For the 2003 football season, Yale has two quarterbacks roaring to start: Alvin Cowan ’04 and Jeff Mroz ’05.
On Sept. 28, in Ithaca, N.Y., a season-ending injury forced starting quarterback Cowan to turn the reins over to Mroz. Now that Cowan is recovered and Mroz has a year of experience under his belt, head coach Jack Siedlecki has two formidable options at quarterback.
“Alvin and Jeff are both great players, each with very different styles of play and both very capable of being great Ivy League players, but their personalities are just as different as their playing style,” defensive back Barton Simmons ’04 said. “Jeff’s personality is more relaxed and laid-back, and I think that comes off on the field in a confidence that really puts the other guys in the huddle at ease. Alvin is very focused and meticulous in everything he does and demands a certain amount of focus intensity from the players around him.”
Though Cowan was starting for the first time in 2002, he slid into the leadership role with relative ease.
“His competitive nature really brings out the best in other players both offensively and defensively,” Simmons said. “I do a lot of trash-talking and yelling at him when we go head-to-head in practice, and his intensity really allows for the atmosphere in practice to be more productive.”
After a lights-out debut in the Eli season opener against the University of San Diego Sept. 21, Cowan gave teammates and fans a glimpse at what could have been a stellar year. He passed 18-22 for 283 yards, and he was responsible for a modern day Yale record of six touchdowns in one game. With those numbers, Cowan made everyone’s list for player of the week, including the National NCAA Div I-AA Poll by ESPN/USA Today, the ECAC and the Ivy League. In addition, Cowan was named to Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd, which recognizes top national performances in high school, college and amateur sports.
“I have always prided myself on being a complete quarterback,” Cowan said. “I work constantly on all the physical aspects of the game, from running the option to throwing the deep ball.”
Unfortunately, Cowan was unable to add to his resume. He was sidelined the following week after breaking his fibula on the second play at Cornell.
“Injuries are just an aspect of the game every player hates thinking about,” Mroz said. “It was horrible to see Alvin go down like that.”
Mroz was immediately thrust into the game, and he stepped up, passing 9-13 for 142 yards and one touchdown.
In midseason, Mroz broke a three-game losing streak with a career performance in a Nov. 4 game against Columbia, racking up 306 yards for four touchdowns. Mroz was also no stranger to fourth-quarter heroics; he had two game-winning touchdown passes in back-to-back games against Brown and Princeton.
With Mroz at the helm, the Elis went 5-4 for the season.
“I grew up a lot,” Mroz said. “But, really, as intense as it got sometimes, it was just about having fun out there, and we did our best when we were having fun.”
Mroz is taking the spring semester off for personal reasons, and he is currently at home in Greensburg, Pa. Though he cannot participate in the daily team running and lifting sessions, Mroz is constantly talking with the coaching staff here and is training accordingly.
“I’m on a really good program right now,” Mroz said from his Greensburg home. “I’m getting my muscle weight up, improving my footwork, and throwing three to four times a week.”
Meanwhile, his teammate Cowan is planning on applying for a medical hardship waiver, which would grant him an additional season of competition after his senior year.
“I enjoy playing football and being part of the team, and if the NCAA allows me to have another year because I was injured this year, then I want to take it,” he said.
A student-athlete who suffers a season-ending injury qualifies for this waiver when he has participated in 20 percent or less of his team’s competitive events, participating only in the first half. Cowan, who broke his leg after the first two games of the season, meets the waiver’s criteria.
At present, Cowan is pooling his energy into training for this fall, placing particular emphasis on improving the mental aspect of his game.
The coaching staff will be forced to make a tough decision at starting quarterback come September, but it is a problem most schools would love to have.
“With Alvin [Cowan] and Jeff [Mroz] we’ve got our pick of two of the best quarterbacks in the Ivy League,” Simmons said.