Freshman Kyle Battle knew that playing for the Naval Academy wasn’t going to be easy, but part of his motivation isn’t just with proving something to himself.
It’s with living up to the legacy of the Midshipmen during big games like the annual grudge match against rival Army.
“The best thing is meeting everybody who’s come through here who has or hasn’t played football,” Battle said. “It’s like a giant brotherhood. You have to be here to understand. Once you’re here, you never leave the brotherhood. You’re always a part of something special, something that’s bigger than you.”
Thus far that has paid off as Battle and the Midshipmen (8-4) take on Middle Tennessee (8-4) in the Armed Forces Bowl today.
The game kicks off at 10:45 a.m. from Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth and will be broadcast on ESPN.
Battle was a hit during a senior season at Belton in which he was a District 8-5A first-team and KDH All-Area first-team selection after finishing with 57 solo tackles, three interceptions and combining for a district-best 115 return yards.
Battle provided the Tigers with a 95-yard interception for a touchdown in a 49-14 win over Shoemaker.
Battle was just as gifted in the classroom, making the all-state academic team and graduating in the top 15 percent of the Belton High Class of 2013.
He also had an offer to play for the Air Force, Stephen F. Austin, West Texas A&M and Sam Houston State, but Navy was the place for him.
“It’s big time D-I (NCAA Division I) ball,” Battle said. “It’s a great education; it’s a guaranteed job after you’re done playing football, no matter what.”
Navy defensive coordinator and secondary coach Buddy Green said he sees a lot of potential in Battle and compared him to former Midshipmen safety Wyatt Middleton and thought he had a lot of ability when he first saw Battle play.
“He has a sense in maturity that our kids have to have because of what they face in a daily schedule,” Green said. “The dedication they have to have to the practice field, weight room and everything that comes with Division I football — Kyle has all of those things.
“He seems to be a big part of our plans in the future,” Green added.
Battle said once he reported to campus, the real work began.
In addition to working through the vigorous academic requirements of the Naval Academy, Battle had to adjust from the University Interscholastic League Class 5A level to the more difficult NCAA Division I.
“I think the (level of) play of Texas football prepares you physically and mentally for the game, but nothing can prepare you for the size of the crowd, the roar from the stands or the preparation needed every week,” Battle said.
The Midshipmen have one senior and three juniors listed on the depth chart at Battle’s position, so his prospects of getting more playing time should improve during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.