Despite the record of the Yale football team this season, the Bulldogs boast a number of premiere players who have made a major impact on the Ivy League. Wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 is one of these standouts. While he has broken open the record books this season, Plumb is known to his coaches and his teammates above all for having an impeccable work ethic.
“Ralph is a leader on and off the field,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “He is a great practice player, helps the younger receivers in the program, and his work ethic in the off-season sets an example for everyone else on the team. It makes it easier coaching when your star players are also the hardest working guys on the team.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Joel Lamb, who has worked closely with Plumb and watched him develop into the top receiver in the Ivy League, said Plumb’s discipline on the field is unrivaled.
“Ralph is the ultimate team player,” Lamb said. “He is not only one of our best football players, but he is also one of the hardest working kids on the team.”
After getting his first action as a receiver in his freshman season, Plumb ardently went to work to mold himself into a formidable force at the position. In addition to improving his physique and putting on 25 pounds over a three year period, he spent a lot of time during the winters of the next two years working on improving his hands. Quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05 would spend four days a week with Plumb working on pass receptions and receiver drills, trying to get Plumb as many receptions as possible.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience at the wide receiver position, so I had to work extra hard to earn playing time,” Plumb said. “From there, I had to work even harder to get a starting spot, and I have continued to work hard to improve. In this game, you can never be satisfied with where you are at, and I have always looked to get to the next level, whatever that level happens to be.”
Plumb’s Yale football career has no shortage of accolades. After appearing in limited action during his freshman season, he became the leading receiver on the team his sophomore year with 55 catches. In 2003 he set the fifth-highest single-season record for receptions with 59, and he led the team in total receiving yards with 813.
He earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention for his 2003 efforts.
Captain All-Ivy offensive lineman Rory Hennessey ’05, who is no stranger to hard work himself, said Plumb’s work ethic is a source of inspiration to everyone on the Yale team.
“Ralph is the heart of this team,” Hennessey said. “He goes out there every play and gives everything he has. He works harder than anyone else, and it has paid off for him.”
This year the recognition just keeps coming. In the Elis’ second-half loss to Brown Nov. 6, Plumb broke the records held by Eric Johnson ’01 for both career and single-game yardage. His 258 yards of receiving on the day were also fourth best in Ivy history and Plumb’s 18 receptions in that game ranks second all-time in the Ancient Eight.
After the win over Princeton last weekend, he also heads the Yale career receptions category with 182.
“Over the last four years Ralph has come a long way,” Hennessey said. “He came in here with a good understanding of the game and has grown into the smartest player I have ever played with.”
While Plumb continues to make his mark on the Yale and Ivy League record books, he said that is not his focus at this point in his life.
“Records are things that are nice to think about ten years down the road, but right now the focus is on the present,” Plumb said. “In particular, the focus is on the game against Harvard. I look forward to it being one of my most memorable experiences in Yale football.”
Despite being one of the best receivers in Yale history, Plumb, like the rest of his senior teammates, has yet to defeat arch rival Harvard in a football contest. With a chance to defeat the Crimson for the first time in his career, against an undefeated Harvard team that has already locked down the 2004 Ivy League crown, Plumb said he is more determined than ever to give his absolute best performance.
“In my freshman and sophomore seasons, we really didn’t match up physically against Harvard,” Plumb said. “Last season and this season I think we match up much better. Besides, I would rather beat a team that is 9-0 than 0-9 any day. You always want to beat the best, and I am really looking forward to getting that opportunity on Saturday.”
After such a standout career in the Ancient Eight, Plumb has given some thought to pursuing a future in the game after he graduates. Plumb, Siedlecki and Hennessey all agreed that should he make that decision, he would probably follow Johnson’s path and move to the tight end position.
“Many NFL teams have looked at him and talked to him this season, and they have all said the same thing — if he has pro aspirations, he needs to do what Eric Johnson did and become a tight end,” Siedlecki said. “This would require a major physical transformation from November to April, but I think Ralph has the work ethic to do it if that is what he wants to pursue.”