In four years of playing for the Yale football team, with some time off in 2007 because of an injury, middle linebacker Jay Pilkerton ’09 has crushed countless wide runs and led innumerable tackles. He has covered zones, blitzed and shed blocks from interior linemen.

“The position is sort of a hybrid,” Pilkerton said. “The linebacker is up with the defensive linemen and out with the d-backs. [But] just because we’re doing more than one thing at once doesn’t make us any more important than any of the other positions.”

Said linebacker Wes Moyer ’12: “Jay makes it fun to be out there. He’s definitely a huge part of the team, and he’d be really hard to replace. He’s a great leader and a great player.”

Indeed, “leader” seemed to be teammates’ word of choice when referring to Pilkerton’s contributions to the squad.

“Jay is a leader on and off the field,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “He is a great player, works hard academically, and is involved in community outreach.”

Pilkerton has established himself as a formidable obstacle standing in the way of any opponent willing to combat him. Last season, he had 29 total tackles and a record four interceptions and 16 yards. Pilkerton seemed very optimistic about the Bulldogs’ chances for the season ahead.

“I’m very confident in how we’re going to perform throughout the year,” he said. “The d-line is doing very well.”

The strength of the defensive line this season will allow the linebackers to make crucial plays, starting with the Elis’ season opener against Georgetown on Saturday.

“Our defensive line will have a new group of starters, and we will start to find out on Saturday how well they protect our linebackers,” Siedlecki said.

Pilkerton said he was not worried about the game against the Hoyas this weekend and the team was excited to get the season underway.

“Last year Georgetown did well against us comparatively and they already have two games under their belt, which will be our only disadvantage,” he said. “Eight out of 11 of our defensive starters are upperclassmen, and we’ve been practicing since the 20th. Everyone’s foaming at the mouth … we’re begging to hit someone off.”