Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Special day in The City

It was a memorable trip to New York on Tuesday for the press conference for the National Football Foundation's annual awards dinner.

The list of players inducted into the Hall of the Fame was truly impressive. Troy Aikman, who quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl championship, was the inductee creating the most buzz. Perhaps the funniest line came courtesy of former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas. On the conference call, he was asked to talk about going into the Hall of Fame along with Aikman since Thomas starred at Oklahoma State and Aikman spent the first two seasons of his college career at Oklahoma before transferring to UCLA. Paraphrasing Thomas' remark, he said "this is one of the few times I am not losing something to Troy."

Yale was prominently featured in the event. The late Dick Galiette, voice of Yale football for 34 seasons before his death in 2005, was the co-recipient of the Chris Schenkel Award for broadcasting excellence in college football. Senior cornerback Casey Gerald was one of the 15 finalists for the Draddy Trophy or "Academic Heisman." Although he didn't win, Gerald was asked to speak at the dinner Tuesday night on behalf of the 15 Draddy Trophy finalists. The always eloquent Gerald did not disappoint.

"You always recall the people who have the most impact on your lives," Gerald said. "I'm eternally grateful to the game of football. I have lived that game at Yale, and it gives the chance to live your dreams."

Freshman linebacker Jordan Haynes was also at the dinner as one of the five national high school scholar-athletes honored by the NFF.

In Wednesday's edition of the Register, there were two stories off the event. First, was the main story on the Yale contingent being honored focusing on Galiette receiving the Schenkel Award and with Gerald, Haynes and defensive coordinator Rick Flanders on site, I took the opportunity to check in and see how things are proceeding at Yale without a head coach running the shots.

There were quite a few things I was unable to get into the paper for space purposes.

First, Flanders said he has no interest in the vacant head coaching job.

"No, I like the job I have. I was only a head coach for one year. I kind of like the one (job) I have," Flanders said.

Flanders would love to return for his 13th season as Yale's defensive coordinator but ultimately that decision will fall to the new head coach. The search to find Jack Siedlecki's successor is moving forward and don't be surprised to see something happen in the next couple of weeks. I'll let the internet message boards and web sites who so desire to throw out different names on an hourly and daily basis. The fact is that it is quite early in the process and when we feel the time is right, we will certainly be providing updates. I will say this much, be careful in how much stock you put into many of the rumors circulating out there. It certainly is a popular topic of conversation. I saw UConn director of athletics Jeff Hathaway who I know courtesy of my other assignment of being the beat writer for the UConn women's basketball program. He was surprised to see me and I told him it was part of my other life as the Yale football beat writer. He asked me what was new in the job hunt. I couldn't resist landing a playful jab so I said "well, the name Randy Edsall keeps surfacing." Hathaway had a good laugh on that one considering how many times Edsall's name has been thrown out there in rumors about the vacant Syracuse job.

Perhaps the one image I have from the event is that I sometimes forget that players are fans too. Casey Gerald's eyes lit up when I mentioned the names Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek. Gerald grew up in Dallas and is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan.

"I have rarely been a loss for words but this is one of those times where you are a guy who grew up in Dallas and you see Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek up there, Thurman Thomas and all those guys, that is something most people can only dream of," Gerald said. "It is real special just to be in a room with them. I'm a huge, huge (Cowboys fan), the Super Bowl parties growing up in Dallas were kind of like Christmas all over again. I still get in trouble now and then for harping on the golden days of the glory of the Cowboys. It is a phenomenal franchise obviously and a phenomenal opportunity to see guys who were part of those teams. I am going to try to go and get a camera at some point to try to get a picture of them."

I asked Haynes who he was most blown away by among the impressive group of Hall of Famers.

"There are so many famous people here," Haynes said. "I feel small but it is a good feeling to be here with everybody. Definitely Troy Aikman but I was blown away to see Graham Harrell, Chase Daniel (who were on hand as Draddy Trophy finalists) over there eating dinner with us (Monday night) so it is pretty cool. It has been a fun time."

Haynes did let slip that classmate Drew Baldwin was named the team's freshman of the year. It is hardly a stunning choice as Baldwin received the most varsity playing time among the freshmen. When Gio Christodoulou was moved from cornerback to receiver in an attempt to spruce up a stagnant Yale passing offense, Baldwin became the first freshman to crack the two-deep chart. Along with sophomore Adam Money, he got to see a decent amount of work in Yale's "dollar" formation where cornerback Paul Rice was moved inside to linebacker.


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