Elan Nash always listened intently whenever his father spoke of his four years of service in the Navy as an aviation structure mechanic on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, a time that shaped his character with principles he passed on to his son.
“A lot of the things he started instilling in me from a young age were values he learned in the military,” said Nash, a Unionville High School graduate who lives in Glen Mills. “So the military was always a part of my life, something I was always interested in that my dad exposed me to.”
As a result, Navy became Nash’s favorite college football team as well. But not in his wildest dreams could he have imagined accepting the academy’s offer to play football there, eventually becoming a starting outside linebacker who is preparing to compete Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in the Army-Navy game.
“It’s relatively close to home, so I’ll have a lot of friends and family there supporting me,” Nash said in a telephone interview. “It’s always fun playing in that stadium. It’s also a little special to me because the first Army-Navy game I ever went to in 2013, as a fan when it was in Philadelphia. So it’s really cool playing in Philly and playing in that stadium.”
Nash, a 5-foot-11, 196-pound junior, played cornerback and wide receiver at Unionville. He made first-team All-Southeastern Pennsylvania and second-team All-State as a senior, and also competed on the track team running sprints and on relays.
During that time, he adopted Navy as his favorite team, following players like quarterback Keenan Reynolds. He saw the Midshipmen play on another occasion at the Linc against Temple when he was on a recruiting trip being looked at by the Owls.
While he also was checking out Ivy League schools such as Penn and Yale, Navy came calling.
“I hadn’t really looked at it as a serious option for me until the Naval Academy reached out and offered me for football,” he said. “Then I started taking it as a more of a serious route and learned a lot more about it, and obviously led to me coming here. It’s pretty cool that I ended up here and that’s something I appreciate.”
Nash played cornerback on the scout team as a freshman and did not see action on the varsity. In the offseason, he was moved to an outside linebacker position that Navy calls “striker” in its 3-4 alignment. He saw action in 10 games in 2017 and has started all 12 games this season, ranking seventh in tackles and picking up his first career interception against Lehigh.
Navy hasn’t played up to its usual standards this season, coming into the 119th meeting against Army with a 3-9 record. But a victory over the Black Knights, who have won the last two games of the series, could erase a lot of the pain the Midshipmen have experienced.
“We all know that if we beat Army, that will make a season that wasn’t the best,” Nash said. "Everything will feel a lot better if we can get this one I think everyone’s really all in to ending this season on the right note, which would be awesome to send off the seniors the right way and then give the rest of the team some good momentum going into the offseason to get things back on track next year.”