Soldiers First by Joe Drape
Duty, Honor, Country, and Football at West Point

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Bestselling author Joe Drape reveals the unique pressures and expectations that make a year of Army football so much more than just a tally of wins and losses.

The football team at the U.S. Military Academy is not like other college football teams. At other schools, athletes are catered to and coddled at every turn. At West Point, they carry the same arduous load as their fellow cadets, shouldering an Ivy League–caliber education and year-round military training. After graduation they are not going to the NFL but to danger zones halfway around the world. These young men are not just football players, they are soldiers first.

New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape takes us inside the world of Army football, as the Black Knights and their third-year coach, Rich Ellerson, seek to turn around a program that had recently fallen on hard times, with the goal to beat Navy and "sing last" at the Army-Navy game in December. The 2011 season would prove a true test of the players' mettle and perseverance.

Drawing on his extensive and unfettered access to the players and the coaching staff, Drape introduces us to this special group of young men and their achievements on and off the field. Anchoring the narrative and the team are five key players: quarterback Trent Steelman, the most gifted athlete; linebacker Steve Erzinger, who once questioned his place at West Point but has become a true leader; Andrew Rodriguez, the son of a general and the top scholar-athlete; Max Jenkins, the backup quarterback and the second-in-command of the Corps of Cadets; and Larry Dixon, a talented first-year running back. Together with Coach Ellerson, his staff, and West Point's officers and instructors, they and their teammates embrace the demands made on them and learn crucial lessons that will resonate throughout their lives—and ours.


About Joe Drape

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Joe Drape is the author of the New York Times bestseller Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen, The Race for the Triple Crown, and Black Maestro. He is an award-winning reporter for The New York Times, having previously worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, he lives in New York City with his wife and son.
Published September 4, 2012 by Times Books. 289 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Sports & Outdoors, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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He focuses on the coach, Rich Ellerson, the team’s three captains, the quarterback and a few others to tell about a culture where being a player “is a picnic compared to being a West Point Plebe,” where football training camp is far easier than the field training to which all cadets are subjected...

Jun 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, ...

Publishers Weekly

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Against the scandal-ridden college football landscape, Drape, a New York Times reporter and author of Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen, closely examines the Black Knights football team, representing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, on the gridiron whil...

Jul 30 2012 | Read Full Review of Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, ...

Bookmarks Magazine

A Conversation between Jim Dent and Joe Drape about Soldiers First J...

Oct 15 2012 | Read Full Review of Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, ...

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