Every one of them would much rather be polishing an Ivy League championship ring. But Yale’s football players are still pleased with the awards that the league and other media outlets have heaped upon them.
12 Bulldogs earned Ivy League honors for their role in Yale’s second place finish in the league. The Elis completed the season with a 6-4, 4-3 Ivy record.
The Eli offense — under the command of quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 — produced 43 touchdowns, just two short of the school record set by the undefeated squad of 1968.
Cowan broke 16 school records including touchdown passes in a season (22), passing yards (2,994), completions (227), and total offense (3,429). His 466 yards of total offense against both Harvard and Colgate are the best performances ever by an Eli.
“After I broke my leg last year, I really got down,” Cowan said. “My faith was what pulled me through — along with my parents and teammates, all of whom never gave up on me, even when I thought about giving up on myself.”
In addition to being named to the All-Ivy second team, Cowan is the only Ancient Eight finalist for the Walter Payton Award. The Boston Globe also awarded the Yale quarterback its Gold Helmet, given to the top Div. I-AA player in New England.
“It’s a real honor for me,” Cowan said. “But I really do consider them team honors. I feel like there are a lot of guys who helped contribute to our success this year. I don’t really care what happens to me personally if we don’t win. I never felt more down than after we lost to Colgate. I had had a great game, but we still lost.”
Cowan said that the offensive line deserves a great deal of credit for the plethora of awards that he has received.
“We protected the QB as well as we ever have,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “The o-line had an excellent year, stayed healthy, and developed into a great unit.”
Four out of the five starters on that line received All-Ivy recognition: Jake Kohl ’04 and Rory Hennessey ’05 were both named to the first-team, Will Conroy ’04 made the second-team, and Ed McCarthy ’07 was selected as the league’s Rookie of the Year.
“I see [winning the Ivy League Rookie of the Year Award] not so much as a personal complement to me but as a complement to our offense and our offensive line as a whole,” McCarthy said. “We did a good job protecting the quarterback this year which allowed Alvin [Cowan] to have a great season.”
Hennessey, considered a potential NFL prospect to many, was the only Eli honored with an unanimous selection to the league’s first team.
“[Unanimous first-team All-Ivy]’s definitely a goal of mine,” McCarthy said. “But I feel that I’m a long, long way away from that right now. Rory’s always been my role model on the offensive line and I have a lot improvement to go through before I’m even near his playing level.”
Yale tight end Nate Lawrie ’04, who has already been scouted by several NFL teams, joined Hennessey and Kohl on the first team. Lawrie, who was a second-team honoree for the 2002 season, beat out preseason All-American Casey Cramer of Dartmouth; Cramer had been first-team All-Ivy in both 2001 and 2002.
Yale runningback Robert Carr ’05 and kicker John Troost ’05 were named to the All-Ivy second-team. Receivers Ralph Plumb ’05 and Ron Benigno ’04 were both awarded honorable mentions.
On defense, however, the only Bulldogs recognized were linebacker Ken Estrera ’04 and defensive tackle Bryant Dieffenbacher ’04. Estrera made a repeat appearance on the All-Ivy second team and Dieffenbacher earned a place on the honorable mention rolls.
“I thought [Benigno] really got snubbed,” Cowan said. “He was definitely one of the top five receivers in the league this year. Also, our defense wasn’t really included. I thought our linebackers [Estrera and Ben Breunig ’05] were some of the best in the league.”
Though Benigno, Lawrie, and Kohl will graduate this spring, none of Yale’s other honorees will be leaving. Cowan, Dieffenbacher, Estrera, and 2002 second-team All-Ivy safety Barton Simmons ’04, have all taken medical redshirt seasons and will return for the Elis in 2004.
Simmons missed this season due to an ACL injury. Siedlecki said Simmons — along with Matt Handlon ’06, Andrew Ralph ’06, Willie Cruz ’05, Brandon Dyches ’06, Andrew Butler ’06 and Mike Holben ’06 — will improve a defense that was second to last for points allowed in the league this season.