Navy slotback Bo Snelson is a player who will run the ball, block, catch passes, play special teams and mentor the young players coming along—whatever he can to help the Midshipmen win.
Not big in size at 5'7" and 180 pounds, Snelson has the heart and temperament of a leader and will serve our country well in demanding military situations after graduation.
The Pasadena, Texas native comes from a family with military experience. His grandpa on his mother's side served in Vietnam with the Air Force, an uncle is also an Air Force veteran, and his cousin is in the Marines.
Snelson had options to attend and play football at two Ivy Leagues colleges but choose the harder path offered at Annapolis.
Not a star but a player who can be counted on to do his job, Snelson has run for 464 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry, caught 117 passes with an average gain of 14.6 yards, and run back 13 kickoffs for an average of 17.1 yards.
He is described by the press notes as someone who, "Plays with a nasty disposition and is a relentless blocker."
In an interview I conducted with Snelson at the Army-Navy Game Media Day, he described his position at slot-back as demanding versatility. On one play, he must go deep to catch a pass, on the next block a linebacker, and on the next, take the ball and running with it. To do all these things takes athletic ability, conditioning and discipline.
Snelson commented on the slotbacks as a group: "We take pride in doing a lot of things, and we like that they expect a lot from us."
The Navy season started badly with lopsided losses to Notre Dame and Penn State. Then, after a home win over VMI, there was a shutout loss at home to San Jose State. It looked like a long season for the Midshipmen with a trip to Colorado Springs to play Air Force.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo installed freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds as the starter in the Central Michigan game after Reynolds had rallied the Mids to a win over the Falcons the week before—and Reynolds has started every since. Navy turned around the season, wining four-straight games and enters the Army game with a 7-4 record.
At a service academy, freshman lead very structured lives, basically learning how to take and execute orders. This starts from the first day of basic training in the summer—known as "Beast Barracks" at West Point. No first names are used in communications between plebes and upperclassman, just title or rank and last name. This continues through the year until the senior class graduates and the plebes are promoted, a huge milestone in progressing through four years at an academy. As sophomores, they are treated as upperclassmen, which is a big difference.
At Army, they describe the quarterback position as the most demanding leadership position at the premier leadership development institution in the world. The Navy would contest the ranking but describe the role of their football quarterback in the same way.
Three years ago, freshman Trent Steelman was installed as the starting quarterback, with Navy taking advantage of his speed in running the option offense that head coach Rich Ellerson installed. As with Reynolds now, it is very unusual at a service academy for a freshman to go into a huddle or up to the line of scrimmage and start giving directions to upperclassmen who are used to hearing just, "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" from plebes.
Some of the formalities are relaxed during athletics, but the challenge is still daunting and speaks volumes of those who can handle the role.
In our interview, Snelson described the importance of helping talented, young players integrate into playing roles to assist the team in being more successful:
In our locker room and on the football team, we try to make everyone understand this is separate from the Academy. Whenever we are in the Hall, a fourth class must show the first class proper respect and on down the chain of command. Here, the best guys are going to play. Whoever is ahead of you, you need to do everything you can to make sure he is ready. Sometimes that's going over plays with him, doing things like that.
The "Hall" referenced is Bancroft Hall, the large main building at the Naval Academy which houses all 4,000 Midshipmen. Not your typical warm and friendly college dormitory by any means, it can be a challenging place to live, especially for the freshman.
Snelson explained how teammate Keenan Reynolds has handled being thrust into the highly visible and demanding quarterback role at Navy like this:
In the Air Force game, when Keenan went into the huddle, it was [the feeling of] "We are trusting you to do your job because you are trusting us to do our job." Keenan has done a great job of living up to the expectations of a quarterback. He has been able to handle this with great composure and humility. He is someone I am very proud of on this team.
Snelson, an English major, described his preference for Marine Corps Ground for his service in the military after graduation. That means leading young Marines through training and into the tough places around the world that Marines are sent.
He is one of America's finest.
Quotes from Midshipman Snelson are from an interview at the Army-Navy Game Media Day. Ken Kraetzer covers Army football for WVOX in New Rochelle, NY and Sons of the American Legion radio.