Ken Niumatalolo is the longest-tenured head coach in Navy history, and the winningest.
In his 12 seasons the Midshipmen have gone 98-60 with six bowl wins. They finished the 2019 season 11-2, good enough to place No. 20 in the Top 25 AP poll. It was only the second time in the programs' last 56 years they’ve done so.
It was also an eight-game improvement from the year before. Pretty outstanding. In fact, it was the biggest turnaround in the country and tied for the second-biggest in FBS history. That earned Niumatalolo the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors for the third time in the last five seasons. Navy claimed the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy for the first time since 2015 by defeating both Air Force and Army.
Ok, you get the point. They had a good year, but talking football is far from Niumatalolo’s top priority right now.
“My main concern first and foremost has been for the safety and health of our players. And so the biggest thing early on when this first started to happen, just checking on our coaches and our staff,” Niumatalolo told NBC Sports Washington. “How's everybody? How's their family doing? You know, what kind of plan, situation do they have? Then each of our coaches reached out to our players. What’s their living situation? You know what’s their food situation? Are they okay? Just all those kinds of things, and so, once we figured that out, then we’re just trying to do a little bit of football so it helps people to keep sane … “
Once knowing all of his young men were taken care of, he could then start the next step of running a program from home - after watching Disney movies with his granddaughter, of course. Even if that draws gentle chiding from his daughter who notes that they COULD read some books, too. But spending extra time with his family has been a blessing.
“I think it helps you to keep some sanity and we’ll give them some football, but it's not like we're trying to totally prepare for the first game," Niumatalolo said. "These are unprecedented times, so I think you got to find a way to keep things in perspective.”
Of course, the challenge for a football team lies in staying in shape, which is even more challenging depending on what equipment each player has at home. Some have a workout place, some have a few dumbbells … and then some are just doing bodyweight exercises.
“We’re trying to do the best we can, trying to be creative, don’t fall into the lull of ‘Hey, I don't have anything so I can't do anything,’” Niumatalolo said.
Translation, no excuses. Niumatalolo follows his own orders but he does so from his home town.
“In Hawaii, they're allowing you to go outside to run or jog, or if you go to the beach you got to be on the move,” Niumatalolo said. “You can’t be lounging. Or if you’re swimming, you have to keep your social distancing.”
Albeit, his goals are slightly different than that of his players: “It definitely helps you keep your sanity and hopefully try to keep my weight down,” Niumatalolo said.
Now that is something we can all relate to!
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