Anthony Gargiulo and Sean Williams looked to the past when deciding how to lead the Navy football program into the future.
Gargiulo and Williams thought long and hard about what they had learned during their four years in the Navy football program. Those lessons clearly informed the co-captains when it came to creating a motto for the 2018 season.
They settled on "For the Culture."
"It's about re-establishing with our new group what we have always done for years and allowing this talent to mold into the team culture," Williams said. "It's about taking care of each other and playing for each other."
Gargiulo said the motto is based on the values, traditions and beliefs that have been established and passed down by previous captains. As plebes in 2015, Gargiulo and Williams were indoctrinated into the Navy way by Keenan Reynolds and Bernie Sarra. Those were reinforced by Toneo Gulley and Daniel Gonzales (2016) then Darryl Bonner and D.J. Palmore (2017).
"We feel 'For the Culture' means respecting the past. We look at great leaders like Keenan and Bernie, all those older guys that drilled into us what Navy football is all about," Gargiulo said. "They drove home the point that we need to be tougher, more physical, more disciplined and harder working than our opponents."
Gargiulo has spent the past four years sitting in the fullback meeting room and learning about the culture on a more intimate level from the likes of Chris Swain, Quentin Ezell, Shawn White and Chris High. The New Jersey native knows it is time for him to step into the role of mentor for the next generation of fullbacks.
"We believe strongly in that culture and it's now our job to pass on that culture to the younger guys," Gargiulo said. "The only way to honor the great players of the past, those that paved the path for me and Sean, is to keep the Navy football culture going strong."
Williams has been an impact performer since his freshman season when he appeared in 11 games as a key member of special teams and made one start at cornerback. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound senior has started 24 of 27 games over the past two seasons and recorded 163 career tackles.
Williams, who looked up to such defensive backs as Lorentez Barbour, Quincy Adams and Tyris Wooten as a young player, hopes the current sophomores and freshmen understand what "For the Culture" is truly all about.
"That motto lies in doing all the small things. That means touching the line on sprints, never taking a play off during practice, choosing the right in the hall -- just focusing on all the little details," Williams said. "Training yourself to do the right thing all the time is important because it comes through during games. We're able to compete at a high level because of our discipline and commitment to the details. That's the foundation of our culture."
Williams spent part of this summer on a training cruise aboard a destroyer out of San Diego learning more about surface warfare as a potential service assignment. The Memphis native never would have imagined serving as team captain for Navy football coming out of Cordova High as a first team All-State selection. However, it is a responsibility he is fully embracing.
"I guess the biggest thing for me is doing my part to uphold the standard. As a captain, we are being asked to be leaders among leaders. So it's even more important that we uphold the standards of the institution and the football program," Williams said.
"I want to show respect and honor for all the people who have held the position before me by being the best possible captain I can be. Guys like Bernie Sarra and D.J. Palmore have taught me the process and I want to follow in their footsteps."
Gargiulo is a product of Colts Neck High and resident of Freehold, New Jersey, who was also named first team All-State as a senior. The 6-foot-2, 239-pound bruiser did not see any varsity action as a plebe and appeared in just three games as a sophomore before emerging as a junior and rushing for 423 yards on 76 carries.
When the aforementioned High got injured, Gargiulo stepped up and made three starts in a five-game stretch with the highlight coming when he rushed for 145 yards against SMU. He also had a big game against Notre Dame, running for 87 yards and catching a pass for 21 yards on third down to keep alive a drive.
However, Gargiulo is far from the most accomplished offensive player within the senior class and was honored to be selected over the likes of 2017 starting quarterback Zach Abey and offensive tackle Andrew Wood, who will be a third-year starter.
"It really means a lot to me because it's a player-based selection and the coaches have no say in it. Knowing that your peers think that much of you is a huge honor," Gargiulo said. "I might not be the best player, but my teammates still looked at me as someone who could take on this role and lead the team."
Gargiulo, whose summer training assignment involved spending time in the field with Marines out of Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, does not feel the captain status puts him above any other senior.
"I don't consider me and Sean the only captains. I tell all the other seniors that I grew up with in this program that they are captains to me. It's not just me and Sean, it's every single one of the seniors," he said. "We need to lead as a group and set the example for the rest of the team. There is definitely a burden of knowing that everyone is watching me closely now. There is some pressure, but it's a good pressure and I'm ready to take it on."
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo believes Gargiulo and Williams have the abilities and personalities to be outstanding captains. Niumatalolo likes the premise behind "For the Culture" as a season motto.
"I have been very pleased with the leadership of Anthony Gargiulo, Sean Williams and the other seniors. They have been very humble and hard-working," Niumatalolo said. "I love what Anthony and Sean are talking about. They've talked a lot about finishing, they've talked about being disciplined, being on time -- just doing what you're supposed to do."
Niumatalolo was speaking during the American Athletic Conference Football Media Day, having just returned from a nearly month-long vacation to his home state of Hawaii. However, the 11th-year head coach saw enough during the months of May and June to feel good about the commitment players put into offseason strength and conditioning.
"I'm really excited about what I've seen so far. I was gone in July, but throughout June just watching us work out I liked our mentality," he said. "I think some of the close losses we suffered last year kind of lingered and propelled us into the offseason. I like what I see from our team so far and I'm excited about where we are at this point." ___
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