Courtesy of Yale Athletics

As the fallen leaves scatter the sidewalks outside of the Yale Bowl, the seniors on the Yale football team, including linebacker Micah Awodiran ’22, prepare for their final matchup against rival Harvard. 

Awodiran is the creator of the “Bulldog Ballot Challenge,” a department-wide initiative that succeeded in getting every eligible student-athlete and coach at Yale registered to vote. The challenge was led by Yale Bulldogs for Change, a coalition of 16 student-athletes across nine teams to improve the experience of Yale athletes of color. 

“Everyone has a civic duty to go out and vote and, obviously, there’s going to be a way,” Awodiran said. “So I really just wanted to lead an initiative to where everyone who was eligible to vote on campus had the resources to cast their ballot because it was such a pivotal election.”

At an August brainstorming meeting with the YBC, Awodiran suggested creating a challenge between teams to incentivize voter registration. This effort ultimately led to a total of 739 students and coaches registering to vote.  

Along with Awodiran’s initiative, the NCAA also later passed legislation to give all student-athletes the day off from practice and competition on Nov. 2 to grant them the opportunity to exercise their civic duty.

“You know how competitive we are, and also it’s a very big election, so we wanted to get as many people to vote as possible, and this is a great way to do it,” Yale football assistant head coach Derrick Lett said to the News in 2020. “We were all very pleased and very impressed with the idea, and we took it and ran with it.”

Before beginning his work with the Bulldog Ballot Challenge, Awodiran started an organization called “Students of the Diaspora,” through his involvement with the Afro-American Cultural Center. The purpose of the club was to create a common space for West Indian, African American and first-generation African students.

A political science major studying African American history, African history, women’s, gender and sexuality studies, in addition to other disciplines, Awodiran has also participated in community action and protest, including Yale: Respect New Haven initiatives. 

“I’ve definitely admired my peers as far as their ability to organize and use their voices to move important issues forward,” Awodiran said. “So for anywhere that I could be an active participant, I always wanted to make sure that I was kind of [there and] doing that.”

Awodiran is not only an advocate in the Yale community, he is also a leader on the field. He described his experience with the seniors on his team when he was an underclassman, and how they inspired him to “bring younger guys into the fold” and create a team culture of dedication. 

In a team with two classes of rookies with little to no collegiate experience, Awodiran is focused on getting them acclimated to the program and maintaining the success the Elis have had in past years.  

“For him to step up and realize that he can make a real difference and get 739 people in the athletics community to register to vote, that just speaks to the leadership abilities he has and how special he can be,” linebacker John Dean ’22 said in November 2020. “So for me, I’m not shocked, but extremely impressed, and I love what he’s doing.”

Awodiran recorded a season-high 13 tackles in a game against Penn earlier this season.

AMELIA LOWER
Amelia Lower covers women's soccer, men's lacrosse and men's ice hockey. She is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College and is from Rye, New York.