Patriots' Joe Cardona reflects on what Army-Navy game means to him

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For the 121st time, Army and Navy are set to face off in one of the most prestigious and historic events in American sports.

Army-Navy will look much different on Saturday afternoon than in years past. The matchup won't take place in Philadelphia, where 89 of the 120 previous games have been played. Instead, it'll be played at Michie Stadium at West Point in New York with only about 9,000 spectators, including approximately 4,300 from the Corps of Cadets and 4,300 from the Brigade of Midshipmen.

While it won't feel like the typical Army-Navy spectacle, it's still a special day for many across the nation including former Navy Midshipman and current New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona.

Cardona is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and is an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, holding the rank of Lieutenant. He recently spoke to NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry about what the Army-Navy game means to him, and how it felt to be a part of the atmosphere during his time with the Midshipmen.

"That was the pinnacle of sports for me. That was the biggest game I had thought I'd ever play in," Cardona said. "Ultimately, six years down the road with the New England Patriots I've played in a few big games but at that point, you're talking about this special game that you never think you're going to play in one bigger. You know that you're representing not only yourself, your teammates, your school, alumni, you're representing men and women that signed up to protect and defend this nation as they're off on bases around the world doing the job that's a lot harder than playing football, and they're taking their time to watch you.


"It really brings about this level of toughness, a level of pride that I've only felt four times in my life, and luckily they were all victorious. But it's a really special, surreal game and there's nothing like being there, but tuning in I think is a close second."

Unfortunately, COVID-19 precautions will prevent the usual 70,000 people from attending Army-Navy on Saturday. But, as Cardona explains, fans can still get involved while watching from home by visiting and participating in the Army-Navy house sweepstakes.

"It's kind of a way for fans to get engaged with the game," Cardona said. "This is, for the 121st playing, this is only the fourth time it's been played in West Point. It's only going to be the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets up there, so people watching from home get the chance to experience a little bit different this year.

" kind of reels it in. You upload a picture of you, however you like to enjoy the Army-Navy game and there's going to be a winner from the Army side and the Navy side that USAA brings to New York City next year, all expenses paid."

Kickoff for this year's Army-Navy game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday on CBS.