Quick! Can you name the football player whose return was most anxiously awaited this season?

Of course, Tom Brady and Michael Vick have made much heralded comebacks to the NFL in recent weeks. But here at Yale there is another football comeback in the making: Jordan Farrell ’10, the Bulldogs’ starting running back. This season marks the return of Farrell, who was forced to sit out last season with a torn labrum.

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Farrell arrived on campus in 2006 as a promising recruit out of Providence Catholic high school in Illinois. As a freshman, he learned the ropes as the Elis won a share of the 2006 Ivy League championship.

Farrell started getting consistent playing time as a sophomore backup for Mike McLeod ’09. But toward the end of the season, he said, his “shoulders were a little bit tight.” He admitted he came back after the offseason a little overweight for his junior year, having not worked out as much he knew he should have. And during the fourth practice of last season, current captain Paul Rice ’10, who was playing cornerback, came in to tackle Farrell. What seemed like a normal hit ended up costing Farrell the season.

“It wasn’t too big a collision,” Rice recalled. “I think it was just one of those freak injuries.”

Farrell initially thought he had sprained his AC joint (a joint at the top of the shoulder). Farrell said he remembers feeling the capsule of the joint sliding in and out about 20 to 30 times a day, including during routine tasks like putting on a T-shirt.

Farrell played through the team’s scrimmage against Princeton before getting an MRI, when it was revealed that he had torn his labrum ­­­­­­­­­— meaning he would have to sit out the entire 2008 season.

The recovery process was tough on Farrell. He had surgery around midterms, making it difficult to stay on top of his academics.

“I had to take the midterms using only my left hand,” Farrell recalled. “It was annoying enough having to eat and brush my teeth with only my left hand for four weeks. But I needed to get my thoughts down on paper immediately, so that was a real challenge.”

Farrell said he also found it a struggle to stay in shape.

“It’s easier to eat a hamburger with one hand than a salad,” he said with a smile.

Farrell credits the Yale disabilities office, the football team’s trainers and doctors, and his roommates, with whom he has lived for all four years at Yale, for helping to get him through the rehabilitation process.

“Although it was hard being away from football for so long, I used the time to try and broaden my horizons,” Farrell said.

He often went to his roommates’ plays and a cappella performances, he said, and tried to focus on the rehabilitation process, determined to get back into shape for this fall’s season.

Sure enough, Farrell has returned this year prepared to play better than ever in his last season of eligibility. Head coach Tom Williams, although he just arrived at Yale this year and did not know the running back last year, was impressed by Farrell’s commitment.

“He lost 20 pounds between spring camp and the beginning of this year, and that to me was a great sign of commitment,” Williams said. “He’s earned the right to be the starting running back. He has established himself as a leader, and guys on the team view him as a blue collar, down-to earth guy and look up to him.”

Farrell has performed well so far in the early season, rushing the ball 50 times over the first three games for 202 yards and two touchdowns.

So what lies after Yale for Farrell? He would like to return to Chicago and work for a few years before going to business school at Northwestern or the University of Chicago, he said. Eventually, obtaining a personal trainer’s license and moving out to Los Angeles to train celebrities is a possibility for the gym rat.

“I’d love to come up with the next big workout that everyone starts doing,” he said.

But before that, Farrell has some unfinished business to take care of on the field this season.

Farrell won two state championships in high school and the Ivy League title in his freshman year, so he has had the taste of success and relishes the opportunity to get back to the top.

“Once you get a ring, every season you don’t win one is disappointing,” he said.

And Farrell has good plans for his ring collection. Ideally, he wants to win a fourth ring this season with the future in mind.

“When I’m an old man, I want to be able to give each grandchild a ring,” he said. “So if I have four, I probably won’t have to shun anybody.”