When the Yale football team goes head-to-head with Army on Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Eli players, students and alumni will have a long, impressive span of Yale-Army history to reflect on. Despite 45 matchups between the two squads since 1893, the most recent contest came 18 years ago, and so this weekend’s action will give the Bulldogs and Cadets a rare moment to honor a storied non-league rivalry.
Perhaps there is no one for whom that history is more personal than Eli kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15, a senior leader for Yale with strong ties to both institutions. Cazzetta grew up in Slate Hill, N.Y., just 30 miles from West Point, and often went to Army football games with his father, who once worked in the academy’s athletic department.
Up until the final four months of Cazzetta’s senior year in high school, Army was the football team he planned on joining.
“I was ready to go to Army,” Cazzetta said at a press conference Tuesday. “It was the only offer on the table at the time, and Yale did not come in until the end of my senior season to start recruiting me. In early February, Yale decided to make an offer, and I made the decision on the spot.”
West Point would have been a reasonable choice for the left-footed kicker, as Cazzetta is still considering working for the military or another branch of the government after graduating. And after three years in high school of playing two fall sports at the same time — football and soccer — his work ethic is well proven.
He opted to kick for Yale because he was not entirely sure if he wanted to commit to military service after graduation, he said.
“The only reason was that if I had gone to West Point and decided it wasn’t for me, I would be in a pretty poor spot, but if I went to Yale, I wouldn’t have any regrets about it,” he said.
That decision certainly made a positive impact on the Bulldogs. In the three years before Cazzetta took over as placekicker, Yale’s kickers had combined to connect on just 45.5 percent of field goal attempts, the worst percentage in the Ivy League in two of those seasons.
One game into his senior year, Cazzetta is kicking 76.5 percent over the course of his career, including three 46-yard field goals last season and one over 40 yards in last week’s win over Lehigh. Last season, he also recorded an average of 38.7 yards on 54 punts.
Cazzetta’s recruiting story was unusual, according to head coach Tony Reno, because most players decide early on in their recruiting processes whether or not they want to attend one of the United States service academies.
“You get kids who say, ‘Coach, I love Yale, but I’m going to narrow my choices down to the three academies,’” Reno said. “You can’t do anything but tell him how proud you are, wish him the best and thank him for the service he’s going to provide to this country.”
Cazzetta’s left-footedness may be just as unusual as his path to Yale. Cazzetta is the first southpaw to kick for Yale since Justin Davis ’02.
The NFL has just one left-footed starting placekicker this season, Sebastian Janikowski, of the 32 teams in the league.
Cazzetta throws with his right hand but does most other things — batting, golfing and kicking — the other way.
“My dad took me golfing, and he saw me swinging lefty,” Cazzetta said. “He tried to force me to be a righty, but it never worked.”
Cazzetta will take on Army (1–2) with the Bulldogs at 1:00 p.m. Saturday.