“And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” –Judges: 31
Gio Christodoulou ’11, the Bulldog’s starting wide receiver who blazed through the Georgetown defense last Saturday as he racked up 124 yards off nine catches, has a tattoo on each arm. On his right arm is a picture of his guardian angel, a reference, he said, to a poem that his grandmother used to tell him. The tattoo on his left bicep reads “Judges 16:22-31;” it is the story of Sampson’s final struggle.
“It’s one of the gnarliest passages in the Bible,” he explained with a laugh.
Christodoulou’s gnarly playing in the Georgetown game was his first opportunity in the spotlight since he suffered a season-ending injury in the first-quarter of the second game of the season against Cornell last year.
After earning the Charles Loftus Award as Yale’s top freshman, and starting as the Bulldog’s punt and kickoff return man in his sophomore year, 2009 was supposed to be his year to shine. But that all changed when he was forced to sit out for the rest of the season.
“It was real rough,” he said. “You take a lot of time to prepare yourself for the season and you get hurt, then you see the team not do as well as we planned on.”
Luckily for Yale, Christodoulou said this experience has given him extra motivation to help his team win this season.
He was also able to get a redshirt for last year, so he’ll be back next fall as well. This means that although he will be walking with his class this Spring, he’ll actually be graduating with a major in Political Science the following Fall.
In addition to his studies, Christodoulou has joined several organizations such as the Black Men’s Union, Community Outreach, and the Zeta Psi Fraternity.
“Those guys are some of my best friends,” he said of his fraternity brothers.
But even people who aren’t Zeta brothers love Christodoulou. Six out of six football players surveyed smiled uncontrollably when asked them about their teammate.
“He’s the kind of guy who you know always has your back on and off the field,” said Collin Bibb ’13 who regularly defends Christodoulou in practice. “He’s one of the coolest guys I know.”
Other football players likened him to Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli both in his manner of speech and his ability to seem relaxed at all times.
But Christodoulou is more than just a smiling face; he’s also listed on the Yale website as five feet ten inches and 185 pounds.
“As a football player, I get excited every time Christodoulou gets the ball,” said teammate and Christodoulou’s close friend Adam Money ’11. “Put the ball in Christodoulou’s hands and good things are going to happen for the team.”
But despite this perception, Christodoulou has yet to score an offensive touchdown. He has scored off of several returns, but he has yet to rack up points as a receiver.
Christodoulou said he is optimistic about the team though, and he is especially pleased with his relationship with quarterback Patrick Witt ’12.
“[Patrick and I] spent most of the summer together working on our routes and our timing,” he said. “That helped make us feel confident and prepared, and I felt like that was a really vital part of the success we had this past Saturday.”
Christodoulou’s route to this success was not always so clear cut.
He started playing baseball when he was four years-old growing up in Miami, and throughout middle and high school he was a 3 sport athlete, excelling in basketball and baseball as well as football.
But after developing a special relationship with his football coach, Christodoulou came to appreciate the sport even more.
“Football has been the one consistent factor in my life since high school,” he said. “On the football field you go through the same things as life: jubilation and sadness, from one extreme to the other.”
When it came time to decide for which school he would play, and after ruling out the 1A schools, the decision came down to Harvard or Yale.
Christodoulou said his mother ultimately made the decision for him because she fell in love with the architecture and the feel of the campus. As for Christodoulou, he said the opportunity to play in the Yale Bowl was one of the biggest draws for him.
Being on the Yale football team has its advantages too. Christodoulou said when he first came to Yale, immediately entering a community of 100 teammates helped him acclimate to the cultural differences of New England life.
And after four years of playing with the team, Christodoulou had begun thinking about the next stage in life. He hopes to work in New York, preferably on Wall Street.
In order to realize this goal, he and several teammates have been going down to New York every Thursday with Coach John Coughlin and meeting with different banks.
But for now, Christodoulou said he is hoping to beat Harvard and maybe even win an Ivy League Championship.
“I feel just like Sampson did,” he said. “You really can control your own destiny.”