Jesse Reising ’11 has embraced the starting job after hardly playing in his first three years. He is second among the Bulldogs with 25 tackles, and is tied for the team lead with four passes defended.

The economics and political science double major excels off the football field as well. He is a semifinalist for the William Campbell award, which is given annually to the country’s top football scholar athlete, and will finish Officer Candidate School after his graduation. The News talked to Reising about football, training for the armed forces, and his possible future in politics.

Q Should last week’s game against Dartmouth have been that close?

A Ideally, no game would be that close, of course we want to say that we’re going to come out and blow every team out and it doesn’t always work out that way … So far this season we’ve been in a lot of close games and we’ve come out on top, and we feel like we haven’t even been putting together full games, so when we do put together a full game, and we start clicking on full cylinders, I feel like we’re going to start blowing teams out of the water.

Q One of the major threats you faced in the Dartmouth offense was their running back Nick Schweiger. You guys traditionally have a good running defense. What did you do to adjust to his game?

AWe were really focusing on cutting off their perimeter game. They like to take the ball outside a lot and with our speed we really feel like that played into our strengths. We got them running the ball back inside a little bit and you know Dartmouth’s running back, he’s a good football player, so he was able to adjust to that and he gouged us a couple times on the inside, but we were still able to come out on top.

QTwo of the very big plays in the fourth quarter there were takeaways, and just like the game against Cornell two weeks ago, those takeaways really changed the momentum of the game. Are takeaways something that the defense has been focusing on?

AYeah, actually in practice every day we have a minimum number of turnovers that our coaches mandate we have to get or we’re running at the end of practice, so every play, we’re focusing on either ripping the ball out and trying to get a fumble or going after the ball and trying to get that pick.

QYou’re starting for the first time this year, and already you’re second on the team in tackles and at the top of the team in passes defended. Where does that success come from?

AI think I always had the ability to play at this level. It’s really been a matter of me seeing where I fit into the defense and also getting healthy obviously and, you know, putting in the work in the off season. I just took my chance when I got it and here I am.

Q Dartmouth was your first game in a couple weeks with captain Tom McCarthy ’11 on the field. The couple of games before that, what did you and the other seniors on the team do to deal with the absence of such a big leader?

A Well, on our team, we’ve really got 22 leaders; eleven on offense and eleven on defense. Losing Tommy was obviously a big loss but we’re also very very deep at the defensive end position and some guys like Matt Battaglia ’12 and Allen Davis ’13 have really stepped up and filled his shoes very well.

Q I also wanted to ask you about your non-football life. You’re a semifinalist this year for the William Campbell trophy, which is given to the top scholar athlete football player in the country. Can you talk a little bit about that award?

AIt’s a huge honor just to even be nominated for the award considering the quality of guys here on the Yale football team, guys that not only excel on the football field but also in academics and that’s probably the result of just being very passionate people in general and to be able to advance to the semifinalist round is really a huge honor.

Q One of your ambitions is to go to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School and you took flight lessons this summer. Can you talk a little bit about the motivation to do that?

A I started OCS last summer to become a Marine and I’ll be finishing OCS after I graduate and begin a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Q And what’s the balance like between fitness needed for the Marines and for football?

A It is a tough balance. You know the mindset is definitely the same as far as you look at the objective of a football officer and you look at the objective of a linebacker and it’s to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. There’s parallels there for sure but the physical training is a lot different. We’re not necessarily doing 15 mile hikes in football practice and the same works in the opposite direction. A big bench press, a big back squat is not going to be that beneficial in combat as a Marine.

Q Can you talk a little bit about the desire to become the Marine?

A America’s a special place. A lot of people have given their lives so it can remain that way, so I have a profound loyalty and I feel a profound sense of responsibility to those who came before me. I kind of feel like who am I not to do my part?

Q You’re not only going to OCS to honor that memory. You’re also doing work with veterans. Can you talk a little bit about that?

A Last summer I worked with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and worked really closely with a lot of the different veterans’ services organizations — Disabled American Veterans, Wounded Warrior project, and so forth, and we really did a lot of different things. Arranged for a lot of the political leaders in Congress to speak at some of the events those veterans’ services organizations held. It was really all around just a great experience. I got to meet some incredible veterans and some really inspirational people.

Q It sounds like, if your teammates are right, that won’t be the last time you’re in government. They voted you most likely to be president, right?

A When they told me that, I said you have to check the ballots for hanging chads. I don’t know where that came from. Once again, it’s a really big honor that the guys would think of me in that way considering the quality of guys we have on this Yale football team.

Q The presidency’s a long way off, and right now you have six games left in the season. What are you looking to do against Fordham this week? What’s going to be the linchpin of that match?

A They’ve got a quarterback who likes to run the ball a lot so we’re going to look to put a little hurting on him. We’re going to try to keep him in the pocket a little more and maybe send him a message here and now.

Q Is keeping him on the pocket going to be one of the major jobs for an outside linebacker like you?

AYeah. Every week as a strong side linebackers I have a lot of responsibilities. A lot of the time the success of the defense hinges on whether I do my responsibility correctly.