Kelvin White is not a captain on the 2015 Army football team but he leads like one. Coach Jeff Monken invited him to last week's Army-Navy luncheon at Lincoln Financial Field and referred to him as "captain of Pennsylvania" before White spoke on behalf of the Black Knights players.
White, a senior tight end from Enola, Pa., near Harrisburg, has had to work hard, along with the Army captains and seniors, to keep up the players' spirits. Army enters Saturday's game against Navy at the Linc with a 2-9 record, with six of their losses by six points or less or in the final minute.
It has been a difficult year but there is one more chance to make it successful - beating Navy and ending the Black Knights' 13-year losing streak to their rivals.
"You have these tough games where you lose as we have and that wears on you a lot," White said. "But I think we've definitely learned lessons. We have one culminating event, the Army-Navy game. We put all the emotions that we've had in those [previous] games into positive energy and channel them into something good."
White, who is described as high-energy during practice, calls his leadership style "emotional."
"That's just because of the kind of player I am," he said. "I let my emotions get out sometimes and that's how I like to lead. I feel that's as real as I can be. Whatever I do, I just try to be my best. I might not have the best practice every day. I might not have the best game. But it's imperative that I come back the next time, have a short memory and make sure that I do my best."
White, who was a 215-pound quarterback when he went to Army, has built himself up to 6-foot-3 and 258 pounds, a perfect size for the run-heavy Army wishbone where the tight end basically acts as a sixth offensive lineman. White has just three catches this season.
In addition to his leadership, White is valuable for his versatility. After playing quarterback as a sophomore, he moved to wide receiver and then tight end. This season, he has rushed on two fake punt plays, thrown a two-point conversion pass and long-snapped for a field goal.
That's part of White's team-first philosophy, which now will carry into his final game in Army black, gold and gray.
"We have to do whatever we have to do to win," he said. "I know that sounds kind of cliché, but this is the last one. This is 0-0, a one-game season, and this one means a lot so we have to go get it."
Navy's winning streak in the series means that 10 consecutive classes have graduated without having defeated the Midshipmen. White and his fellow seniors want nothing more than to end the string and make a memorable exit.
"The emotions have definitely been like a roller coaster," White said. "It hasn't really hit me yet that I won't strap the pads back on. But I'm pretty excited, not just for myself but just the whole team in general. If we win this game, it would be a big boost for the program."