- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

A normal Tuesday night for Navy linebacker Evan Beard isn’t much different than that of a typical college student. He usually spends his time catching up on homework and sleep.

But today is not a normal Tuesday, and Beard isn’t a typical college student. He will find a television and engross himself in election night coverage. Beard hails from Boardman, Ohio, a town just outside of Youngstown. Beard, a conservative from one of the swing states in the Rust Belt, hopes his vote helps keep President Bush in office.

“[Ohio is] the big prize. I’m not totally right wing like [fullback Kyle Eckel] says, but I do feel like Ohio will go [President] Bush’s way,” Beard said. “The war on terrorism is the issue when I go home to Ohio. The jobs issue — people say manufacturing jobs have gone by the wayside — but the job situation in reality is fine.

“We’ve been building jobs in Ohio for the last year and a half, and the economy is really coming back. I think it all comes back to the war on terror, and I think the country wants a man who has been consistent on the issue from day one. … I think [Sen. John Kerry] has shown that he blows with the wind and plays politics with national defense.”

If Beard sounds like a future politician, it’s because he just might be. Navy coach Paul Johnson referred to him as the team’s resident politician, and Beard is known for engaging in heated debates with players on the team who don’t share his views.

“I kind of antagonize him a little bit, play devil’s advocate to get [Beard] going,” said Eckel, a senior from Philadelphia. “It sparks other conversations with other people. It’s fun times. Evan pulls out all of his facts, and other guys pull out their facts. It keeps people talking.

“Evan sits in his room and watches Fox News all night,” Eckel said as a joke. “We let him know about it.”

Lord Cole is another player who often debates with Beard. Cole, a senior cornerback from Northridge, Calif., might give the impression he is a liberal because of his locker room arguments with Beard. However, Cole says he tries to stay in the middle, not letting politics decide which side he is on.

“I like to pick at his brain, and he likes to take some shots at me,” Cole said of Beard. “A lot of people get too into the [hostility] of the politics. They say, ‘Which side are you on?’ Does it really matter? We’re just talking about the issues.”

Not all of Navy’s football players will be huddled around televisions tonight having their emotions sway when the networks call each state, but all of them certainly care.

The MTV “Rock the Vote” and “Choose or Lose” campaigns have pushed America’s young adults to register and exercise their right to vote. But Navy’s football players don’t need to see P. Diddy handing out “Vote or Die” T-shirts to remind them.

Each player has a vested interest in what happens tonight. It’s safe to say the percentage of players who vote in this election will be significantly higher than the 25 percent turnout in the 2000 general election for adults in the 18-to-24 age demographic.

“In the locker room, we get into some heated arguments over politics,” said linebacker Jacob Biles, an American politics and law major from Lorena, Texas. “It’s not something you’d hear in a typical football locker room. We definitely have a stronger interest in who is going to be Commander in Chief because he is basically going to be our boss. Foreign policy is going to dictate where we are going.”

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