It takes a talented athlete to switch sides of the ball halfway through his college football career, but captain Beau Palin ’14 took the challenge during his junior season when he shifted from tight end to defensive end.

Palin started every game that year, finishing the 2012 season with 43 tackles and a team-high four sacks. While the statistics speak to Palin’s work ethic, the impression he has left on his teammates speaks louder.

“Beau has been blessed with natural leadership and an unparalleled work ethic,” wide receiver Cameron Sandquist ’14 said. “He cares about this team and it shows. He puts an astounding amount of effort into forming relationships and making sure every single guy on the team knows their role and importance to Yale football. It is exciting to be a part of.”

Palin said that only a few players in his class remained on the team since their freshman year, and that the group has bonded through the turmoil and instability that have afflicted the Bulldogs over the past two years.

He is motivated by the role and said he looks forward to leading alongside his teammates rather than by just himself.

“Being the captain and the leader of the team is really inspiring because you have 100 or more guys depending on you to do it right every day. It’s good. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way,” Palin said. “It’s easy to create a culture of leadership when there are so many other leaders on the team.”

After the Bulldogs played without a captain for the first time in the team’s history last year, Palin faced a difficult challenge stepping into the empty position for the 2013 season.

But wide receiver Chris Smith ’14, who was away from school for the captain-less 2012 campaign, thinks Palin is the right man for the job.

“The thing that makes Beau a great captain for our team is that he’s real. He doesn’t try to be someone he’s not,” Smith said. “That makes all the guys respect him and follow the example he sets.”

Palin is not the first leader in his family and certainly is not the only athlete. The Wisconsin native grew up in a competitive atmosphere, playing sports both with and against his brothers Drew, Tyler and Ian as well as with his sister Holly, whom he says is the best athlete in the family.

All four brothers continued their football careers at the college level — older brother Drew Palin ’06 played football for the Bulldogs and older brother Tyler played for Carleton College while younger brother Ian is currently starting at tight end for the University of Dayton. Holly played both field hockey and basketball for Northwestern while father Drew Palin played nose guard for Stanford and his grandfather played for Brown.

Despite how competitive Palin is with his siblings, he said it remains playful.

“My little brother just got bigger than me and it irritates me,” Palin said.

Palin’s father jokes that if younger brother Ian is playing better than Beau, he will be attending Ian’s games.

Still, Beau gives his family much of the credit for his success.

“My siblings are instrumental to who I am and I look up to them all in different ways. My parents too,” Palin said.

While it is easy to see the influence of Palin’s family on his athletic career, their influence on his academics is less obvious.

Palin is an ecology and evolutionary biology major. While he says he does not intend to apply to medical school directly after graduating, Palin hopes to become involved with entrepreneurship or leadership development, something that stems from his work as an assistant director for the Warrior-Scholar Project, a program that helps veterans transition into college life.

Palin also cites as inspiration a football leadership program that head coach Tony Reno is working with retired General Stanley McChrystal to develop. He said one of his favorite moments at Yale was on a trip with the program.

“Last year we went to Gettysburg and went on an early-morning run through the Gettysburg battlefield as the sun was rising,” Palin said. “[McChrystal] is definitely a huge role model.”

Palin likens all of the effort he puts into the team and leaves out on the field to one of his favorite quotations by Theodore Roosevelt: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

The Bulldogs will open up the 2013 season at Colgate on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.