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Brig. Gen. Scott Spellmon’s days of gridiron glory for the Army Black Knights may be behind him, but last week, a patch of green grass at Fort Hood was just as good as the Michie Stadium turf he played on as a wide receiver.
There may have only been a handful of fans on the small metal stands cheering him on instead of the thousands at the West Point facility, and he may be donning a blue mesh jersey top instead of a gold Army football helmet, but the game was just as fun for the 50-year-old.
“I’ve lost a few steps in the last 27 years,” Spellmon said, joking.
The commander of U.S. Army Operational Test Command was among a group soldiers, officers and civilian personnel who participated in another American Thanksgiving tradition — football — Nov. 27 at the multipurpose athletic field across from OTC’s headquarters at West Fort Hood.
The game was dubbed the “Holiday Bowl” and is an annual tradition for the unit the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
The game pitted a team from the East side of Station Road against a team from the West side. The East team was made up of members of the command’s Aviation Test Directorate, Maneuver Test Directorate and logistics, while the West team was comprised of members of the command’s Maneuver Support and Sustainment Test Directorate, Mission Command Test Directorate and command and headquarters staff.
“Football is a good example of Americana,” said Capt. Romelo De Los Santos, commander of OTC’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “Who doesn’t watch football during Thanksgiving? To me it goes hand in hand.”
The East came out on top scoring 21 touchdowns to 14 from the West.
“You can’t lose if you have a bunch of armored guys and aviators playing these guys,” Col. Chris Albus of the East team said with a smile.
The game had an unusual twist this year as the “ultimate football” format was introduced to the event.
The format saw the teams with 14 players apiece playing with two balls simultaneously on a field that was about 60 yards long.
As the pair of pigskins crossed paths across the cool air at kickoff, players admitted it was difficult to adjust to the format, but once they got things sorted, the points came.
“It made you stay on your toes more,” said East team captain Maj. Erik Summers. “You think that you’re moving down on offense and all of a sudden, you see another ball going the other way.
“After about the first four scores, everyone figured it out.”
As Spellmon lined up, ran patterns and went up for passes, he was reminded of his time playing for Army even though he played the game in boots instead of football cleats.
Spellmon said his career highlight as a Black Knight included bowl wins over Michigan State and Illinois.
Master Sgt. Troy Willey was one of the quarterbacks for the East team, which wore red mesh football practice jerseys over their normal shirts.
His goal was to redeem himself after throwing six interceptions during last season’s contest. Willey got off to a good start, tossing the first score of the game to Master Sgt. Michael Mayfield.
“It’s just too easy,” Willey said during a break from the game. “Last year I threw a lot of interceptions. This year is going to be a little bit different.”
Despite the fact that the quarterback was wearing a black Philadelphia Eagles shirt while the receiver donned a navy blue Jason Witten Dallas Cowboys jersey, the two rival fans gladly joined for a common team.
“It’s a little ironic,” Mayfield said about his touchdown pass from Willey.
Willey ended the day with three touchdown passes.
“I should have had seven, but four were dropped in the end zone. Straight in the chest.”
The East won the game after being the first to reach 21 touchdowns, but no matter which team they played on, the players were thankful to be stateside celebrating the American holiday with the national passion.
“I spent four of the last seven Thanksgivings in Afghanistan and Iraq, so it’s nice to be home with family and friends,” Mayfield said.