The year was 2003 when Carl Morris set the Harvard record for most receiving yards in a career with 3,488. The closest any Crimson player has come to touching that record was Corey Mazza back in 2007, who came up 600 yards short. The trend for top record holders for career-receiving yards to come from different years is typical, as the best receivers on the same team will inevitably be stealing potential yardage from one another.
So when it comes to the careers of Yale wide receivers Reed Klubnik ’20 and captain JP Shohfi ’20, “typical” is the last thing that comes to mind.
When Shohfi made his way to New Haven in 2016, launching what has come to be regarded as an historical collegiate campaign, he arrived laden with high school accolades. The California native broke the national record in receiving yards with 2,464 during his senior year at San Marino High School — earning him an embarrassment of honors and serving to lead his team to several state championships. A thousand miles away in Austin, Texas, Klubnik was busy making a name for himself as well, graduating as his school’s record holder in both career-receiving yards and receptions. Yet, despite the superlative senior seasons these two receivers put on full display, not a single Football Bowl Subdivision school reached out with offers. Shohfi’s lack of recognition in particular was so staggering it prompted renowned college sports writer Lindsay Schnell to cover the story on Sports Illustrated.
Yale would soon reap the benefits of the FBS’ shortsightedness and presented signing offers to both receivers, who each accepted within two days of one another in January of 2016. Once the star-crossed worlds of Shohfi and Klubnik united on the field, the offensive production that followed would be unlike anything Yale football had ever experienced.
“It’s been an unbelievable privilege to play with both Reed [Klubnik] and JP [Shohfi],” offensive lineman Sterling Strother ’20 said. “We wouldn’t have the opportunities we’ve had this season without them — there’s no other way to say it. I’m so grateful they’re my teammates. We’re so fortunate on the offensive line that we have playmakers like these two guys around us. Having a really cerebral quarterback like Kurt [Rawlings ’20], who helps us out in our protections, makes the passing game way easier, and obviously having threats downfield who are always a ball away from making an impactful play makes blocking for them that much more fun and exciting.”
Shohfi and Klubnik would be integrated into the Eli offense from opening week — with each going on to produce exemplary numbers as rookies. Shohfi tallied a respectable 19 catches through nine games, while Klubnik stood out with his team-leading 34 catches. Shohfi did not appear properly briefed on the so-called “sophomore slump,” posting four touchdowns and 427 yards in 2017, ranking first and second on the team respectively, to help the Blue and White secure its first outright Ivy League championship in more than three decades. For Klubnik, an injury cut short an already substandard campaign of 126 yards and just a single touchdown. Entering 2018, it appeared as if Shohfi had separated himself from Klubnik as the go-to option for the Bulldog offense. Yet nobody could have seen what ensued.
Klubnik went on to have one of the best campaigns a Blue and White receiver had ever enjoyed in the team’s 147-year history. In the 10 games he partook in, Klubnik accumulated a school-record 1,434 yards receiving — placing him in the top 10 for receiving yards in the entire Football Championship Subdivision that year. While the season was a disappointing one from a wins and losses perspective, Klubnik nevertheless was able to reap the fruits of his labor at the season’s end, earning First Team All-Ivy League and Phil Steele First Team All-Ivy League distinction. Shohfi, in a campaign that saw vast improvements from his first two seasons, wasn’t too far behind Klubnik in terms of production — hauling in a stupendous 55 catches to go along with 836 yards and six touchdowns to boot.
“It’s crazy to think about the growth we’ve had as a class,” Shohfi said. “It is definitely nice to look back and see the relationships we’ve strengthened and the commitment we have given to be successful. It has been the greatest blessing to grow with these people and to be able to play with them. They are the reason why I love this sport, and our efforts together have allowed us to leave a valuable legacy on Yale football.”
There were, understandably, very high expectations for Shohfi and Klubnik this fall as they entered their final seasons together. With Team 147’s star quarterback Rawlings returning from a leg injury he suffered the year before, the tandem looked poised to embark on a campaign of offensive brilliance. Nine weeks in, brilliance has been an understatement.
Beginning with Shohfi, his senior season has been one of receiving at its most paramount level, averaging a league-high 113 yards per game to go along with 10 touchdowns, which ranks a modest second among Ancient Eight receivers. Shohfi has been especially domineering this last month in particular — a stretch of four games in which he has not not caught for less than 140 yards.
Meanwhile, Klubnik has caught for a remarkable 861 yards through nine games, placing him second only to Shohfi in the Ivy League. Yet, if there was one game this season that showcased the pure mastery of Shohfi and Klubnik, one would not hesitate to pick last weekend’s matchup against Princeton.
Entering that penultimate game of the season, history was on the line. Klubnik needed just 21 yards to break Ralph Plumb’s ’05 program record of 2,396 yards, with Shohfi just 140 yards behind.
It wouldn’t take long for history to be broken. On Klubnik’s third catch of the game late in the first, a six-yard gain was enough to pass Plumb and his all-time receiving yard record. When it came time to march off the field, it was Klubnik who now stood first all-time with 2,503 career receiving yards. Yet, Klubnik would not be the only player to pass Plumb that day, as as a 23-yard, late third quarter reception put Shohfi one yard ahead of Plumb’s record and second in all-time receiving yards for Yale. With one game still remaining in their respective collegiate careers, Klubnik and Shohfi have undoubtedly cemented themselves as the most electrifying receiving tandem to ever don the Blue and White.
“It’s not what I play for, but it’s really cool knowing that my name is at the top of a list of a lot of good players that have been here in the past,” Klubnik said. “By the end of the Harvard game next week, JP [Shohfi] and I are trying to tie for the record. When we are both on the field, I help him get open, he helps me get open — having each other compliments the offense greatly. It gives Kurt two good options at all times, which helps a lot with the offense. It puts defenses in a bind, they have to decide who to guard. Pick your poison, we’ll be able to beat you all over the field.”
Shohfi and Klubnik will take the field this Saturday at noon in a matchup against Harvard at the Yale Bowl, with an opportunity at a second Ivy League Championship in three years.
Jared Fel | firstname.lastname@example.org