- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

Matt Hall and David Mahoney have been friends since their days playing Pop Warner football together in Florida. They went to different high schools but remained close. When they were hanging out together, whether it was at a party or one of their homes, they talked about wanting to play college football together.

No Division I schools were recruiting Mahoney during their senior year of high school, so he committed to Western Kentucky. When new Navy assistant Ivin Jasper started to recruit Hall, he told Jasper about his best friend.

“[Navy’s] new coaching staff came in and starting recruiting me late,” Mahoney said. “I guess Matt told Coach Jasper about me, and he started recruiting me. I talked to him like five times, but I heard Navy and wasn’t really interested.”

After some more coaxing by Hall and Jasper, Mahoney agreed to join his friend on an official visit. After coming to Annapolis, Mahoney was sold.

“When I met with the coaches, they had the confidence in their voices that they were going to change things, and the guys like me and Matt Hall on that recruiting trip could help turn it around,” Mahoney said. “I was like, ‘I wouldn’t mind being part of the class that helps turn this program around.’ I felt it was a great opportunity.”

Hall and Mahoney spent a year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., and are now juniors.

After the team had two very successful seasons, the roommates are at the forefront of trying to maintain the program’s success.

Mahoney is in his second season starting at outside linebacker. He became the defense’s big-play specialist last season, leading the team in tackles for loss and sacks. He also scored a touchdown on an interception return. At 5-9 and 216 pounds, Mahoney is not blessed with great size or speed, but he has great football instincts.

“A lot of it is reading your keys,” Mahoney said. “You’d be surprised that if you read your keys and don’t worry about where the ball is going, your keys will tell what play it’s going to be and where it’s going to go. The rest of it is just hustle and getting to the ball.”

Hall has had a much tougher road to playing time. He sat and waited behind Kyle Eckel the past two seasons, and has had to fend off other challengers for the starting nod this season.

While smaller than Eckel, Hall is quicker and as he showed Oct.1 against Duke, has good vision. He made a slight cut at the line on a dive play against the Blue Devils and rumbled 47 yards for a score. He is second on the team with 211 rushing yards.

“Kyle has already made his mark, and nobody is going to be able to touch what he’s done,” Hall said. “I’m not him, but I do bring other parts to the game that he didn’t. I don’t have all the tools he had, but I do have some other things he didn’t have.”

His biggest problem last season and in spring practice was holding onto the ball. He fumbled in mop-up duty last fall and twice in the spring game.

“Most of it was mental,” Hall said. “I probably only had four fumbles in the spring — but two were on one day and then two were on another day. Once I had one the other seemed to follow.”

He and Mahoney had many talks in their room in Bancroft Hall on the subject. Mahoney’s advice was always the same — relax.

“It just comes to a point where you think about it so much,” Mahoney said. “It’s like if you squeeze a bar of soap too hard, it’s going to slip out of your hands.”

There have been no fumbling problems this season for Hall. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 146 yards and three touchdowns in three games.

Mahoney had made a few big plays in the team’s first three games, but he had his first standout performance against Air Force last Saturday. He registered a pair of sacks and was in on a third stop behind the line of scrimmage.

“I thought he had his best game of the year on Saturday,” coach Paul Johnson said. “He looked like the David Mahoney from a year ago. He made some really big plays, he fought through some blocks, and he did some good things. He needs to be a good player for us.”

Hall and Mahoney were captains together at NAPS, and it a goal for them to be named captains together next season. It is a bigger honor to be captain at an academy than a normal school, and it would be the perfect way for the friends to end their careers.

“I think that would be real unique,” Mahoney said. “I think it would be great because we’ve talked about it.

“We’ve both played for a long time and we came here with aspirations of turning this program around. It’s started to turn around and if we could be captains and continue leading the turn around would be really cool.”

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