When I made the decision to transfer from Nebraska to Yale this spring, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. My school workload would swell, the time commitment to football would not assuage and I wouldn’t know a single person in any of my classes. Since that time I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my fellow students and not surprisingly, I’ve had to answer the obvious question “What made you transfer to Yale?” about a hundred times. The answer that I most often give (as transfers tend to do) is: “Because it’s Yale.” However brief and unexciting that may be, I believe the response is significant in two regards.
First, because I believe it is the greatest compliment that I can give to this university. The simplicity of the phrase itself speaks volumes. The name “Yale” demands a level of respect internationally and evokes an age-old tradition that I feel both incapable and unworthy of even attempting to express. Needless to say, I am grateful to be here.
Second, because I didn’t come here to play football. Nowhere in that phrase is any mention made of winning football games, or becoming the starting quarterback on the field. Though others may label me as a football player, I do not, nor have I ever, derived my identity from football. I am a student first and foremost. Therefore, I ask you to treat me as you would any other Yalie. I came to this school to learn from the best and to be surrounded by the best — in the classroom, not on the field.
All that is not to say that I don’t love football, or that it isn’t an important part of my life. Any activity that someone is willing to wake up for several days a week before sunrise is clearly something they are passionate about. What I am saying is that I hope you will get to know me aside from a stat line and write-up in the newspaper the day after a game. Who I am as a person is completely unrelated to the number of passes I complete or don’t complete on game day.
At Nebraska I experienced what it was like to play football as a job. As a scholarship athlete, your education is paid for so long as you continue to play. I’m not suggesting that the paid education is the scholarship athlete’s only incentive to continue playing his or her sport, but it undoubtedly gives someone who has lost the desire to play a reason to persevere.
At Yale, as at other Ivy League schools, we play for no other reason than because we love the game. If we feel as though we no longer have the urge to play football, there is nothing coercing us to keep doing it, and certainly no one forcing us to endure the pain of playing through injury. Over the past three weeks, I have played for that very reason with a torn labrum in my shoulder and a concussion suffered in the Cornell game. This past game our center, Jake Koury ’11, battled through three quarters against Lafayette with a fractured fibula; running back Alex Thomas ’12 played despite a high ankle sprain; and tight end John Sheffield ’10 tolerated debilitating back pain, just to give a few examples.
In my short time at Yale, I’ve seen this fighting spirit evident on and off the field. The tenacity of a Yalie can be seen in a footballer playing through pain, or in a student debating in section.
Now I don’t inform you of those things to try to induce feelings of sympathy or pity. After all, how could one ask another for sympathy when that person willingly subjects his or herself to their own hardship? I just hope that you would be mindful of that before criticizing or passing judgment on your fellow Elis in any stuation. Furthermore, I ask that you will continue to support our team and our school in a positive way. We devote a great deal of time to our sport, and we hate losing as much as you hate to see us lose.
Perhaps this is the best time to address the current status of Yale football. As it stands, we own a disappointing 1–2 record on the young season. For those of you who have been out to the Yale Bowl for our last two home games, I would hope that it is evident to you that our losses have not been a product of a lack of effort. For whatever this year’s team is or is not, we are certainly not one to go down without a fight, just as you are not likely to cede defeat in an argument.
On Saturday we will have another opportunity to steer this season back in the right direction. I hope that you will come out to the Yale Bowl on Saturday to support us as we try to notch our first Ivy League win of the season against Dartmouth. So long as our effort and intensity stays the same, I am confident that we will get back on the right track toward winning football games.