The Game 2015:
For Yale, for each other
On a hot and humid day in August 2012, we concluded our first-ever practice as Yale football players with 17 over-and-backs and 60 up-downs. As hard as that first practice might have been, it was necessary, and things were about to get a lot harder. But it wasn’t just the first practice for the two of us and the other 21 members of our senior class; it was Tony Reno’s first practice as the head coach of a collegiate football team. That year we would learn the meaning of one of coach’s favorite terms, adversity, in the form of a 2–8 season. But the class of 2016 took what could easily have been a demoralizing welcome to college football and turned it into a story of growth, commitment and family.
In the coming years our class would play a pivotal role in a drastic shift in the culture of Yale football. We would spend countless hours on the practice field, in meetings, the film room, the weight room and the training room. We woke up to 4:45 a.m. alarms to tread through the snow, catch school buses and train in off-campus facilities three days a week in February. We ate fire, bent rebar with our throats and broke boards with our heads in training camps to build confidence in ourselves and one another. We learned how to work, and eventually how to win. Our hard work has paid dividends since that freshman season as we improved to 5–5 and 8–2 in the years that followed. Through these shared struggles and triumphs we have grown to become an extremely tight-knit group.
Personally for us two, our experiences as parts of Yale Football have been very different. One of us earned immediate playing time as an impact starting safety freshman year and will finish Saturday having played in all 40 games in the past four years. The archetype for consistency who was prompted with early playing time from coaches, our Freshman MVP earned the right to play and contributes every Saturday, and eventually was elected captain. The other one of us, a backup quarterback, had a career that served as a model of our “next man in” mentality: a standard of readiness to step into a game situation and excel. It was a different story, of opportunism, in which work behind the scenes was unexpectedly put on display at times the team has needed it most.
Not everyone gets to play on Saturday, and a significant amount of our senior class hasn’t necessarily gotten the amount of playing time they hoped they would when they arrived on campus. But each and every one of the men in our senior class is equally responsible for turning this program around. Therein lies the beauty of college football, the ultimate team sport. In order to be successful you need 100-plus guys, with different body types and skill sets, to buy in when only 11 are on the field at a time. While our class contains a great amount of talent, and playmakers who have had key roles in wins on game day, we are also made up of unbelievable teammates who give tireless effort to help the team even though they know they won’t be playing in the game on Saturday.
The history and the tradition of Yale football are unparalleled. Many students don’t know that football was invented right here at Yale, and that Yale is number three in all-time college football wins. We refer to ourselves as Team 143 to recognize 142 teams of men who have worn the “Y” on their helmets before us. And it is with great honor that we will proudly take the field Saturday with that “Y” one last time. Playing Harvard in The Game is the ultimate culmination of the Yale football experience. For many of us it was a reason we chose Yale over another Ivy League school, to be a part of the most storied rivalry in college football. The support and pageantry from the student body, alumni and administrators going into this game have been incredible. Know that on Saturday, Team 143 will be playing for each other, and for you, the best fans in Ivy League football.
The journey of our senior class and Coach Reno over the past four years has been unlike anything we could have imagined. We have created memories not only in hallmark wins against Army, and out in California at Cal Poly, but in the downtime in the locker room, on buses to the field and to away games, in the grind of the offseason and on our senior trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that we will take to the grave. We may not have reached our ultimate goal of an Ivy League championship in our time here at Yale, but what we will leave this great university with is something more valuable than any piece of hardware. We will leave with 21 brothers, bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime.