As captain of the Yale football team, Jordan Haynes ’12 knows what is required of him this Saturday as the Bulldogs face the Crimson.
Entering his junior year at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, Calif., Haynes had little idea Ivy League schools even supported football programs. But now, more than five years later, Haynes is prepared to leave his mark on the conference’s most-storied rivalry as he leads his teammates into the 128th edition of the Harvard-Yale football game.
Haynes, a starting linebacker, said he has tried this season to share his approach to the game — one defined by tenacity and focus — with the more than 100 players that surround him. Entering the squad’s biggest game of the season, such traits are even more important than usual as players find it difficult to focus under conditions susceptible to a wide range of emotions. Haynes said this is what he needs to address as one of the team’s leaders.
“They don’t need me yelling and screaming to try to get these guys ready to go for a game,” Haynes said. “Your job as captain in a situation like this is to help the team to channel their emotion in the right way.”
Tom Williams, head coach of the football team, said Haynes’ ability to lead by example has always been clear — as the first one to arrive and the last to leave in both the weight room and on the team, Haynes “walks it like he talks it,” Williams said. Though this ability may be his greatest leadership asset, Williams said Haynes also knows how to use his voice to help guide the team.
Haynes said he recognizes the different types of leadership styles required of a football captain, explaining that he has had to develop his vocal leadership skills ever since graduating from high school and becoming a “part of something bigger” with the Yale football team.
Teammates who have played alongside Haynes for four years have witnessed the development of his leadership qualities. Jacob Stoller ’12, a defensive tackle, said Haynes has the unique ability to be both a “vocal” and “actionable” leader.
Haynes began his freshman year hoping to contribute to the football team in every way possible, he said, but, forced to face the reality common to the majority of first-year players, only ended up playing a few snaps on special teams. The next year, he played every game as he increased his special teams commitment to full-time and was given the opportunity to try out his skills at linebacker.
By his junior year, Haynes said he had sufficiently developed the necessary “linebacker instinct” to earn himself starter status at the position.
Haynes led the Elis last year with 102 tackles, third in the Ivy League. Williams said Haynes plays with a “violent” level of contact, adding that one of his most vivid memories of Haynes’ linebacker prowess was a hit he made last year during Yale’s game versus Dartmouth that knocked the receiver off of his feet.
“Jordan’s maybe one of our most intense competitors on the football field,” Williams said. “He brings passion and energy to the game.”
Though he recognizes the talent of Harvard’s football team this year, Haynes said he knows the Bulldog squad, led by the entire senior class, is capable of competing with any team it faces. He added that he anticipates the Elis are going to “put all those pieces together” this Saturday for a win, through a combination of the “explosiveness” of their offense and the ability of the defense to “shut down” the opposing team.
“He’s been a consistent performer and a consummate leader on and off the field,” Williams said.
When asked what his post-graduation plans are, Haynes said he wants to try to play football at a professional level, though he added he has an offer of employment in the finance industry if those plans do not work out.
With 84 total tackles, 54 of which were solo, Haynes is tied for the lead in the Ivy League this season.