This morning, when breakfast is going smoothly aboard the U.S.S. Peleliu, when the french toast is browned to perfection and the coffee is drawing raves from the sailors, the U.S. Navy will pause to thank the Los Angeles Raiders.
For it was the Raiders, and Al Davis, who broke a long-standing team rule and allowed Napolean McCallum to take a day job at the Long Beach Naval Yard.
Normally the Raiders don't let their guys moonlight. You sign with this team, pal, you've got an obligation.
But the Navy really wanted McCallum, thought he'd make a terrific Assistant Food Service Officer, and persuaded Davis to let the kid spend eight hours a day on the ship.
In return, it is believed the Navy promised Davis protection if Pete Rozelle ever sends a division of NFL lawyers to storm the beachhead at El Segundo.
Sunday, McCallum had his biggest day as a Raider. The rookie fourth-string running back got into the game late in the third quarter and ran for 57 yards in 14 carries.
This was the Raiders' Super Bowl, and they beat the San Diego Chargers, 17-13.
"Can you imagine?" Davis said, standing in the locker room, smiling. "We're 1 and 3 and we're overjoyed."
McCallum contributed significantly to the win. His yardage helped kill the clock, and helped set up a fourth-quarter field goal that finally killed the Chargers.
With Marcus Allen sidelined with a sprained ankle, and two other Raider running backs ineffective, McCallum got the call. He is recovering from a pulled hamstring, but these are desperate times in Raiderland.
"It's what we wanted him to do," Davis said of McCallum's performance. "We want him to spell Allen 15 plays a game and give us tough inside running."
Personally, I wouldn't spell Allen 15 times a game. If I was the coach, I'd run Marcus on every down. OK, I'd let him pass a few times, too. I would also play him at linebacker, so he wouldn't get cold sitting on the sideline.
But the Raiders, despite their record, know what they're doing. Believe me. Didn't they steal McCallum from the rest of the NFL? Yes, they did.
No other NFL team would draft the young man, because the Navy never lets a Naval Academy graduate out of his five-year obligation.
The Raiders, though, drafted McCallum on the fourth round.
A lucky gamble? No way. Davis stole the kid. A Raider official (not Davis) was tipped by a reliable source that the Navy would break its centuries-old rule and let Napolean play in the NFL, if anyone drafted him.
So the Raiders did.
It was like a freebie first-round draft pick.
Not that Napolean's greatness is automatic. It's tough duty, this playing football and feeding a ship, but McCallum is a rare young man--tough, smart, talented and driven.
It's probably not easy to be cheerful before sunrise on a Monday morning, while overseeing stainless-steel vats of scrambled eggs and truckloads of corn flakes. But McCallum will manage.
"I was happy," he said, referring to his first real playing time in the NFL. "I've had hamstring problems, I haven't practiced all week, but I felt good enough to play. I was nervous, but I was hoping to play. I wanted to get in a lot earlier.
"It was fun. You get in, your play's called, you spin, try to get as much yardage as you can."
Raider fullback Frank Hawkins made it easier. McCallum knows the plays, but lacking practice or game time, he's still a first-week rookie.
Hawkins simplified the game.
"Hey, just follow me," Hawkins told the kid.
The Raiders like Napolean. On some teams there might be resentment that their star rookie is off frying bacon while they're beating each other senseless on the practice field. To the Raiders, though, anyone crazy enough to supervise breakfast and lunch on an amphibious assault ship and then drive to El Segundo to crack heads with Howie Long, is their kind of guy.
"He's a good kid," Long said. "It's nice to have him."
And for McCallum, it's nice to be had.
He knows he has a rare opportunity, to be successful in a dual career as a Naval man and a pirate.
"I love to play football, I love to play," he said.
He loves it so much he commutes like a maniac. He gets off ship duty about 1:30 every afternoon, hops in his Mitsubishi and speeds from Long Beach to El Segundo. Literally.
Not long ago he got a speeding ticket. McCallum learned later that the cop's copy of the traffic citation is framed on the wall at the local CHP office.
"I caught him down from behind," the officer probably boasts to his pals.
Working on short sleep as a rookie at two high-pressure jobs, it's a wonder McCallum can even even keep his uniforms straight. A lesser man might wind up some morning in full Raider gear, head lowered, charging through the ship's mess hall line.
McCallum, though, is handling the situation well. How long can he keep up his strange dual life?
"Hopefully, forever," he said, adjusting his black Raider baseball cap.
Forget it. The Raiders will probably only give McCallum another five years or so to work at this outside job.
Then he'll have to start being a real Raider. This getting to work at 5 a.m. with your hair combed and your shoes and buttons shined, well, that kind of stuff could reflect poorly on the Raider image.