Situated around the red-zone before a sea of Midshipmen are a pair of celebrities, enrobed in fluffy white coats and beloved by the thousands of Navy fans.
Many fans wear shirts, fly flags at their tailgates branded with the slogan honoring their two stars -- the Midshipmen goats, the 36th and 37th iterations of the longtime Naval Academy football mascots who spend home games standing on the sidelines.
But while the Bills soak up the attention of crowds and cameras, real work is being done by the rookies standing behind them.
The members of Team Bill, Midshipmen volunteers led by Midshipman First Class David Dueñas, are all relatively new to the job, in their first year on goat duties.
Dueñas put his name in after the former Team Bill president was looking for a replacement. Once he'd secured the job, he began to assemble Team Bill, seeking qualities that would benefit not only the goats, but their fans, too.
"People who are able to interact with the public easily," he said. "We constantly have eyes on us. We've only done it for three games now, but we've already learned really quickly how many eyes are on us at all times, how important it is to keep a positive image, make sure we can answer and talk to the public."
Another member Midshipman Third Class Patrick Daly had watched the goats on the field and reached out to last year's Team Bill members.
"As a plebe, just getting to watch them as I was there watching the game, it looked like a fun experience, taking care of the goats," Daly said.
Midshipman First Class Ryan Herrera-Murphy joined because he was Dueñas' roommate. A New York City native, the most interaction he'd ever had with a goat before was during a petting zoo, but he loved dogs, so he figured he'd love goats, too.
Midshipman Third Class Silas Diaz, on the other hand, hails from Rapid City, South Dakota, and spent summers helping cousins on their ranch. His family was proud, he said, but a bit surprised when they heard he'd taken on the Bills' care.
Team Bill prepares for game time
The goats' caretakers, whose names are kept to the chest due to necessary secrecy around the Bills, made sure the new members of Team Bill were trained extensively before the season, to be prepared for the sometimes mischievous creatures' behaviors.
The team, all members of the 8th Company, briefs the Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Thomas Buchanan on the proposed goat routes the Wednesday before a home game. On Saturday morning, before the team even begins its transport of the goats to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, they've got to primp.
They wrap the Bills' horns in festive blue-and-gold tape, which they'll later remove if it gets too hot on the field (goats cool themselves down through their horns). Then, the Bills get their baths.
That task was a learning curve for Herrera-Murphy.
"We use Johnson's baby soap," he said. "Mild soap, just to get all the dirt and grime off and still go easy on the goats' skin and eyes."
The goats spend pregame loafing in their trailer, approaching fans (mostly children) out of curiosity or in exchange for treats. It's one aspect of the job the goat squad loves the most.
"I like it when people get excited to see the goats," Herrera-Murphy said. "I think it's really cool to see the school spirit. ... For me, seeing people's faces light up, that's the best part."
For Dueñas and his squad, walking the Bills from their Taylor Avenue base to the field is rarely smooth start to finish.
There are two people with two leashes each per goat, a completely necessary measure for the gung-ho Bills that kept their handlers at a jogging pace as they head in.
It's not every day you see a duo of goats with bright blue-and-gold horns passing you by; people descend on the Bills, hoping to snap quick photos.
"We've had some pretty crazy moms before," Diaz said. "They just go wild. There was one who was trying to feed the goat a peanut with her mouth. It was a pretty unique situation."
Bills with a lot of personality
Then, of course, they're goats with all the stubbornness that comes with that. At the entrance from the tunnel on Saturday, Bill XXXVI (36) planted its hooves and refused to move despite its handlers' tugs.
"Actually, this past game, I dropped my leash on accident," Dueñas said. "I went down to go pick up the leash and got head-butted in the face."
Weaving through the Navy football players warming up, the leashes tangled up, so Team Bill had to quickly loosen them without losing them. Then, as the fighter jets soared over the sky, all hands had to be on deck to make sure the Bills, understandably startled by the thundering roar of the jet engines, didn't bolt.
After a Navy touchdown, plebes rush the field and do pushups by the end-zone and, therefore, surround the goats. The Bills aren't the biggest fans, so as a precaution, their handlers form a human barrier around them.
"There's always something going on with them," Diaz said. "They either get hungry or get uncomfortable, so they'll want to move around. We really don't have any down-time on the field."
Though both named Bill, the goats have very different personalities.
"Bill XXXVII (37) is generally the more calm one. Thirty-six is a little more skeptical on what we're doing, a little more difficult to take on the field," Dueñas said.
Bill 37 has a penchant for licking, too -- metal bars, metal walls. In fact, there were some concerns Bill 37 was a little off when he was young, his eyes a bit too far apart.
"He grew into them," director of media relations Jenny Erickson said.
Bribery helps when it comes to stubbornness. The Midshipmen volunteers carry a sack of in-the-shell peanuts everywhere they go with the goats.
"They're very food-driven, so we had to use a lot of peanuts to get them to the sidelines. Usually peanuts is our only snack that they use and it works 99% of the time," Dueñas said. "We can tell when they start getting a little agitated. Once they get a little uncomfortable is usually when we'll give them peanuts just to calm them down. Soon as they see that bag of peanuts, they forget everything else."
In fact, the peanuts serve as another form of protection for the goats. The Bills' home trailer sits amidst several tailgates and there have been issues involving people trying to feed junk food to the goats, who will eat a metal can if you let them.
History of heists
Navy has always been protective of its beloved mascots, but in recent years, it's heightened security. The location of their home is secret, just like the identities of their caretakers. They'd moved after years of Bill residence at the Maryland Sunrise Farm in Gambrills, after in 2012, another Army goat heist ended in one Bill tied to a median in Crystal City, Virginia.
Another incident in which cadets attempted to kidnap another pair of Bills was foiled, but Bill XXXV (35) passed the next semester, in 2016, due to conditions related to chronic kidney weakness.
"We can't tie that directly to Army trying to steal him. He fell ill," Erickson said. "It was after that incident."
This was not the only mascot-snatching between West Point and Navy, as Army cadets drugged Bill with chloroform in 1953 and stashed him in the back of a convertible.
Last November, West Point cadets also stole Air Force's mascot falcon, Aurora. After serving for 23 years, Aurora died on Wednesday.
The service academies penned a formal agreement forbidding theft of mascots in 1992.
"Our animals are the easiest to steal," Erickson said. "They're smaller than mules (Army's mascot) and people are generally more experienced with an animal like a goat than a falcon. ... Every once in a while, you get folks who don't give live animals the respect they deserve."
Dueñas doesn't let the shadow of past abductions cloud his attitude toward his responsibilities. For him, working with the goats is a gift. In a way, he's just like the players and the coaches on the field.
"The history of it, how much the mascot means to the Naval Academy and what they represent. It just seemed like something I wanted to be a part of," he said, "...Being a part of the tradition, of the 8th Company and Naval Academy, it's just really nice to be a piece of it."
This article is written by Katherine Fominykh from The Capital, Annapolis, Md. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.