Oplinger Named Team MVP
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The outright Ivy League Champion 2017 Yale Football Team gathered one final time this afternoon at the Lanman Center inside Payne Whitney Gym for its season-ending banquet. The idea was to celebrate the school's 15th Ancient Eight title while honoring 31 members of the senior class. There were also some awards handed out.
Student-athletes in the class of 2018 had an opportunity to address the large crowd that included Yale President Peter Salovey, while Tony Reno, the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach, thanked everyone involved with the team, talked about the mentality of the squad and summed up his feelings for the seniors.
"There are so many great leaders among the class, and this group was so much fun to coach," said Reno, who turned a 3-7 team into a 9-1 squad with its first outright title in 37 years. "I drove to the game on Saturday with great sadness. I was really upset that this was the last game I would get to coach these guys."
The Elis made it two in a row in The Game with a 24-3 win over Harvard on Saturday before more than 51,000. Yale ended alone at the top of the standings with a 6-1 mark that includes their first H-Y-P championship since 1999.
Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD for Sports Publicity, served as the MC and began the event by pointing out the significance of the number 24 with this celebratory event.
"Twenty-four was our score yesterday afternoon at the Bowl, and it was the Yale's score in the last victory at the Bowl in The Game in 1999 (24-21)," said Conn. "Twenty-four marks the years served by athletics director Tom Beckett, who recently announced his retirement. Finally, the new Football Championship Subdivision Rankings came out this morning and the Yale team is ranked No. 24 in the nation."
Yale Football Association board members Joel E. Smilow '54 and Tom Kokoska '82 took part in handing out the association awards to individuals on the 2017 squad. Matthew Oplinger, who led the Ivy League with 11.5 sacks, finished his career second on Yale's career sack list and is on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List for the top defensive player in the FCS, earned the Ted Blair Award as the team MVP. The Charlie Loftus Award (First-Year MVP) went to Zane Dudek, who led the Ivy League in every rushing and scoring category and is on the Jerry Rice Award Watch List as the top rookie in the FCS.
Here's who received hardware today.
Charlie Loftus Award
Formerly called the Bobby Hertz Award, this goes to the most valuable freshman. Loftus was Yale's Director of Sports Publicity from 1943 to 1968.
Freshman, RB, Zane Dudek
Chester J. Laroche Award
Given to that senior who, by his character, academic talents and concern for others, did the most for Yale. Laroche was QB of Yale's 1916 team that went 8-1.
Senior, OL, Karl Marback
Woody Knapp Memorial Trophy
Given to that outstanding member of the football team who beat typifies the cheerful disposition, leadership qualities, and unselfish devotion to others which characterized Woody's life and accomplishments at Yale. Knapp was class of 1965 and he was killed in Vietnam while serving with the U.S. Navy.
Senior, OL, Anders Huizenga
Gregory Dubinetz Memorial Trophy
Until 1995 this was given to the freshman lineman who best exemplified the spirit of Greg Dubinetz '75 as a player and a person. Greg played one NFL season in Washington before passing away… Since 1996, the award has applied to any class.
Senior, DE, Earl Chism
In memory of James Keppel '02, given to the offensive back who best exhibited Jim's work ethic, pride and dedication to Yale football, as well as his ability to enrich the lives of his friends and teammates. Keppel died a year after graduation, and after breaking all of Yale's receiving records for a RB.
Senior, WR, Michael Siragusa Jr
Senior, WR, Christopher Williams-Lopez
Jordan Olivar Award
Given to that senior, other than the captain, who, through his devotion to Yale football, has earned the highest respect of his teammates. Olivar was head coach of Yale's last perfect team in 1960.
Senior, OL, Cody Arledge
Ledyard Mitchell Award
Previously known as an awarded for proficiency in kicking, it now includes any special teams player who has performed at the highest standards… Ledyard Mitchell was Yale class of 1904.
Senior, QB, Andrew Johnson
Norman S. Hall Award
Given to an individual for outstanding service to Yale football, in memory of Norman Hall '30, a former Yale 3-sport athlete who died in 1928 while trying to save a friend's life.
Sr., LB, Matthew Oplinger
Robert Gardner Anderson Award
Given to player who best exemplifies Bob's interest in the sport by combination of skill, spirit and pride in accomplishment. Bob Anderson was a former Yale swimmer who helped recruit Yale players in the Midwest.
Senior, LB, Foyesade Oluokun
In memory of Ryan LoProto '02, awarded to the player on the Yale football team who best exemplifies Ryan's passion and competitive spirit, skill in the defensive secondary & devotion to teammates. LoProto earned 4 varsity letters as a DB and died three years after leaving Yale.
Senior, DB, Hayden Carlson
Senior, DB, Jason Alessi
Ted Turner Award
Awarded to the Yale Interior Lineman who displays tough, hardworking, aggressive play while demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship. The Turner Award winner is a true student-athlete and role model. Awarded to the offensive lineman of the year in honor of the class of 1942 Yale lineman, Ted Turner.
Senior, OL, Jon Bezney
Senior, RB, Deshawn Salter
Yale Football Captains Award
Senior, DB, Spencer Rymiszewski (captain)
Special Teams MVP
Senior, WR, Ross Drwal
Senior, DL, John Herubin
Ted Blair Award
Given to the most valuable player on the varsity team in memory of Edwin Foster (Ted) Blair, '24. Blair was the starting RT on the perfect 1923 team. This was originally donated by the Yale Club of Madison, Conn.
Senior, LB, Matthew Oplinger