Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has rushed for 1,472 yards in 2017, a single-season record in the academy's storied football history, but that's only part of the reason for the Black Knights' success going into Saturday's highly anticipated matchup with Navy at Lincoln Financial Field.
Army coach Jeff Monken has the best vantage point of his senior signal-caller, whom he calls "a tremendous leader."
"Beyond the production he's had as a player, he's a very poised and confident leader," Monken said. "When you watch him play, you can see the level of poise that he has. Things go really good, he'll get excited, but he never loses control of the situation. Score a touchdown, big play, it'll be a good fist pump. He'll congratulate everybody. He's just the same guy on the sideline as he was before the drive.
"If things go bad, he never loses his cool. He's disappointed if he makes a mistake or we make a mistake, but he doesn't lose his poise .Our guys have a lot of confidence in him when he steps out there in the huddle."
Bradshaw, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound native of Chicago, credits Monken with "instilling a winning mentality in us and teaching us how to win," major reasons that the Black Knights will go into Saturday's contest with eight wins, their most entering their rivalry game since 1996.
The contest will mark Bradshaw's 24th consecutive start, and Army is 16-7 in those starts going back to last year's season opener against Temple. For him, it all starts with good habits in practice.
"If you're a leader on the team, you're going to motivate your guys to do the right things," he said. "You're going to motivate guys to do every rep. It's not that guys are cheating reps or anything — it's just the attitude of, 'Yeah, this is going to help me be successful, having that confidence in what Coach is saying."
Bradshaw, who is seventh in FBS with 133.8 rushing yards per game, has gained more than 200 yards on the ground – 265 against Air Force, 245 yards against North Texas – twice in his last three games. When asked of his own success, however, he recites the full names of each of his starting offensive linemen – center Bryce Holland, guards Mike Houghton and Josh Boylan, tackles Brett Toth and Rick Kurz.
"I would give that all to my offensive line," he said. "They do a good job up front, just starting the push and getting us out. Then on the perimeter, the receivers, the slot backs and the backs all rotate in and don't miss a beat. They all prepare well for every game, and they're the most unselfish guys that I've ever played with in my life."
As for his final Army-Navy game, Bradshaw said he's trying to keep his emotions in check and is committed to "doing whatever I can do to help my brothers win; that's all I'm thinking about."