Best-selling author and award-winning New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape will be at Barnes & Noble (1680 Campbell Lane in Bowling Green) at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 to discuss his recently released book SOLDIERS FIRST: Duty, Honor, Country, and Football at West Point.
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. He 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 second” at the Army-Navy game in December. The 2011 season would prove a true test of the players’ mettle and perseverance.
With 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 of Bowling Green, 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. Along 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.
“When I heard about Joe Drape’s book, I knew I wanted to read it. After reading it, I knew I wanted to bring Joe to Bowling Green to give everyone in the community a chance to meet him and have him sign copies of the book,” said Kristie Lowry, Literary Outreach Coordinator for WKU Libraries. “The fact that Joe features Trent Steelman, a former Bowling Green Purple, in the book may draw local people to it, but once they pick up a copy they’ll be rooting for every one of the Army Black Knights when they’re on the football field — and as they face even greater challenges after they leave West Point.”
Through his observations and interviews, Drape makes it clear how devoted and steadfast the cadets are to the path they’ve chosen. More West Point graduates have died in American conflicts over the past decade than those of any other college or university, and many more have been grievously wounded. Tyson Quink, a member of the 2009 team, lost both legs after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan. He is now back at West Point coaching at the behest of Coach Ellerson and is a constant reminder of the hard and harrowing truths regarding the cadets’ commitment to Duty, Honor, and Country.
About the author: 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.
Contact: Kristie Lowry, firstname.lastname@example.org or (270) 745-4502.