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Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 made history for the Yale football team last Saturday and cemented himself as one of the best to ever put on the Blue and White.

Rawlings entered last weekend’s game against Penn as second all time at Yale in career touchdowns and in total yards of offense. He stepped off the field leading in both. The performance Rawlings put on was more than fitting, given the circumstances, as he went on to throw for 388 yards — a career high. Yet, it was with nine seconds left in the second quarter that marked a defining point of the already illustrious career of Rawlings, a moment that epitomized the journey he had taken to get to where he was at that point in time. With the game still hanging in the balance, having just marched his offense to the 33-yard line with less than 10 seconds remaining, Rawlings handed the drive over to the kicking unit, but head coach Tony Reno decided to let him have a shot at the end zone. The gutsy Bel Air, Maryland native took matters into his own hands, sitting patiently in the pocket with precious seconds dwindling away — waiting for the perfect moment to deliver an accurate throw. Keeping the play alive with his feet, he aired out a pinpoint pass to open receiver Reed Klubnik ’20 for a game-defining, career-defining play — breaking the touchdown and passing record in one flick of his arm. Yet, for Rawlings, it was just another Saturday.

“I wasn’t really thinking about [the record] in that moment,” Rawlings said. “Touchdowns are fun, though. I’m just blessed to be able to play for Yale University, to step out onto the field with these guys and this coach. I couldn’t have imagined it any other way — I feel so lucky to be able to quarterback for them.”

In high school, the gunslinger put forth a senior campaign that saw him complete over 70 percent of his passes and throw for over 50 touchdowns and 4,000 yards. Rawlings led a team that went undefeated en route to a conference championship in the state of Maryland. Earning recognition as the Baltimore Sun All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year for his senior-year accolades, Rawlings entered college ranked as the second-best quarterback prospect in Maryland.

Rawlings’ career at Yale has been a four-year masterpiece, making an instant impact his first year under center. After a season marred by subpar quarterback play from other signal callers on the roster, Rawlings was tabbed as the starter to finish out the final three games of the 2016 season. A highlight of that campaign was his big-time performance against rival Harvard. Despite being thrown into the center of one of the most intense college rivalries, Rawlings let the game come to him, dominating the Crimson. He threw two touchdowns en route to a dominant 21–14 win for the Bulldogs.

Some players experience sophomore slump, but not Rawlings. In his second collegiate campaign, he became the first Yale sophomore quarterback since 1979 to lead the Bulldogs to an Ivy title. His season completion percentage of 0.673 ranked him second in the Ancient Eight that year and was good for the highest percentage in Eli history. His pièce de résistance came in the championship-clinching matchup against Princeton, where Rawlings passed for 304 yards and two touchdowns in the crucial victory.

“He’s a true football player,” running back Zane Dudek ’21 said after Saturday’s win against Penn. “He puts his heart into what he does every time he steps out onto the field. You know that on every play, he’s going to give his all. No matter how many times the coaches tell him to slide, he will not. He won’t run out of bounds — he’ll lower his shoulder to get that extra yard. That’s just who he is as a football player and as a person. We love having him as part of our team.”

Rawlings’ success this year is even more remarkable because of all that he overcame in the previous season. His junior year was cut tragically short and made all the more agonizing by the fact that he was leading the Ivy League in completions per game, yards and yards per game before he was injured. An awkward slide against Penn resulted in a gruesome leg injury, but Rawlings used the setback to further motivate himself.

Now Rawlings is a pivotal senior leader for his talented Bulldogs squad, both making plays on the field and mentoring the younger members of the team. The most recent game against Penn was his best yet of this young season, as Rawlings worked in perfect harmony with his reliable receivers JP Shohfi ’20 and Klubnik. He passed for a whopping 388 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for two others. The quarterback shies away from self-praise, but his career has been a remarkable demonstration of excellence in the face of great adversity. In the press conference following his record-setting Penn performance, his teammates echoed praises of the quarterback’s career. Rawlings will look to finish his storied career strong.

“Kurt is an incredible leader,” captain wide receiver Shohfi said. “He plays with so much passion on the field. But, I think him being concerned with the individual accolades is a testament to his love for the team and his love for football. That’s what makes our team better — when guys aren’t worried about what they’re doing individually. He’s incredible in every way and an incredible football player, but he doesn’t care about any of that stuff. For him, what matters at the end of the day is that the team succeeds, that’s his main concern. It’s something that not only makes him so great, but our team so great — he cares about the right things.”

Rawlings and the Bulldogs will host Columbia on Saturday.

 

Jared Fel | jared.fel@yale.edu

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu

 

Correction, Oct. 30: A previous version of this article stated that Rawlings is from Bel Air, California. In fact, he is from Bel Air, Maryland.