Nov. 16 is a big day for Navy football. Not only is it Senior Day for the Midshipmen, but a win during the final home game of the season would clinch a postseason berth. And for the seniors, it will be the last time they run onto the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium wearing the Navy uniform.
"This last game is definitely going to be a big game for us," senior safety Wave Ryder said. "It's the last time we strap on the pads on the Navy-Marine Corps field. Winning this one, we clinch a bowl game. And it is the first time in a while we've gone undefeated at home. It's definitely one we need to win."
Ryder, who spent his first few seasons playing special teams for the Midshipmen, before contributing at safety, said he would miss the Navy experience.
"Coming in as a freshman, I was just awestruck, playing D-I football," Ryder said. "It's always been a dream of mine, growing as a player all four years and now finally being mature as a senior. As a freshman, you never really appreciate it as much as now, where it's coming to an end. It's kind of bittersweet."
Ryder is well known around the Navy program, but because of his unique name, he has now become known to many nationally after being the answer to a question on Jeopardy regarding famous sports names.
"It's a blessing," Ryder said. "I just feel like it's unique and it's special to me. I thank my mom for having her sense of humor and originality. It was a Hawaiian radio song, and she thought it was cool because of my last name. It's by Hawaiian reggae singer Butch Helemano. It's a song called 'Wave Ryder.' My brother's name is Blaze Ryder."
Blaze, a sophomore center for the Midshipmen, is following in his brother's footsteps.
"I told him I supported him either way," Ryder said. "I know my parents were pushing for it. I told him the opportunity and what it has to offer. Not just football, but the school and the opportunities after school."
With graduation approaching during the spring, Ryder said he had been thinking about the opportunities he would have after attending the academy.
"Hopefully, I get into naval aviation," Ryder said. "So after I graduate in May, I'll be heading to Pensacola, Fla., for flight school, and then carrying on my service time. For privates, its eight years after you get wings at flight school. So it's about 10 years."
Ryder is part of a senior class that has enjoyed success at Navy. During his tenure, the team has gone 27-20 to date, including two bowl game appearances, two Commander-in-Chief's Trophy wins, and three straight victories against Army. Looking back, Ryder said it had been a special time for him and his teammates at the academy.
"The camaraderie with my brothers here on the team is something special that the Navy brotherhood offers here at the academy," Ryder said.
Ryder and the rest of the seniors lead the team onto the field each home game, carrying American flags as they run out of the tunnel.
"It going to be emotional," Ryder said. "I'll be the guy carrying the flag leading the team out. I'll be special being the last time I get to do that."
Navy's Senior Day opponent, South Alabama (3-5), may have a losing record, but Ryder said the Midshipmen needed to be ready and make sure there were no letdowns.
"We're not taking them lightly," Ryder said. "We know that they're a good team. We need to make good plays on defense and hold them down so that our offense can get on the field as long as possible. Not giving up any big plays will be a key for us."
Following the South Alabama matchup, the Midshipmen will go on the road to play to play San Jose State, and then wrap their season against Army at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Dec. 14.
"A perfect ending would be beating Army, clinching this bowl game and ultimately winning the bowl game," Ryder said. "We haven't won a bowl game yet, so that's one of our big goals here -- not just to make a bowl game, but to win."