Don’t blame Alex Aukerman if he becomes nostalgic at some point Saturday.
The Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, will be the 50th and final college football game of the Army linebacker’s career.
A Center Grove graduate, Aukerman isn’t planning on a career in the NFL. He is committed to five more years of military service after graduating from West Point in the spring.
It marks the end of organized football as a player for someone whose gridiron start came as a second-grader in the Center Grove Bantam League.
“I’m not looking forward to my football career ending, but that’s how it goes,” said Aukerman, a 6-foot-1, 260-pound senior who recorded eight solo tackles and 10 overall in Army’s recent 14-13 victory against Navy. “It’s going to be an adjustment, that’s for sure.”
Aukerman is one of six former Trojan players who competed in Division I football this season. The list also includes Stanford defensive lineman Jovan Swann, Louisville defensive back Russ Yeast, Vanderbilt defensive lineman Cameron Tidd and the Indiana University duo of Drew Conrad and Gavin Everett.
On Dec. 15, Aukerman was named to the first-team defense for the All-Independent squad also featuring the likes of Notre Dame and BYU. He has 68 tackles this season, including a team-best 14.5 for loss, entering the bowl game.
He’ll finish his Army career in the top 10 in both career sacks and tackles for loss.
Before the 2016 season, the Black Knights finished with losing records in 18 of 19 years. Army’s overall record over that time (1997-2015) was a dreadful 56-167.
In 2016, head coach Jeff Monken’s third season, the turnaround began with an 8-5 mark. The current Army squad can win 10 games for only the second time in the 128-year-old program’s history with a bowl victory over San Diego State.
“I was there for the whole culture change under coach Monken, and that’s really special,” Aukerman said. “And every Army-Navy game is special. It’s a sold-out NFL stadium every year, and the result of that game sort of determines your season.
“I remember playing special teams my freshman year, looking around and realizing how special (Army-Navy) is. These have probably been the most unforgettable times of my life.”
The same applies to Auckerman’s family — his parents, Lance and Marcie, and Alex’s sister Holyn, a sophomore at Center Grove. They have been able to travel to “seven or eight Army football games each season,” according to Lance.
Not surprisingly, they’ll be at Amon G. Carter Stadium on the campus of Texas Christian University for Aukerman’s final college football game.
“It’s been great. West Point is a spectacular place, but traveling to the away games has been great, too,” Lance Aukerman said. “The game will be very tough. Our falls have revolved around football since Alex was in second grade.
“We’re extremely proud of him. He stuck it out, worked his tail off, and his last two years have been fantastic.”
Year-by-year statistics for Army linebacker Alex Aukerman: