Zach Reichert embraces the Army-Navy rivalry with the passion expected of every cadet.
"There's no love for the Midshipmen," he said.
Yet, when the Quincy Notre Dame graduate found himself playing in the game that defines the rivalry, he discovered there's no contempt for each other.
There's only genuine respect.
"You'd line up across from them and you'd give each other a head nod," Reichert said. "No one talked trash. In the end, we're still doing the same thing. We're serving our country."
And trying to defend the honor of their academy, too.
Reichert, a junior offensive tackle, made his first career start last Saturday in the 113th renewal of the Armed Forces rivalry.
Lining up at left tackle, Reichert helped the Black Knights rush for 370 yards and average 5.5 yards per carry, while controlling the clock and field position.
Ultimately, it didn't matter. Army come up empty on four possessions inside the Navy 35-yard line, and the Midshipmen scored with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to salvage a 17-13 victory.
"It's just the way things go sometimes," Reichert said.
The hard part is dealing with the disappointment.
"You pick each other up and move on," Reichert said.
And you hope for another opportunity.
"The emotions that are part of this game are incredible," Reichert said. "It's more than you realize it will be. I'll never forget it ... and hopefully I'll get another shot to do it."
If not, he already has a memory to last a lifetime.
Two days before the game, Reichert learned he was starting at left tackle. He had played in four previous games along the offensive line, but this opportunity was like no other.
"I was like, ‘All right, it's official. Let's do this,'" Reichert said. "I made sure I was ready."
He wasn't nervous either.
"The first few games I played, I noticed I was nervous," Reichert said. "I didn't want to make any mistakes. I was worried about doing my job right. This was totally different. Everything seemed to become so calm.
"I was on top of what I needed to do."
It made the experience infinitely more enjoyable.
"I couldn't help but smile at some points because of just how much fun I was having," Reichert said.
Right up until the end.
That's when the pain set in.
"It's hard to express," Reichert said. "It was tough."
It also fueled the fire to be better prepared next year.
"I'm always hungry," Reichert said. "You never know what might happen, but you keep working. Everyone will keep working hard. That's what we have to do."
It's what every cadet is expected to do.