Since 2014, the Naval Academy’s athletics department has sported Under Armour gear. This year, the apparel company hoped to make a splash with regard to the uniforms worn by the Midshipmen’s football team in particular.
Its Freedom brand, which designs the uniforms, was founded in 2010 to offer “continuous monetary, product and volunteer support to military troops, police officers, firefighters and paramedics at home and abroad with a singular mission – support and inspire the brave men and women dedicated to protecting us, every day,” according to a statement.
“One of my favorite emails that I’ve received, it was an Army Ranger, like back in, like 2004 or 2005,” Kevin Plank, founder and executive chairman of Under Armour told Military Times. “He said, ‘I just want to tell you, you know, I’m over here. I’m in Iraq, and you guys, you know, you really make 130 degrees feel like 120. Thanks.’”
The company also has various military contracts to develop gear for service members in theater. But with regard to academy athletics, Plank hopes that the brand can spark joy off the battlefield too. Nike was the Naval Academy’s apparel company up until 2014 when Under Armour took over.
“Maybe Under Armour can inspire them when they’re not in something as severe as life and death situations, by trying to maybe just help themselves lead better and happier lives,” he told Military Times.
The brand was responsible for the Marine uniform sported by Midshipmen during the Navy, Air Force game. And for the Army, Navy game, Under Armour designers wanted to honor F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots, which has sparked much interest since the sequal to Top Gun is expected to premiere in May 2022.
“Every year it’s an evolution, Plank said. “These are just really, really good.”
The helmets, he noted, are hand-painted, and features the Super Hornet flying on one side.
”On the other side, and the roundel represents the aircraft powered by all the different branches of military,” Plank said. “As much as we love the family gibes that happen back and forth between Army and Navy, [we are] recognizing that everybody’s fighting for the same cause and the same beliefs.”
Additionally, the uniform has a patch on the upper left side of the jersey for the strike fighter wing with the Atlantic Fleet, representing 18 squadrons based out of the Naval Air Station, Oceana in Virginia Beach.
The Baltimore-based company feels a particularly close connection to the Naval Academy, which is based in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Annapolis is in our backyard,” Plank said.
He hopes that the uniforms his team created will have an impact on Navy’s performance against the Black Knights.
“We love all of our armed forces and we’re glad that the thought goes in from their side,” Plank said. “But what I would add is that our uniforms are better, most importantly in performance, and so we hope that plays out in the field.”
And although he isn’t a betting man, he believes the Midshipmen will take the day.
I think Ken [Niumatalolo] has built such a stable and solid program,” he said. “And the one thing about this game is I really don’t think there’s ever a loser. I think the mere fact that we get to come out and compete like this, it’s really it’s some of the best in America.”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.