Almost four years ago, running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 ran for 99 yards and a touchdown to lead Glenville High School in Cleveland to a 30–6 victory over John Marshall High School. The win propelled Glenville to No. 9 in the ESPN Rise national rankings for Oct. 7, 2008.
Lounging while on duty at the Yale Laundry Service room in Swing Space, Cargill acknowledged that a lot has changed since his high school days in Cleveland.
“As a senior in high school I was a little bit wild and unrestrained,” Cargill said. “My coaches over the course of four years have kind of reined me in and taught me the intricacies of the position … how to read defenses, set up blocks.”
Cargill’s time at Yale was itself almost blocked. As National Signing Day came his senior season, Cargill had not even heard from Yale. He said that he was considering a postgraduate year at the Hun School in Princeton, N.J., in order to try and play for an Ivy League school the next year.
Then Cargill answered a phone call, and on the other end was Yale’s former head coach Tom Williams. It was a call, Cargill said, “[that] basically changed my life.”
Williams has since been replaced, but new head coach Tony Reno is impressed with the player and leader that Williams left behind.
“He’s got the ability to run people over and he’s got the ability to run by people,” Reno said. “Very few guys have that ability.”
Reno added that Cargill has good vision and makes his cuts well, but it is Cargill’s leadership that is most impressive. According to Reno, Cargill has put the success of the team over his own personal achievements.
Cargill himself emphasized his desire to mentor the team’s younger running backs, continuing the tradition that helped him to learn his craft. Cargill’s efforts have not just been noticed by the coaching staff, offensive lineman William Chism ’15 said.
“It’s an honor blocking for Mo,” Chism said. “He inspires us, especially when things are going wrong.”
But back when Cargill arrived in New Haven as a freshman, he ran into blockers of a different sort — this time on the depth chart. Undeterred, Cargill took advantage of every chance he got. He averaged 3.9 yards his first two years while sharing carries with other running backs, including Alex Thomas ’12, and had a 126-yard performance against Dartmouth in 2010.
Cargill’s crowning achievement, however, came when Thomas was injured in Yale’s 37–25 loss to Penn last year. Playing in an October snowstorm at Columbia the next week, Cargill had the game of his life.
“There is a very real zone that you get in in certain situations,” Cargill said. “The weather was so bad that I just extracted myself from the situation — I was on autopilot.”
Cargill “autopiloted” to 230 yards on 42 carries, both career highs, as Yale defeated the Lions 16–13.
Even as a senior, Cargill has not asked for the spotlight. Reno said that rather than wanting all the carries, Cargill talks about the idea of a “three-headed monster” with tailbacks Tyler Varga ’16 and Khalil Keys ’15.
The result has been a Bulldog ground attack that has averaged 4.3 yards per carry this season.
It was no surprise, then, that Cargill, an unofficial leader, was elected by his teammates to officially represent the Blue and White in the season-opening coin toss at Georgetown on Sept. 15.
The Bulldogs will face Colgate at home on Saturday.