Like any college head coach, Jack Siedlecki goes on the recruiting trail looking for game changers and for players who will lead his team in the future, on and off the field. Sometimes those prized recruits decide Yale isn’t the school for them. Sometimes the stringent academic requirements at an Ivy League school are too much. Other times they come, but fail to live up to the expectations.
Yet in the case of the Abare twins, Siedlecki struck gold — twice.
From the get-go, linebacker Bobby Abare ’09 and safety Larry Abare ’10 made substantial impacts as freshmen in 2005.
The Acton, Mass., natives both earned varsity letters, and shared Special Teams Player of the Year honors during their rookie campaigns at Yale. Bobby led all freshmen in total tackles (31), while Larry was second (12).
Not many freshmen come in and contribute the way they did, but Siedlecki wasn’t surprised.
“We had high expectations when we recruited them,” Siedlecki said. “Their high school [Acton-Boxboro High] team won 50 games in a row, won four Massachusetts Super Bowls, and they both started every game since their freshman year [in high school].”
He added, “It is amazing, when you meet people from Eastern Massachusetts, how many of them know the Abare name and their legacy from Acton-Boxboro.”
And the fraternal twins are leaving another legacy here in New Haven.
The Abares followed up their successful freshman seasons with All-Ivy performances in Yale’s 2006 Ivy League championship season. The two led the Bulldogs in solo tackles — Bobby had one more overall tackle (46) than Larry (45). Bobby also led the team in interceptions with four — including three in one game against Brown — and two touchdown returns.
At the end of the season, Bobby was named First-team All-Ivy and First-team All-New England, and Larry earned a Second-team All-Ivy nod.
Going into their junior campaigns on a team picked to finish atop the Ivy League standings, things looked good for the duo. But that quickly changed for Larry.
After a 10-tackle performance against Georgetown in the 2007 opener, the strong safety suffered a season-ending LCL injury against Cornell. He was forced to redshirt the season and watch his teammates go 9-0 before the Elis’ loss in The Game.
“I’m a pretty competitive person, and it always hurts when you can’t be on the field with your teammates,” Larry said. “At the same time, I got the chance to travel [with them], and felt like I was still part of the team, and it was great to watch our team succeed week after week.”
However, there is a silver lining. Since he redshirted and took last semester off, Larry will suit up next season for the Bulldogs and graduate in the fall. And with over 30 seniors graduating next spring, Larry will be a welcomed addition to the 2009 squad.
“Losing Larry was a blow to last year’s team but will be a bonus to next year’s team,” Siedlecki said.
While his brother was coping with the tough injury, Bobby was back at it on the gridiron. For the second year in a row, he was named First-team All-Ivy and First-team All-New England, and led the Elis in total tackles (86). He was also an honorable mention on the Sport Network All-America team for a Yale defense that finished first in the nation in scoring defense (13.7 points per game).
Bobby’s impressive season, along with his contributions in the previous two campaigns, won over his teammates and the media alike. In January, his fellow Bulldogs voted him the 131st captain for the 2008 season. In August he was named one of 16 finalists for the Ray Buchanan Award — given to the Football Championship Subdivision’s national defensive player of the year — and was named a preseason All-American.
“To be honest I haven’t thought about [the accolades] once this season,” the captain said. “It’s really something I can’t control and while accolades are nice to have, our team success is first and foremost.”
But thus far this season, the linebacker’s play has warranted the three titles.
Bobby currently leads the Elis and is third in the Ancient Eight in total tackles (48). He also leads the Elis and is in the conference’s top-10 in tackles for loss (5.5), interceptions (3), and defensive touchdowns (2). In last Saturday’s loss against Fordham alone, he had 15 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery he ran back for an 86-yard touchdown.
That performance earned him the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week Award. A few weeks back, he earned the same honor — as well as The Sport Network’s Defensive Player of the Week — after recording 10 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown in Yale’s 31-28 double-overtime victory over Holy Cross.
Those kinds of performances are what his teammates have come to expect.
“Bobby might have the best football instincts I have ever seen,” cornerback Paul Rice ’10 said. “It is like he is in the offensive huddle sometimes.”
With Larry back on the field, the Bulldogs have added one of the conference’s best defensive backs. The strong safety is second on the team in tackles (38) and has been a huge part of the Ivy League’s top scoring defense (14.2 points per game).
“Larry’s style is just relentless,” Rice explained. “Wherever he is going on the field, I’m pretty sure he is moving as fast as he can. He just refuses not to give his best effort on every single play that he is out there.”
One would think that being on the same teams for so many years would cause the twins to get competitive with each other, but both said that wasn’t the case — on the field at least.
“We usually get competitive with each other off the field from time to time,” Larry said. “I think we push one another at times to make ourselves better through our camaraderie, whether it be training or playing some game or even studying for a test. On the field, I think we tend to feed off one another’s energy to make plays and give our team the best opportunity to win.”
As for life after Yale?
Both are undecided, but hope sports will continue to be a big part of their lives.
“Whether it’s part of my professional career, we’ll have to wait and see,” Larry said.
If not, a Yale degree will do.
“I’d love to [continue with sports], but if that doesn’t work out, I believe I can use what I’ve learned in the classroom and on the football field in several different professions,” Bobby said. “Among them I see myself possibly getting into sales or marketing.”
But before worrying about that, the Abares are looking to add another Ivy League title to their resumes. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) begin their second half of the 2008 campaign this Saturday at the Yale Bowl against Penn (3-2, 2-0). The game is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.