Yale football is unique. I know there are so many people, teams or organizations that would boast the same, but it is especially true about Yale football. The uniqueness of the team cannot be truly felt or understood unless you have worn that original uniform and put on that helmet with “Y” in bold. It is a miraculous feeling and cannot be fully explained.
I was a young African-American kid born and raised in a small beach city in Southern California. It was all that I knew and truly what I loved, but Yale football opened me up to much more than that.
I remember arriving on campus for the first time to start a strength program before freshman year. I met 29 strangers with whom I would go on this journey for the next four years. Although we were all different, we all held that same love and passion for a simple game that creates high morale and intense emotion that couldn’t be replicated by anything else.
The feeling and the passion that the game instilled in us allowed us to wake up every day during the season and offseason. Whether it was for early-morning lifts or late-night film sessions, we pushed through and enjoyed each moment together.
Every team does that. But though that is amazing, what makes Yale football special to me is the family: the 120 brothers that I had made on the field and the network of thousands of brothers I had gained off the field who once played in the same Yale Bowl.
There is an intense passion and love that comes from the rich tradition of Yale, the institution and the game of football. The history and tradition spur current players and alumni to bond and continually love one another despite the outcomes on the field, and that is why the Yale football family and bond is unique. It was not all about the wins and losses, but rather the growth as a young man and doing it with a variety of young men who became your brothers.
The past four seasons have been some of the best times of my life. There were many shining moments individually and as a team that I could remember. Coaches reflect on a season like 2014, in which we beat Army in double overtime and were 30 seconds from winning an Ivy League championship. But this last season, for me, has been the most special.
It was not the season we expected by any means, as we thought we would be Ivy League title contenders. Losing is not easy, especially for hypercompetitive student-athletes at Yale, where we always have strived to be the best at what we do. But this season illuminated the special gift of a family.
Brotherhood is at a true test when things are not going the way you want. Players checked their pride at the door this season, and instead of breaking apart, we grew fonder and closer.
It was amazing to see each class bond with one another, and to see how each teammate was persistent in being there for their brother in any way, shape or form. Whether overcoming the difficulty of a bad performance or an injury, each guy stood hand in hand together, persevering and growing through the roller coaster of a season.
In an age where the modeled culture is about “I,” Yale football made it about “we.” The motto of the season, presented by our captain, Darius Manora ’17, was F.A.M.I.L.Y.: Forget About Me, I Love You. And that is exactly what we did.
There is nothing more special than a band of brothers coming together over a game we love immensely, and coming together to love one another even more. Yale football is my family, one that is irreplaceable and cannot be found anywhere else. So when I step off the field for the last time after playing that team in Cambridge, I won’t be able to express how much I will miss the game, or more importantly how happy I will be knowing that the bond that was created among us brothers will never fade away.
Robert Clemons III is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a wide receiver on the Yale football team. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .