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At Navy, a senior bond

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Reggie Campbell and Irv Spencer have been best friends since meeting five years ago at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I.

The Navy senior captains, who will play in their last game Thursday in the Poinsettia Bowl, enjoy several weekly traditions.

They give each other haircuts and attend mass together.

"He's my right-hand man on and off the field," Campbell said. "We help each other spiritually. There's a bond we've had since we've been here. We're tight. We talk about pretty much anything. He's my brother."

Campbell and Spencer always have been close in proximity, too.

At NAPS, they lived in the same company. At Navy, they live down the hall from one another.

That closeness has helped them overcome the hardships of attending the academy.

For Spencer, it was with academics. He struggled at the prep school and as a plebe but has since raised his grade-point average.

"There's a lot of stuff you go through around here, and it's always good to have somebody to be with you to go through it all," the linebacker said.

Campbell, a 5-foot-6 slot back, struggled to earn playing time as a freshman but cracked the starting lineup in his sophomore season.

Now he is one of the most dynamic players in Navy history, boasting the school record for yards a carry (7.1) and kick return yards (1,788). He ranks in the top five in yards a catch, touchdown catches and all-purpose yards.

Campbell also had plenty of big plays this season, including catching both the touchdown and two-point conversion pass in the third overtime of the Midshipmen's first win over Notre Dame in 44 years and a school-record 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Army.

"He's just a baller," Spencer said. "He's got good footwork, all the things that you need. If he was probably a few inches taller he would probably be at a bigger school. He'd probably be at Miami or some place like that. That's the kind of player Reggie is."

Campbell chooses to let his play speak for him. He said he doesn't care much about his individual accomplishments, just that the Mids win their games. But his teammates have acknowledged his work. They voted him offensive team captain before the season, and coaches consider him a role model for the team's younger players.

"He puts the team first. He tries to do all the little things right," Spencer said. "That's what you got to do out here to be successful, work harder than the next person in front of you."

Spencer blossomed after switching from outside linebacker to the inside in 2005. He played in every game last year and earned three starts toward the end of the season.

This season, he has started every game. After a season-ending injury to safety Jeff Deliz in the Mids' second game, Spencer was promoted to defensive captain.

Since then, he has shared the coin toss with Campbell.

"[Our friendship] means a lot, especially this year," Campbell said. "Unfortunately, Jeff got hurt, but for him to step up to the captain position, there's no one I'd rather be with to lead the team on the field because I know what type of person he is. It feels good to have my best friend beside me before we go out and play a game."

Spencer echoed that sentiment. The two have different service assignments — surface warfare for Spencer and naval aviation for Campbell — but the two plan to share time together long after graduation.

"It means a lot to be able to do the coin toss knowing I'm here with my best friend, like the pictures at Notre Dame," Spencer said. "It's just long-term stuff for laughs and giggles that I'll be able to put on my desk down the road."

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