The News sat down with free safety Geoff Dunham ’12 at the beginning of the 2011 football season to discuss his hopes for the Bulldogs. Seven games in, Dunham has made his mark, playing in all of the games and garnering 37 tackles. With his Yale football career nearing its end, the News interviewed Dunham again to discuss his time at Yale, his future and his end-of-season ambitions for the team.
Q: As you begin to wrap up your Yale football career, what are some of the things you are going to miss most about the game?
A: While wins are fun, I’ll probably miss the relationships most. The time you spend in the locker room, during lift, in meetings, in early morning practice. Outside of football, I can’t really find a way to bond as well with friends. We just form such a strong bond over the four years, especially the seniors, I’ll definitely miss that the most. I plan on going to a lot of their weddings and the all of the relationships will continue for the coming years, but I won’t get to see them every day.
Q: The games you’ve played over the years have been incredibly competitive and heart-wrenching. Which is the most memorable in your view?
A: I probably can’t single out a single game, but the most memorable ones are the ones we win on the last play of the game or within the last minute. Especially last year — the Georgetown or Dartmouth game — where we would just be really overcome with joy since it’s really special to win that way. That also says a lot about our team because it shows that we are all in it until the end, and that we’re never going to give up. It’s really rewarding to win games like that.
Q: Tell us why you decided to come to Yale over other schools that were courting you.
A: Actually in high school, I wasn’t too highly recruited as a football player. Going into my senior year of high school I just wanted to go to school for biomedical engineering, so I was looking at the University of Texas, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech. [But] I had a really solid first half of my senior season and got in touch with a recruiting coach here at Yale. But even at that point I wasn’t fully set on the whole football thing. I took a visit up here, met some of the guys, and really just felt like I was at home here. So I committed, and I am so happy with my decision. It’s been so much more than I could even dream of.
Q: Your position, free safety, is a difficult one. You not only have to make the calls for the defense, but you also have to rely on your instincts to see where the play is going. Do you ever wish you could play another position, and if so, which?
A: Yes, I would probably play linebacker, because it’s a very instinctual position as well, and I love coming up and hitting people.
Q: How did it feel to rebound against Columbia last week after the devastating loss to Penn?
A: This was definitely a big win. The loss at Penn was pretty tough. It definitely made us focus as a team, and it really turned our season around. With this very needed win we are back in control of our own destiny, and that is huge going into the last three games of the season.
Q: With Penn’s loss last weekend, Yale is in a position to at least tie for the Ivy League Championship — are you guys feeling confident in your ability to run the table, or are you taking it one game at a time?
A: We are confident, but we’re definitely focusing on one game at a time. We’re playing against a very tough and very good Brown team this week. All of our attention is focused on them, and it’ll require all of our attention, focus and effort to win the game.
Q: A lot of people say that this year the offense is doing well but the defense is struggling. As a key player on the defensive side of the ball, what do you have to say to all the naysayers out there?
A: I’d say our defense is very tough. Every weekend we’re playing against someone, so you have to give credit to the other team’s offense. I think we’re still a really tough defense. We create turnovers, and do our jobs as best we can.
Q: Looking at your time post-Yale, do you at all see yourself trying to go pro after this year? If not, what’s your biggest football goal from now until the end of the season?
A: If I have the opportunity to go pro I would definitely pursue that, but if that doesn’t work out I’ll probably work in a lab down in Dallas for a year, and then apply to some grad school programs. Right now, however, my focus is much more on this season and on Brown than it is about me or my future.
Q: You’re a Biomedical Engineering major with a specialization in molecular engineering. Tell us what it’s been like to balance school work, labs, practice and lift.
A: It’s definitely been a struggle. It is hard to balance the school work with the time for practice and meetings, but I feel like I’m getting the most out of my Yale experience. Looking back I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I would rather pour all of my energy into what’s going on now.
Q: Over the past few summers you’ve done some research, first in your hometown of Dallas and then in Florida. Could you tell us the particulars about the type of cancer you’re researching?
A: The research that I’ve been doing is on small molecules used to “stunt” the spread of cancer through tumor growth. Not to get too technical, but when tumors are in their microscopic stages, they need nutrients and oxygen to grow, so they send out growth factors to nearby blood vessels. When these growth factors come in contact with the receptors on the blood vessels, the vessels will branch out to the tumor and it’ll grow. So these small molecules I’m researching will compete with these growth factors for these receptors to hopefully stunt the tumor growth.
Q: Could you take us through a typical day in your schedule?
A: So I wake up around 6 a.m., walk to catch the bus out to the field for practice, get taped up, dressed and go out to practice, which usually starts around 7:30 and goes to about 9:30. Then I catch a bus back to campus, grab a quick breakfast, then go to class, grab a quick lunch, go to another class or lab, then head to afternoon lift or meetings, where we watch film of the morning’s practice. Finally I grab a quick dinner and start on work. I try to get as much sleep as possible then wake up and start all over again.
Q: Tell us about the beard — is it a team thing or are you just using it as a means to get warm in this ridiculously cold weather?
A: It’s definitely to show my dedication to the team, I haven’t cut it all season and I probably won’t cut it until after we play Harvard.