The football team elected Alvin Cowan ’04 captain for the 2003 season in a vote the morning of the team’s spring game April 25, even though he missed close to all of the past year with a broken leg.

Cowan will replace Jason Lange ’03, a first team All-Ivy selection on the defensive line.

Cowan broke a Yale record when he was responsible for six touchdowns in the only complete game he played in the 2002 season. Despite his long absence, Cowan was back to his usual form during the Bulldogs’ April 25 spring game. The Cowan-led Eli offense outperformed their defensive counterparts in the annual intrasquad scrimmage, according to defensive back Michael Hurley ’06.

Running back Matt Handlon ’06 was mentioned by a number of players as having done particularly well; he scored two touchdowns during the game. Returning all-Ivy selections running back Rob Carr ’05 and tight end Nate Lawrie ’04 both played particularly well. Drew Palin’s ’06 interception was one bright spot for the defense, and converted running back Jonas Maciunas ’06 adjusted well to the defensive line.

Cowan, for his part, connected with Chandler Henley ’06 for a touchdown.

Cowan’s rehabilitation is one of the reasons his teammates saw him as the best choice for captain. Ken Estrera ’04, who finished second in the team’s voting, said Cowan’s dedication is one of his strong points.

“His work ethic rubs off on the rest of us,” Estrera said. “It shows in the off-season. He worked really hard to come back from his injury.”

Lange also had praise for his successor.

“He’s an incredible on-the-field leader,” Lange said. “He tends to be a little bit shyer off the field, but when he’s in his domain of football, he’s very good at what he does and very good at motivating people.”

Cowan himself said his ability to both confront and congratulate is what makes him a good leader.

“My greatest strength is the fact that I’m not scared to tell somebody when they screw up,” Cowan said. “But at the same time, I’m a lot more likely to congratulate somebody when they do well.”

Cowan’s captaincy is unusual for a number of reasons. First, it is rare for Yale to select a quarterback as captain. Cowan is the first since Kelly Ryan in 1986. Most Yale captains come — like Lange — from the defensive ranks.

“It’s a little easier to be more emotional on defense,” Lange said. “And that can be seen as leadership. Offensive players tend to need to keep control and be a little more focused, whereas defensive players can be more emotional and reckless.”

But Cowan is more emotional than the usual signal caller.

“My natural ‘state’ on the football field is more of a defensive-linebacker-type mentality,” he said. “I’m trying to hit people on the other team and run them over. At the very beginning of the game, we usually call some kind of short pass, or roll out, where I’m more likely to get hit. I don’t feel like I’m in the game until I get hit.”

Cowan also has two more years of athletic eligibility left after red-shirting this past season because of his injury. Cowan said someone in his situation is classified, as far as the football team is concerned, as a senior for two years, and not a junior for two.

“I really want to focus on this year, because we have a lot of guys that are going to be fifth year seniors,” Cowan said. “I came in with this group of guys, and they are counting on me to concentrate on this year.”

Cowan is the 126th football captain at Yale, a position that he says comes with many traditions.

“It’s a pretty elite group of people [who have been captain], and it’s a big honor for me,” Cowan said.