No more rock-backpack squats: Yale football opens on Saturday

Nothing replaces the game experience, practice time and in-person team building. But if you are in a pandemic and you lose a year like Yale football, just use whatever you have at home or your friend’s uncle’s house.

“Even in a different situation than what we have been faced with over the past two years, our team still challenges itself to focus on the day we have ahead of us and not on the season or games to come.” , said the captain. John Dean said this week.

“That mindset that we had in place during my career here before the corona hit that really helped us thrive in the conditions.”

The Bulldogs will finally use what they learned on Saturday at the Yale Bowl, opening the 2021 season against Holy Cross at noon (ESPN +).

Their last game was the 2019 home game against Harvard which ended at dusk and clinched a share of the Ivy League title. Four months later, the sports department was closed.

“The guys were at home sending videos of themselves training to the whole team. I think some guys, if they didn’t have access to a gym, they would just put as many rocks as they could in a backpack and squat that, ”Dean said.

“Our team is definitely focused day to day, and I think we’ve thrived in the tough situations we’ve faced over the past two years.”

As things opened up over the past year, things got a little easier, but coach Tony Reno said there were still six months he didn’t have any the team in front of him at the same time.

Dean said he and half a dozen teammates spent about a month in Maine at the lake house owned by his teammate JJ Howland’s uncle.

Saturday noon (Stream: ESPN +)


“We brought a squat rack, dumbbells, we did workouts on the beach,” Dean said. “It was cool, and it was a great bonding experience to quarantine with some teammates and still be able to work hard in quarantine.”

Technology still allows them to communicate. Dean said he would face quarterback Griffin O’Connor and find him throwing a soccer ball on the beach in California.

This summer, O’Connor had to send some of the team’s receivers to California for their pitch. But he also threw in a net, made a hole in it.

“I’ve been looking forward to playing for a while now, like everyone else on the squad,” said O’Connor.

“During the pandemic, there’s a lot of times when it was just kind of a you versus you mentality, to be at home. … Fortunately, I had my dad at home carrying the soccer ball for a while now. “

Yale’s sports performance staff provided some structure, Reno said, and players scrambled to do whatever they could, from throwing hay bales to flipping tires – sometimes getting bigger tires.

“Some people went to Home Depot and filled buckets with cement so they could do different things. One of the cool things about it is we’ve continued that a lot in our training now, ”Reno said. “It’s great to see the videos of guys pushing a Ram truck down the aisle or whatever.

“The uniqueness of what the players have built is a bunch of guys doing things for each other.”

On Saturday, the squad come together again against a team that knocked out UConn in their opener but lost to Merrimack last week.

O’Connor said he believes all of those moments over the past 18 months have actually created momentum for Yale.

“My sister had a great quote. She said, ‘Plow the fields now, your harvest season will come.’ And I feel like the harvest season for me and the rest of the team is here now. We are just delighted to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp

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