Army's First Football Game?
In 1890, football was widely popular among American colleges, including the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Yet only two West Point cadets had ever played: Cadet Leonard M. Prince, and Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie '92, the high-spirited son of Peter Smith Michie (Class of 1863), Professor of Natural Philosophy and head of the Academic Board. Dennis Michie loved football, and he had an undeniable influence over his formidable father. So it was young Michie who launched Army's football career, when he persuaded his father to allow West Point to accept a challenge from the Naval Academy to a game of football.
The first game went predictably. Navy had been playing organized football for years; West Point's team, with young Michie as the coach and trainer, had been allowed to practice only on a few rainy Saturdays when the weekly parade was called off. Michie's coaching seems to have been fairly informal. When Navy's team came out on the field and began warm-up drills and exercises, the cadets looked on in shock.
At the line of scrimmage, Navy's quarterback began to bark out commands in nautical terms. "Tack ship" indicated a run to the right, "Wear ship" a run to the left. The Army quarterback, Kirby Walker, caught on fast, and began shouting out his signals in Army terms - "In battery, heave!"