Mike McLeod, Mike McLeod, Mike McLeod.
With the way things have repeated themselves in the past three games, the junior tailback is turning Yale football into one big broken record.
The Bulldogs have completely dominated their first three opponents while continuing to rewrite the record books in each game. Superstar tailback Mike McLeod’s ’09 performance against Holy Cross last Saturday set new school highs for most rushing yards in a single game and most career rushing touchdowns. By the end of the game, McLeod had racked up 256 yards on the ground and also added another five rushing touchdowns, moving him into first place on Yale’s career list with 37 rushing TDs. In a somewhat ironic twist, the previous record-holder, John Pagliaro ’78, has a son, John Pagliaro ’11, on the junior varsity team.
“I didn’t really think too much about my dad’s record during the game,” Pagliaro said. “I just wanted us to leave Holy Cross with a win, and Mike played a big role in that by scoring five TDs. My dad called me after and said that we played a great game. He briefly mentioned Mike breaking his record, but he was pretty much just checking up on me.”
With seven games left this year, McLeod stands poised to own almost every Yale rushing record – and a few Ivy League records – by the end of his junior season. McLeod needs just 776 yards to break Robert Carr’s ’04 school record for most career rushing yards and only 1316 yards to set the Ivy League mark for most yards in a single season. In addition, McLeod needs only 23 more touchdowns to break the Ivy League record for career rushing TDs and only 12 more scores to match the league single-season mark. If McLeod maintains his current 188 rushing yards per game average – good for third in the Football Championship Subdivision – he will break nearly every record before the Harvard-Yale showdown.
“Breaking records is always great but it’s not the most important thing,” McLeod said. “Obviously, the big thing is the win. The work of the offensive line, Joe Fuccillo ’08 — the fullback — and the wide receivers blocking downfield led us to a great game and helped me go and break the records.”
McLeod’s performance last week garnered a notable amount of national attention. The junior tailback was named National Co-Offensive Player of the Week by the Sports Network, received the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Sports Writers and was recognized as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the second straight week. In addition, McLeod was one of four players to be recognized by the College Sporting News as the National Player of the Week. Unsurprisingly, his teammates are enjoying his incredible season as much as he is.
“I have to carry out my play fake, but I always just want to watch Mike run,” quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 said after the win against Cornell. “He’s an awesome back and we’re very thankful to have him.”
Although last week’s accolades are impressive, the most important individual award will require an entire season of work. At the beginning of the year, McLeod became the first Bulldog to ever be included on the Walter Payton Award Watch List. Each year, the preseason Watch List names the sixteen candidates most likely to receive the Payton Award, given annually to the FCS player of the year.
New Hampshire’s quarterback Ricky Santos was the prohibitive preseason favorite for the Award but with four weeks of the season already in the books, McLeod seems to have an early edge on the senior quarterback. McLeod has four more touchdowns than Santos and has led Yale to a scorching 3-0 start while New Hampshire sits at 2-2.
Despite one of the best three-game stretches in Yale and Ivy League history, McLeod has continually deflected much of the praise to his teammates.
“I just love the way Mike treats everyone,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “He always defers to his teammates. He’s been an extremely special football player and there’s not a guy on our team that doesn’t know that. But at the same time, he’s a special person and he’s going to acknowledge what the offensive linemen have done and what his teammates have done.”
Mike McLeod and the Bulldogs kick off against Dartmouth this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Yale Bowl. Last year McLeod ran for 198 yards – sixth most in school history at the time – and two scores to lead the Elis to a 26-14 victory. Let the broken record play.