And just a few months after the 115th edition of the yearly showdown enters the record books, the senior members of both teams will begin off-the-field military careers that don't come with cheering crowds but that may be shaped by the leadership skills and work ethic developed on the college gridiron.
What are some of their predecessors up to now? From the hero of Army's 2001 victory to the standouts behind Navy's long win streak, from elite academic performers to NFL hopefuls, here's a look at life after the last big game for some academy football players-turned-officers:
1st Lt. Steve Anderson
Linebacker, Class of 2011
Then: The two-year Army football captain finished his senior season with a team-best 108 tackles and was second in tackles for loss behind fellow senior Josh McNary, now a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts.
Now: As a platoon leader with A Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, at Fort Stewart, Ga., 1st Lt. Anderson sees plenty of overlap with his West Point days: "It's exactly what we were always told as football players — leading a platoon is just like leading a team. As a platoon leader, you're the team captain, and you set the goals for the team. It's a very easy transition."
Army-Navy memory: Anderson wasn't on the field for his most vivid memories — watching from the stands with awe and anticipation as a U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School student, missing the 2009 game with a ligament tear, and watching the 2010 game fall apart. "We had the fumble on the 1-yard-line going in, they returned it ... to the house," he said. "It was a very gut-checking feeling. I just remember, after that game, being very frustrated."
This year: Anderson plans to watch the game with eight or so fellow former players and their families stationed at Stewart and nearby Hunter Army Airfield. "We'll be wishing we were still out there, trying to do something to fix this losing streak."
2nd Lt. Jarrett Mackey
Defensive end, Class of 2013
Then: A two-year captain, Mackey had a team-best 11 tackles and two tackles for loss during his final game as a Black Knight, a 34-7 loss to Navy in Philadelphia.
Now: 2nd Lt. Mackey is working toward a master's degree in health systems at Georgia Tech's H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He earned a fellowship from The National GEM Consortium, which helps members of historically underrepresented groups in the science and engineering communities. While the school's academic challenges compare with West Point, he said, the rest of regular-college life takes some getting used to: "Even things like making the bed in the morning. My friends will ask, 'Why do you make your bed?' Little things like that. West Point instilled these habits, this way of thinking ... it's definitely helped me here."
Army-Navy memory: Mackey recalled his role as "a little sophomore" on the first drive of the 2010 game in Philadelphia, helping cause the first of Ricky Dobbs' three fumbles. "I remember the whole stadium was electrified," he said. Army would fumble the ball back to Navy on its second play from scrimmage, setting the tone for a 31-17 loss.
This year: "I'm flying out to see it," Mackey said. "I wouldn't miss it. Luckily, my finals end that Friday — flying out Friday night."
Capt. Omari Thompson
Wide receiver, Class of 2002
Then: A dual threat on offense for the Black Knights, Thompson racked up 1,193 career yards from scrimmage, averaging more than 10 per touch. His senior season, Thompson ranked fourth on the team in receiving and handled the bulk of the kickoff and punt returns — including one runback most Army fans won't soon forget.
Now: A captain, Thompson is preparing to leave Fort Carson, Colorado, where he serves as chaplain for 4th Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, for Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to attend Chaplain Captain Career Course. His Army career began in the belly of a tank, where Thompson heard his calling to the ministry during a 2004 deployment to Iraq (a story he tells in the documentary "From Philadelphia to Fallujah," featuring fellow Army and Navy players). "I had to be released from the armored branch," he remembered. "I had to get approval from the commanders and from the powers that be. They had to affirm my calling, and that they supported me being able to do that." He deployed as a chaplain to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, from 2011 to 2012.
Army-Navy memory: With the Black Knights up 16-3 over Navy at halftime of the 2001 game, Thompson took the second-half kickoff and proceeded with a fake-reverse play, one that had been run with little success up to that point. "There really wasn't high hopes that I would be able to break that," he said. "I remember going through the motions, staying behind my blockers, getting hit, thinking I was going down, but I didn't. Next time I looked up, I was halfway down the field and I saw nothing but the end zone ahead of me. It was a surreal experience." Navy never recovered from the 96-yard runback, and Army would notch a 26-17 win — its last in the series to date.
This year: Thompson's 2014 game plan is less spectacular. He'll be driving from Colorado to South Carolina for his next assignment and said he hopes to be able to catch some of the game in a hotel. He hasn't been much for game-day parties during the losing streak, anyway: "It's been difficult kind of watching the team go down like they have been, so I've been watching it by myself, so I can scream and shout and deal with disappointment alone instead of with somebody else."
2nd Lt. Hayden Tippett
Fullback, Class of 2014
Then: A three-year letterman, Tippett spent most of his time backing up Army standout Larry Dixon, who started as a freshman and will cap his Black Knights career this year in Baltimore. Tippett racked up 460 career yards, averaging more than 5 yards per carry, and emerged as a standout in his own right off the field as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist and captain of the West Point cyber team, which beat the rest of the military academies in this year's annual Cyber Defense Exercise, sponsored by the National Security Agency.
Now: Cyber remains part of 2nd Lt. Tippett's career plans, but first things first: He's at Fort Benning, Georgia, having completed the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course and preparing for Ranger school next month. "As an infantry officer, they give every officer an opportunity to go to Ranger school," he said. "That's not offered to other branches. ... It just means so much being an infantry officer with that Ranger tab."
Army-Navy memory: Tippett missed four games down the stretch in his senior season with an injury, but "I was borderline healthy enough to play in the Army-Navy game," he recalled. "What I'll always remember is Coach [offensive coordinator Ian] Shields put me in for the last three or four plays, with the better part of a concrete brick around my ankle. I remember being out there with a bunch of seniors, kind of giving everything that we had left. It was probably the ... hardest plays I ever ran." His final official stat line for the game: Two carries, 10 yards.
This year: His parents offered to help get him to the game in Baltimore, he said, but "I turned them down to focus on Ranger school. I'm in the final stretch here." He plans to find a spot to watch somewhere around Benning: "I'm sure there'll be plenty of Army-Navy fans out there."
Lt. j.g. Ricky Dobbs Jr.
Quarterback, Class of 2011
Then: Dobbs was a preseason Heisman candidate his senior year, but the former quarterback stumbled through most of the Mids' 2010 run. He rallied, however, to continue Navy's win streak over Army. Following graduation, he spent eight months coaching football at the Naval Academy Preparatory School.
Now: Dobbs is a jack-of-all-trades aboard the coastal patrol boat Sirocco, homeported in Bahrain. He serves as the operations officer, training officer, legal officer and navigator. "I am currently enjoying my jobs and Bahrain as a whole, but I am looking forward to my next career move," Dobbs said, more specially his first shore tour.
Army-Navy memory: In his junior year, Dobbs ran a 1-yard touchdown that broke the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. The following year, he completed a 77-yard touchdown. But his favorite memories weren't just his own accomplishments. He noted safety Wyatt Middleton's 98-yard fumble recovery in 2010, as well as a post-graduation favorite: "Watching my sponsor brother, Keenan Reynolds (QB), break my record at the same field and same game against Army."
This year: Dobbs will try to catch the game from Bahrain, though the time difference could be an issue.
Lt. j.g. Wyatt Middleton
Safety, Class of 2011
Then: All-American candidate Middleton, a safety, was elected team co-captain (with Dobbs) his senior year. He played in every game of his college career, helping lead the Mids to four bowl seasons and four Army-Navy victories. After graduation, he stayed on at the academy to coach football through the 2011 season.
Now: Middleton is underway on the destroyer Sterett, homeported in San Diego, navigating the ship through 7th and 5th fleets. Though experts once said he was a shoo-in for the NFL draft, he has his sights on engineering. "Upon completion of my second tour, I will carry out my engineering duty officer option, in which I will earn my Master in Mechanical Engineering from either the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the Naval Postgraduate School," he said.
Army-Navy memory: The Mids had their backs up against the wall in the 2010 game, Middleton recalled, with Army putting on a solid offensive drive. "Then, in the blink of an eye, I stripped the football out of the quarterback's hands and ran it all the way back for a touchdown," he said. "Running those 98 yards with my brothers next to me is a memory of Army-Navy I will never forget!"
This year: Middleton said he'll be watching the game from the middle of the Persian Gulf. "Go Navy, beat Army!" he added.
Lt. Eric Kettani
Fullback, Class of 2009
Then: Kettani led the Mids to their first victory over Notre Dame in over 40 years in 2007, in the heart of Navy's current 12-year streak over Army. In his last three years, he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
Now: After two years on active duty as a repair division officer on the frigate Klakring in Mayport, Florida, the Navy released Kettani from his contract early to join the NFL's New England Patriots. He agreed to pay back $60,000 of his education and remain on Reserve duty for up to seven years.
Today he's a Jacksonville Jaguar, fighting for a spot on the active roster, as well as the newest public affairs officer at the Navy's Office of Information at the Pentagon.
Army-Navy memory: Kettani recalled the end of the 2010 game, huddled up with the team's other seniors, reflecting on the hard work they'd put in during their tenures.
"We had a pretty good lead ... and we were singing the Blue and Gold, and I actually jumped up into the stands with the midshipmen," he said.
This year: The Jaguars play the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore the day after the Army-Navy game, so he might be in town that weekend if he's activated.
"Or I might be in Jacksonville Beach," he said. "We have a bar we go to down to there. It's always a huge turnout for the Army-Navy game."
Ensign Gee Gee Greene
Slotback, Class of 2013
Then: Greene was a record-holder in his academy days, with hopes for the NFL. In his senior year, he ranked fourth all-time for the Mids with 3,452 career all-purpose yards, and his 7.1 yards-per-carry average that season was tied for second in school history.
Now: Greene reported to the cruiser Gettysburg after graduation, returning to Mayport, Florida, from a 5th Fleet deployment last spring. In addition to his position as the ship's gunnery officer, he's in the midst of studying for the LSAT, he said, in hopes of becoming a judge advocate. Ever the overachiever, he's also working on his engineering officer of the watch qualification and hopes to serve as a naval gun liaison officer on his next ship.
Army-Navy memory: "I would say my most memorable experience would be my first touchdown against Army, my sophomore year," Greene recalled. He also gave shout-outs to teammates, recalling Middleton's 99-yard fumble return in 2010, John Howell's 60-yard catch from Dobbs that same year, and Brandon Turner's 49-yard catch in 2012. "And the fumble at the end of the game for the win," he added.
This year: "I'll be watching the game at home with my roommate, ex-Navy football player Collin Sturdivant, and some friends."