When they came to Yale four years ago, the Class of 2001 football players and the newly hired coaching staff shared a dream of returning Yale to the top of the Ivy League. The players were not necessarily the most sought-after recruits or the most talented prospects, but they forged an identity of team and resiliency that are often talked about but seldom accomplished in sport.

The adage “it is not how you start the race but how you finish it” certainly applies to this group. After going 1-9 as freshmen, this group has won an Ivy League Championship, claimed two outright H-Y-P championships and beaten Harvard three years in a row. Better yet, they came from behind in the fourth quarter in every one of those Harvard games.

On Monday we will graduate 24 seniors, the most seniors on a Yale football team in over a decade. They won 19 of their last 23 games and have left a legacy that will be hard to match. Over four years some individuals made an impact on Yale football that will be talked about for years to come. “The Catch” and “The Catch, part two” will forever be a part of Yale football lore. Eric Johnson ’01 leaves as the career receiving leader, Rashad Bartholomew ’01 leaves as the career rushing leader, Mike Murawczyk ’01 leaves as the career scoring leader, and Todd Tomich ’01 leaves as the career interception and punt return leader. What they have accomplished over four years are great individual feats, but what this group accomplished as a team surpasses all individual accomplishment.

For Peter Mazza ’01 to be elected captain of this group shows what a special person, leader and player he is. He is the ultimate team player who by daily example put team goals ahead of individual goals and enabled this group to form an identity as a team that is rare in today’s athletic environment.

I would personally like to thank this group of seniors for believing in us as a coaching staff, but most of all for believing in themselves and each other, because in team sport that is the ultimate accomplishment. The sum of the parts was greater than the individual parts themselves, and no coach could ask for anything more.

Jack Siedlecki is the head coach of the Yale football team. He was the 1999 New England Coach of the Year.