Less than a week after one of the most memorable upset victories in the history of Yale football, the Bulldogs have already turned toward the future. This refocusing began with the election of cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski ’17 as the team’s captain for the 2017 campaign next fall.
Rymiszewski, a former first-team All-Ivy player, missed the entirety of the 2016 season due to a shoulder injury. He maintained a year of eligibility by not participating this fall — though he remained heavily involved as a coaching assistant — and thus will be eligible to lead the Elis in 2017.
“It is a tremendous honor,” Rymiszewski said. “The Yale football family is so special, and to represent Team 145 and this university is an incredible feeling. I love this game and I’ve put my heart into it since I was five years old. This game means everything to me.”
The West Chester, Pennsylvania, native was recognized as one of the two best cornerbacks in the Ivy League in 2015, along with Dartmouth’s Vernon Harris. His eight pass break-ups, 49 tackles and team-best four interceptions earned Yale’s team MVP award, as well as All-New England honors.
The freshly anointed captain has been a consistent performer for Yale since 2013, his first season. As a freshman, Rymiszewski played in all 10 games — one of six defenders to do so in 2013 — and recorded 42 tackles and five pass break-ups, leading to him being chosen as Yale’s freshman MVP that year. While he played in just six games his sophomore year due to injury, he still managed 38 tackles and two interceptions.
“When you are elected by your peers it says a lot about who you are as a person,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Spencer earned it through tireless work ethic and passion for the game. … For me, [the team’s election of Rymiszewski] was a slam dunk.”
Rymiszewski underwent shoulder surgery following the conclusion of the 2015 campaign in preparation for this fall. Unfortunately, his shoulder required a second procedure closer to the start of the season, which squashed any hopes of playing in 2016. The Elis could have used Rymiszewski this season, as their pass defense struggled early in the year against high-powered passing attacks such as Colgate, Lehigh and Penn. The secondary shuffled early on due to various injuries, which led Reno to move Dale Harris ’17 back to cornerback from running back.
The unit improved dramatically by November, with its three lowest yardage totals coming the last three weeks of the season. But with Harris graduating and the loss of senior linebackers Darius Manora ’17 and Victor Egu ’17, Rymiszewski’s return comes at an opportune time.
He will succeed linebacker Manora as the team captain, making three straight years that Yale has chosen a defensive player as its leader.
“[Manora] has been an incredible leader and even better friend,” Rymiszewski said. “The ways in which he is able to relate to every single one of his teammates on a personal level is something that I hope to continue. His presence around Yale football will truly be missed by us all.”
Manora, for his part, called his teammate “arguably the best defender in the Ivy League” as well as the “hardest worker and most selfless person on the team.”
“I am very confident that the team is in good hands under his leadership,” he said.
Come next fall, Rymiszewski will likely start opposite fellow cornerback Jason Alessi ’18, who received team MVP honors this season. Alessi had a team-high 10 pass break-ups on defense, but made his money in special teams. The junior was one of the two Yale players to receive second-team All-Ivy honors this season, along with running back Alan Lamar ’20. Alessi finished with a 10.6 and 16.1 average on punt and kickoff returns, the former of which was in the top 20 in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“I was really excited to hear [Rymiszewski] named captain — he’s always had that intangible quality where he makes the people around him better, he demands excellence of us before he says a single word and when he speaks he has a commanding presence that fills whatever room he is in,” kicker Alex Galland ’19 said. “As a fifth-year senior he brings a lot of experience to the table, and I think he represents us well both on and off the field. To top it all, off he’s a guy I would trust with my life. He’s really everything you could ask for in a captain and we’re all very eager to get rolling this off season.”
Rymiszewski and Team 145 return to game action next September.