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Army, Navy football get a look at Gillette Stadium ahead of 124th edition of rivalry game

Patriots long snapper and Naval Academy graduate Joe Cardona (right) greeted Navy quarterback Xavier Arline at Gillette Stadium.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

With the 124th edition of the Army-Navy football game set to kick off on Dec. 9, players, coaches, and administrators from both programs traveled to Gillette Stadium Wednesday to get a look at the field and meet with the media.

Among those welcoming the academies to the stadium were Governor Maura Healey and Jonathan Kraft, president of the Kraft Group.

Here are some of the highlights.

▪ Army’s seniors were expected to receive their branch assignments Wednesday night, but coach Jeff Monken did not believe that would affect preparation for their final game.

“They’ll be focused on football,” said Monken, who is in his 10th season at West Point. “With their branch [assignments] tonight, they have no control over that now. They rank their choices. Most of them will get their first choice. They don’t know what’s going to be in that envelope tonight, but I assure you they will be locked in on getting ready for this game.”

Army captains Jimmy Ciarlo and Leo Lowin listed infantry as their first choice.


▪ Monken and others from Army punctuated their media availability by saying, “Beat Navy.”

“You can walk our campus and find thousands of places — not dozens, thousands of places — where it says, Beat Navy,’ ” said Monken, whose squad would capture the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with a win. “It doesn’t matter what the record is or what we’ve done all year. This is a huge football game.”

▪ Governor Healey, who was a Division 1 athlete and captained the Harvard women’s basketball team, presented the captains from both academies replicas of the Sons of Liberty Bowl that was designed by Paul Revere.

“Thank you for what you do,” said Healey. “Thank you for the time that you put in. Thank you for the example that you are because as millions will watch a week from Saturday, they are going to see the very best in service and they can see the very best in what this country is about and what we have to offer, and they’re going to see teamwork and partnership and competition and fight.”


▪ It marks the first time that the game is being played in New England, and tickets for the sold out game have been a hot commodity.

“I can tell you that the ticket demand for this game is greater than any AFC Championship game, greater than Taylor Swift, greater than anything else we’ve ever seen,” said Kraft.

▪ Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk was back in familiar territory. The Boston College graduate served as athletic director at BC from 1990-97, and talked about how America’s Game arrived at Gillette Stadium, crediting Patriots owner Robert Kraft, along with Phil Buttafuoco, executive director of special events at Kraft Sports.

“Bob Kraft was on a mission of his. There’s no question about it, this was a passion of his to see this happen,” said Gladchuk, who recounted how Kraft gave him and Army athletic director Mike Buddie a tour of the facility, pointing out a guitar signed by Mick Jagger after The Rolling Stones played a concert, the clothes Bono wore onstage when U2 performed, and referenced Swift concerts and a visit from the Dalai Lama.

“We’ve never hosted the Army-Navy game,” Kraft told the ADs. “We’ve got to find a way to make this happen.”


Gladchuk said 15 cities bid on the game.

“We’ve been to some great venues,” said Gladchuk. “We’ve seen some wonderful red carpets rolled out. But I’m here to tell you that no one does it better, in terms of pregame preparation, than Gillette Stadium, Phil Buttafuoco, and the Krafts.”

▪ Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, a Naval Academy graduate and Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve, stopped by and spoke with Navy coach Brian Newberry and captains Will Harbour, Jacob Busic, and Xavier Arline before addressing the media.

“I’ve been fortunate to play in a lot of big games here in New England, but realistically all of them pale in comparison to those Army-Navy games,” said Cardona. “Army-Navy is one of those special events where you know that it’s such an important game for not only those on the field, but such an important game for those watching around the country. You think about those that are in the fleet — the sailors, the Marines, or the soldiers on the other side watching.”

▪ Busic, a defensive end, was thought to have suffered a season-ending biceps injury against Memphis on Sept. 14 and was not scheduled to be at Gillette Wednesday, but Newberry said Busic’s recovery has gone well and that he might be able to play.

“As soon as we found out, we said ‘Come on up. Let’s make this trip together’” said Newberry. “He’s a phenomenal young man. I can’t say enough good things about him and his leadership.”


Follow Andrew Mahoney @GlobeMahoney.