzard then drove Navy to the Army 15 and stopped the clock with a mere 15 seconds to play. Navy Head Coach Elliot Uzelac called Frank Schenk from the sideline: “This is what you and I talked about. This is it! Piece of cake!” Army Coach Jim Young then called time out in an attempt to ice Schenk. As Schenk trotted back to the sideline, Uzelac grabbed him and barked, “give me a 7 Iron and you and I are dancing and drinking champagne tonight.” A minute later Frank Schenk split the uprights and put Navy on top for good 19-17. It was a huge win for Navy and a dream come true for Midn 2/c Schenk.
I had the opportunity to speak with now Captain (sel) Frank Schenk, USN this weekend. He’s had quite a career since graduating from USNA with the Class of 1991.
SaltySam98: Congratulations for being selected to Captain, USN. That’s quite an accomplishment.
FS: Thank you. I was really happy and a little surprised by it too. I had no idea that I had been selected until one of my friends posted it on my family’s Facebook page. That’s the power of social media for you.
SaltySam98: Where are you stationed now and what are you doing these days?
FS: I am stationed at the National Defense University. I work in the Strategic Wargaming Center. I’ve been here about a year. It’s a good job and I’m really close to Annapolis so that’s been great. I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends and teammates.
I have been spending a lot of time putting together a “NAVY FOOTBALL PLAYER’S ASSOCIATION”. It’s a big deal to me and a lot of former players. I have about 425 players or so that I email and stay in touch with. Our goal is to support the team and program in various ways like going to the Spring Game and showing support. We want to strengthen the bond of the Brotherhood. As former players, we want to form an organization that can help the team by providing mentorship, and an organized social support and networking structure that emphasizes communion, fellowship, and stewardship.
If you’re a former Navy football player and want to know more about it, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://sites.google.com/site/navyfootballbrotherhoodorg/.
SaltySam98: What has been your favorite tour of duty since being commissioned?
FS: I’ve had three.
From 2008 to 2010, I was the Commanding Officer of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Professional Development Center in Gulfport, MS. That was a lot of fun. I got to mentor and shape the lives of young sailors and officers. That was my favorite tour.
I was also fortunate enough to get a SECDEF Corporate Fellowship with Merck, a large pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. It was a fascinating year. I got to see corporate America from the inside without the pressure of actually being an employee. I also visited companies like Google, Microsoft, and Pratt & Whitney to learn how they do business.
Lastly, I was the staff oceanographer on an Admiral’s staff. Again, that was a great tour because I used a lot of my professional knowledge as the Admiral’s subject matter expert.
SaltySam98: You have three Masters Degrees. One from the Naval Postgraduate School in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, and two from the University of Southern Mississippi — one in Hydrographic Science and an MBA. Are you going to try for a PhD?
FS: No. No. I’m done with school now.
Saltysam98: How did playing football at USNA prepare you for being an officer?
FS: The dedication, time commitment and the camaraderie were all important to my development. As a kicker I wasn’t out there hitting and blocking like the other guys, so I worked really hard on being as good a kicker as I could be. When I got to Navy, I was kicking great. Everything seemed to be going right. I actually won the starting job as a plebe. It was a lot of pressure though. Unfortunately, my starting role didn’t last long. I missed some kicks and wound up getting benched for quite a while and I didn’t win the job back until my junior year. So perseverance has always been important to me.
SaltySam98: What do you think of the team these days?
FS: The team is awesome. It’s a great feeling to see them go out there and be competitive with anyone. Some of the older guys like me are a little jealous of the team and facilities these days – they don’t know how good they have it. I’m really excited for how far the team has come. Everything is so much better now. The stadium, the practice facilities and the weight room are all outstanding. Just to give you some perspective, when I was a Mid, we used to dress in 8th Wing basement for football practice. That place was like a closet.
SaltySam98: Most Navy fans remember you for making the winning kick against Army in 1989.
FS: Yes. What people don’t remember (except for my teammates!) is that the game before I missed a 21 yard field goal in the final seconds at Delaware. It was a chip shot and I missed it. I was 3-for-4 on field goals that day. The one I missed cost us the game. We lost the game 10-9. You are only as good as your last kick! So, when I made the kick to beat Army it was a huge relief in more than one way. That Army game was our only victory against Air Force or Army – we ended up 1 – 7 against them in my four years.
SaltySam98: The kick. We have to talk about that. Just to set the scene. 15 seconds to go, down 17-16, and a 32-yard field goal. Jim Young, Army’s head coach calls time out to try to ice you, what was going through your mind when Elliot Uzelac sent you out there?
FS: I was thinking about my normal routine. When I missed the kick at Delaware, I didn’t follow my routine. The Delaware coach called time out after I lined up. For some reason, I stayed in the center of the field instead of running back to the sideline. That wasn’t my routine. Normally, the kicking routine starts by running onto the field from the sideline. The routine is: you run onto the field, take your mark and steps, head down and follow through. It’s the same as a baseball player stepping into the batter’s box, a golfer’s pre-shot routine, or a basketball player shooting a free throw. In the Army game, I followed my routine. When Army’s coach called time out, I went back to the sideline and then executed my routine. Coach U. had some words with me. Thankfully, that kick went much better than the Delaware kick.
SaltySam98: It sure did. Can you talk about that final drive?
FS: I remember Alton [Grizzard] and Mike Burns, who had a bum ankle, made some amazing plays to move us down the field. I had a feeling it would come down to a field goal and it did. [Mike Burns had broken his ankle in the 1988 Army-Navy game on the first play of the game].
SaltySam98: Do people still approach you and ask you about the kick?
FS: It happens now and then. The kick seems to follow me around. I never bring it up, but it’s hard to avoid. When I showed up at Merck, the guys there even knew about it. It happens a little more now that I live closer to Annapolis. My wife just rolls her eyes. It doesn’t score me any points with her anymore or get me out of my household duties. The conversation is something like, “Yea, yea, now go take out the garbage”.
SaltySam98: You’ve been very successful, you have a great family, tons of education, and you’ve really represented Navy football and USNA well. What would you tell a high school student athlete considering playing football at USNA?
FS: The opportunity to serve your country and the leadership opportunities that you’ll get as a junior officer are really hard to top. I never planned to be a career officer. It just worked out that way. A career in the Navy was the furthest thing from my mind 25 years ago. I stayed because I liked the Navy, I liked my assignments and I had a lot of great opportunities.
But also, playing major college football is a big deal and you represent a great institution. It’s a big stage so it prepares you and matures you. I think the Academy gives you a lot options – whether it is career military or providing a sound foundation to enter the civilian workforce. Quite a few of my friends graduated from USNA, served their country, and then got advanced degrees from Harvard or other Ivy League schools and now they’re doing amazing things.
For Frank Schenk, the “kick” will always be an important part of his life. It was a clutch play in the biggest game of his life. But his life has been much more than that one kick in 1989. He’s served our country for 21 years, earned three Masters Degrees, raised a great family with his wife Michelle, and his commitment to Navy athletics runs deep. Morally, mentally, physically.