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Navy’s Bo Snelson won’t take shortcuts as captain

Small in stature, but tall on talent

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associated press Navy’s Bo Snelson (right) inherited his intensity and work ethic from his father, John, who also was his football coach in high school.

ANNAPOLIS — Brandon Turner’s freshman season at Navy was five minutes from concluding. The Midshipmen were demolishing Missouri in the Texas Bowl, and Turner’s day (as well as teammate Bo Snelson’s) effectively would end with kickoff coverage after Navy’s last touchdown.

It seemed like an innocuous, almost meaningless, play to Turner at the time. Snelson had other ideas as he dove after a member of the return team.

“All the sudden I got hit — it was almost like I got cut blocked — by Bo,” Turner recalled. “I felt like my knee was going to fall off, and it just shows you he’s going 100 miles an hour at the end of the game. He picks me up and is like ‘Hey, this is on national TV. Your daddy’s watching. You’d better get up.’ “

Little wonder Snelson would be elected Navy’s offensive captain for his senior season more than two years later. One of the milestones of his final season with the Mids comes Saturday, when the program completes its four-week spring session with a scrimmage at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

This was the first time coach Ken Niumatalolo opted to reveal the voting of the captaincy voting in February. It was an important spring for the Mids, the first time in nine years they would be coming off a losing record. Niumatalolo hoped the captains would promptly establish themselves to help Navy rebound from a 5-7 season.

And so there was Snelson during a wind-swept practice last month, taking time during the team’s water break to individually exhort his offensive teammates to push through the final hour of the session.

Then he switched fields and offered similar one-on-one messages to the defensive players. Any nudge toward improvement and avoiding the same fate as a year ago - no bowl game, no Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy - was worth it.

“You want to remember those things, but at the same time you want to move forward,” Snelson said. “You can’t dwell on things in the past so much that they make you stagnant. We’re definitely going to learn from those things.”

A family affair

Navy slotbacks coach Danny O’Rourke made his way to the Houston suburbs in the spring of 2008 for a recruiting trip. While there, he asked the coach at Pasadena Memorial about Snelson.

He’s not tall, came the reply, a spot-on assessment of a player listed at 5-foot-7 today.

The coach was John Snelson, Bo’s father. There would be no favoritism of any kind afforded Bo Snelson while playing for his dad.

“I always had to be one of the hardest workers because if anybody was going to look at me, then they had to see I was doing the exact same thing because that’s what my dad expected of me,” Bo Snelson said.

When someone needed to be made an example of, Bo would be singled out. When John Snelson declared someone needed to start talking, it was a message Bo needed to start talking.

And when it was through, father and son savored four years together, with shared meals and rides to school and everything else in addition to practice.

“One of the reasons I gravitated toward football so much was because when I was younger, he was gone with the football team,” Bo Snelson said. “So I correlated in my mind playing football with spending time with my dad. Those four years in my high school, I got to spend every day with my dad.”

He learned plenty about football while playing for his dad. But something else was forged along the way: how to channel his competitiveness in the right direction.

What wasn’t a surprise was where his boisterousness originated from.

“I’m kind of a fire-and-brimstone guy,, and I coach with a lot of passion and like to have fun,” John Snelson said. “He definitely saw that model, and he has just taken it to another level.”

He just happens to be small for a Division I player.

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About the Author

Patrick Stevens

Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at 64plus4@gmail.com.

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