Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kansas City "a good fit" for Shane Bannon

While seventh-round picks are hardly locks to make NFL rosters, it appears as if Shane Bannon is walking into a good situation after the Kansas City Chiefs made him the first Yale player taken in the NFL draft since 2004.

Not only did the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing offense in 2010, but a quick glance at the Chiefs' roster shows Bannon's competition at fullback as being Jackie Battle,
Tim Castille, Mike Cox and Tervaris Johnson who combined for 25 carries last season and 64 career NFL carries between them. Of course, Bannon is living proof that the fullback position can't be judged by the number of rushing attempts since he did not carry the ball as a senior at Yale but the point is that there is another an all-pro standing between Bannon and a spot on the Kansas City roster.

"I think potentially it could be a good fit," Bannon said. "They have some good running backs there and are a fantastic team. Hopefully I will be able to create a niche for myself and get on their roster this fall. I like contact and I can't wait until I put my helmet on somebody else. I am really excited for the opportunity and excited to join such a great running back core and hopefully I can help out in any way possible."

Bannon worked out for the Chiefs in April and believed that Kansas City liked what they saw. It doesn't hurt that former NFL fullback Maurice Carthon is on the Chiefs' coaching staff and was one of the people Bannon spoke with as Kansas City was drafting him.

"I had a sense that they thought I was a good player and I had heard from the scouts that they thought I had a pretty good workout," Bannon said. "I felt they were a potential team that could be picking me today if not (signing with them) in free agency.

"I was getting a little anxious, I was pretty excited to see what was going to happen. I saw Kansas City had a pick in the seventh round and I thought the workout with them went really well. When they called me and there is over a minute left on
the clock, I was feeling overjoyed and excited."

Bannon is the first Yale player drafted since Tampa Bay took tight end Nate Lawrie in the sixth round in the NFL draft. Bannon went with the 223rd pick, the exact spot Tampa Bay took former Yale safety Than Merrill in the 2001 draft. Eric Johnson went with the following pick and enjoyed a few productive years as a tight end with the San Francisco 49ers.

Bannon's former Yale teammates Chris Blohm and Tom McCarthy did not get drafted. San Francisco worked out Blohm and had two picks late in the seventh round where they could have taken Blohm, a native of San Francisco. McCarthy had workout with 10-12 NFL teams but was not among the 254 players taken in the three-day draft.

Now they will have to wait until the labor unrest currently existing in the NFL is rectified before they can sign as undrafted rookie free agents.

"We talked about preparing for this possibility should they not be drafted," Yale coach Tom Williams said. "Towards the later rounds, in my opinion, if you are not drafted I think you have a better opportunity to place yourself as a priority free agent. I think as soon as the lockout is settled, both of those guys will be (signed) very quickly."

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Bannon drafted by Kansas City

Fullback/h-back Shane Bannon became the first Yale player taken in the NFL draft since 2004 when the Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the seventh round on Saturday.

Bannon had 13 catches and as a lead blocker helped open holes for running backs Alex Thomas and Mordecai Cargill. However, it was after the season ended when Bannon really made himself into an NFL prospect. Working out alongside Chris Blohm, Adam Money and Sean Williams, Bannon managed to get bigger and faster. When he ran a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash during a pro day in Tolland last month, his stock began to soar.

Ironically, 10 years ago defensive back Than Merrill was taken by Tampa Bay with pick No. 223 while Eric Johnson was taken 224th overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

Bannon is the first Yale player drafted since Tampa Bay took tight end Nate Lawrie in the sixth round of the 2004 draft and 28th player from Yale taken in the draft.

Yale could have two other players drafted as defensive end Tom McCarthy and tight end Chris Blohm have drawn interest from NFL teams following impressive pro day performances.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some thoughts on spring camp

Yale wrapped up spring practice on Monday and the 12 practices gave some of the younger players a chance to move up the depth chart and make a case for either a starting position or a more prominent role than they had a year ago.

I asked Yale coach Tom Williams which players helped themselves the most during spring camp.

"John Whitelaw, is clearly our No. 2 quarterback. He clearly established himself as a guy who can help our team win football games. I think he has shown the development that we saw at the end of last season and he is a good football player. At tight end position, Kyle Wittenauer is a guy who has stepped up to show that he is ready to earn some playing time at that position. I don't know if he is going to be the replacement this year for (Chris) Blohm but I think he can do some things that can help us win there. (Fullback) Elijah Thomas, some kind of guy. He can do some things that Shane (Bannon) gave us and as a young player he will continue to develop and he certainly made a move in the spring. (Center) John Oppenheimer, moving from defense to offense has helped us and ultimately he will be a really good player for us at that position. Of all the skill guys that we had, (tailback) Mordecai Cargill probably had the biggest spring.

"Defensively, (safety) Nick Okano, (linebacker) Brian Leffler, (cornerback) Collin Bibb and having (defensive tackle) Pat Moran come back and show he is a better player than he was when he left us, all those guys had great springs."

Now it is up to the returning players to build off what transpired in spring camp. At this point last year I would not have predicted that guard Colin Kruger or cornerback Chris Stanley would emerge as starters but they had strong performances in the fall camp to earn regular spots.

Yale will begin its fall camp (or summer camp if you prefer since the first day of fall is not until Sept. 23) on Aug. 19.

It will be interesting monitoring some of the same positional battles that were going on during the spring highlighted by Oppenheimer and Jeff Fell vying for the starting center spot, Leffler and Wes Moyer in contention for a starting linebacking spot, Okano and John Powers trying to earn the starting nod at strong safety with Bibb, Kurt Stottlemyer and Dawson Halliday likely fighting it out for a starting cornerback position.

Receivers Gio Christodoulou and Peter Balsam will be back while Yale will be welcoming a freshman class which will number somewhere between 28-30 and should have former Duke defensive lineman Tevin Hood in the fold as well.

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Yale products on NFL radar

Not since Nate Lawrie was drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2004 NFL draft has a Yale player heard his name called on draft day.

That could all change on Saturday as fullback/h-back Shane Bannon, tight end Chris Blohm and defensive end Tom McCarthy have drawn interest from NFL squads.

Bannon ran the 40 in 4.69 seconds in front of NFL scouts last month and was right in that range both at Yale's pro day and when he worked out for agent Joe Linta. Now Linta believes there's a very good chance that Bannon will be drafted on Saturday on the final day of the draft.

"He had a great workout. Then I got his highlight film and there was no question he was a draft pick. In my opinion, he is better in my opinion than the kid from Stanford, Owen Marecic. At that point I started calling around like a crazy person. A lot of the teams called me back right away."

Linta estimated that 14 teams have expressed an interest in Bannon.

"He is the No. 1 guy in the country in terms of combination of size and speed," Linta said. "That is the most compelling thing. He is 25-30 pounds heavier than a lot of the fullbacks and he is at least a tenth or two tenths (in the 40) faster than all of them. If we have free agency Saturday night in case Shane doesn't get drafted, I can guarantee you - I'll give you $100,000 - that he will sign, it is lock."

That's not bad for a player who was pondering skipping the 2010 season to allow his ailing shoulder to recover.

Bannon was able to get a clean bill of health and became a key component on Yale's offense as the starting fullback. Although he did not carry the ball, he did catch 13 passes and opened up the holes so Yale's top three rushers (Alex Thomas, Mordecai Cargill and Deon Randall) combined to average 4.6 yards per carry.

When the season ended, Bannon worked out diligently with Blohm, Adam Money and Sean Williams and now the dream of playing in the NFL is close to becoming a reality.

"I think going into my junior year was the first time Coach (Tom) Williams had mentioned that he thought I had the ability to play at the next level," Bannon said. "I think from there, the shoulder (injury) put me back a little bit not really being sure if I was going to have to redshirt or not. This year, not missing any time, not missing any practice it was great. My doctors did a great job on my shoulder and I didn't have any issues, never second guessed it. This season I felt like I developed myself and put enough on film to put me in a pretty good position to try to get to the next level.

"I think it is great, especially that I have had somebody to work out with. Blohmer, Money and Sean Williams to work out with has been great. It is really easy to lose focus through this whole thing because it is such a long process, you work 12 weeks, you have a 12-week workout regiment. It has been even harder since pro day with individual team workouts, doing extra conditioning under our strength coach. It has been awesome."

McCarthy graduated in December so he has been working out in New Jersey. Like Bannon, he got bigger and faster since the end of the season. At the Fordham pro day, McCarthy put on a show. At Yale pro day, he only did selected drills but still when the event ended, the New England Patriots scout on site asked McCarthy for his contact information. McCarthy has worked out for about 10 teams and 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive ends who run 4.7 40-yard dashes tend to draw interest from NFL teams and that is the case with McCarthy.

"Teams have called me in the past few days to verify my contact information for draft day so I take that as a good sign," McCarthy said.

McCarthy was drawing interest from Division III schools before Yale began recruiting McCarthy. Now he is perhaps only a couple days from possibly hearing his name called in the NFL draft,

"I think I am going to be pretty anxious that day," McCarthy said. "If I get drafted, it will be in one of the later rounds. I will be sitting around all day playing the waiting game. I am sure I will be looking at the clock and I am sure it will be going by pretty slowly.

"I can't even begin to imagine what that will be like. I won't be able to say for sure what that will be like until if it happens I guess. obviously I'll be very excited at the opportunity to play in the NFL but other than that, it is something I won't know until it happens."

Blohm, a native of San Francisco, worked out for the San Francisco 49ers recently. It doesn't hurt that the 49ers have 12 picks in the draft, more than another other team.

"His best chance (of being drafted) would be the 49ers in the sense that they were the last team to see him in person," said John J. Perez, who is representing Blohm and former Yale defensive back Adam Money.

"He has done everything we have asked him to do. His film is very strong. He is a very consistent player, a steady blocker. That is his strength, he is a prototype NFL kind of blocking tight end. I think he has better than average, above average receiving skills when they put him through the workouts and watch the film. He had limited opportunities in the Yale offense but he catches the ball when it is thrown to him. I think he fits that role as a blocking tight end, No. 2 tight end in the red zone. There are teams who are looking for those guys. Jacksonville, a run-orientated team, New York Giants, the Patriots play with multiple tight ends, Miami Dolphins are looking for a tight end. Teams that are communicating with the (Yale football) office and us are teams that are in need of tight ends and specifically blocking tight ends. It is going to be the right fit for him and nobody really knows what is going to happen.

"If this was a normal year, i would say that he is an undrafted rookie free agent but with this year what we hear is maybe teams will start reaching in that seventh round and try to collect extra picks to kind of dip into those rookie free agent guys and try to gobble them up in the seventh round because they just don't know whether they can offer them contracts after the draft. There could be a surprise for Chris. It would be a great surprise for him, his family and Yale. I think most likely if everything is normal, he is a guy after the draft."

At the request of the Yale coaching staff, Perez was asked to look at Money and liked what he saw.

"There has been a last minute rush (of interest in Money)," Perez said. "From Adam's pro day there was a buzz with him as well in terms of the numbers he put up, the speed numbers, quickness. We reviewed the film, liked him, met with him and represent him too. He is more of a long shot but you never know."

The NFL draft begins on Thursday with the first round. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday with rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

If more than one former Bulldog is taken, it would be the first time that has happened since Eric Johnson and Than Merrill were taken on consecutive picks in the 2001 draft. Three Yale products have not been taken in the same draft since 1982.

"I think there is a great chance that all three could be drafted and at the very least, two of the three will be drafted," said Yale coach Tom Williams, who was an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to Yale.

"I will be as anxious as they are. I will definitely be watching. The NFL draft is something I get drawn into so I will be watching and I will certainly be keeping in touch with those kids and keeping my fingers crossed that it will work out the way they want it to."

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bannon working out with Bears today

Former Yale fullback/h-back Shane Bannon is working out with the Chicago Bears today.

Bannon, who opened some eyes with strong performances at a couple of pro days last month, had previously worked out with the Green Bay Packers and more than one national publication has proclaimed Bannon to be one of the sleepers in the draft.

Bannon was one of five Yale players who worked out in front of scouts for the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

Defensive end Tom McCarthy had an impressive showing at Fordham's pro day while tight end Chris Blohm, linebacker Sean Williams and defensive back Adam Money are also on the radar of NFL teams.

I just got off the phone with John J. Perez, an agent who represents Blohm and he recently added Money as a client.

With the five former Bulldogs aren't showing up on many of the prospect databases on the internet, there is a chance that a team takes a chance on them late in the draft. I could be way off base but I truly think McCarthy could get drafted and it's possible that Bannon and Blohm would hear their names called on Saturday when the draft wraps up.

If that is the case, it would be the first time since 1982 that three Yale players were drafted as Jeff Rohrer went in the second round to Dallas, Rich Diana to the fifth round to Miami and Curt Grieve to Philadelphia in the sixth round.

Look for a story in the Register later this week, perhaps as early as Thursday, on Yale's NFL draft prospects.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yale's spring game is rained out

Yale's annual Blue-White game, scheduled for today at 2 p.m., has been rained out.

Yale had planned to wrap up its spring camp with the spring game but chose not to risk injury on the rain-soaked Yale Bowl field. The Bulldogs will use Monday as its 12th and final practice of the spring.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring game is tomorrow

Yale's annual Blue-White spring game will be played on Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. at the Yale Bowl.

As has been the case during his tenure, Yale football coach Tom Williams is using the event as much as a practice as a scrimmage. There will not be split squads but will be plenty of series with the top offensive and defensive units butting heads.

"We will feature situational football," Williams said. "Our spring game for us is like another practice day, put all those young guys in situations were we can evaluate them and see what they can do for in the fall."

Obviously the personnel will be a bit different without receivers Jordan Forney and Gio Christodoulou (who is taking the spring off but will return in the fall), tight ends Chris Blohm and Caleb Smith, fullback Shane Bannon, center Jake Koury and tackle Alex Golubiewski among the key losses on offense. Defensive ends Tom McCarthy and Sean Williams, defensive tackle Joe Young, linebacker Jesse Reising, cornerback Chris Stanley and safety Adam Money will need to be replaced on the defensive side of the ball. But don't expect to see a change in philosophy or schemes in an attempt to replace the graduating seniors.

"It will be a lot of the same stuff," Williams said. "We are hoping we can throw the ball down the field a little bit more, our protection is better when our first five is out there. We may take some more shots down the field. We have expanded our offensive package so we have more run plays that we want to feature so we can take advantage of the skill set of our running backs. We will have a better intermediate passing game also. We thought last year we either took shots or took short passes. We want to be able to attack the middle of field a little more."

The NFL draft is less than a week away from kicking off and there's a chance that a Yale player or players could be drafted for the first time since 2004.

Bannon, Blohm and McCarthy have put themselves very much on the radar of NFL teams with impressive workouts and strong efforts at pro days.

In an article on, Bannon and McCarthy are mentioned among 12 small school sleepers

Yale's annual bone marrow registry drive was a major hit once again as nearly 900 showed up to have their cheeks swabbed so they could join the registry.

The drive began as a way of trying to find a match for leukemia stricken Yale women's hockey player Mandi Schwartz. Although no match could be found and cancer ended Schwartz's life earlier this month, her spirit lives on. Six matches were found courtesy of the first two drives and it would be a fitting legacy for Mandi that her memory and inspiration will result in saving more lives.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mandi Schwartz remembered fondly by teammates

The members of the Yale women's hockey team had already attempted to find the words to describe their late teammate Mandi Schwartz at the funeral service in her hometown of Wilcox, Saskatachewan earlier this month.

On Wednesday night with Schwartz's No. 17 jersey hanging from a candle fixture inside the Calhoun College dining area, they paid tribute to their friend whose gallant two-year battle with leukemia ended with her death on April 3.

However, neither the service in Canada or the one at Yale were as much about Schwartz's death as it was a tribute to her life.

"You can’t describe in words what Mandi means to our team, it just doesn’t do it justice," Yale senior goalie Jackee Snikeris said. "We just tried to do our best and tried to make it funny and memorable stories about Mandi, also what she meant to us as a person and how she will always affect our lives in the future and inspire us to Mandi’s standards.

"It is important to be a part of Yale, come back to Yale and share her story and our message to the Yale community because they have been so helpful and supportive throughout everything."

Snikeris joined fellow seniors Bray Ketchum, Samantha MacLean and Lili Rudis in telling good natured stories about Schwartz's fierce competitiveness as an athlete but selfless qualities as a person.

It was all part of the grieving process for her teammates and the Yale community.

"It definitely helps," Snikeris said. "Going to the service (in Wilcox) was the most beneficial for us as bad as that sounds, it was a terrible circumstance but I think we will definitely grow from it. It’s a life-changing experience that I don't think anybody can get out of their head any time soon."

Former Yale assistant coach Harry Rosenholtz agreed with Snikeris' take on how the memorial services have helped the team members move forward from a terrible loss.

"They need to heal," Rosenholtz said. "This is a part of the process. The healing process is going to continue for a very long time. This is a major step in helping them heal and work through some of the pain."

Schwartz's spirit will be front and center again on Thursday as Yale holds its third annual bone marrow registry drive named in her honor. The event will run from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Yale Commons. Those who took part in the past don't need to have their cheeks swabbed again because they are in the registry.

Rosenholtz is taking things a step further. At next week's American Hockey Coaches Association Convention in Naples, Fla., Rosenholtz is going to suggest that every college hockey program start a Mandi Schwartz Bone Marrow Donor Drive.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Positional battles heating up

When spring camp began, I would have predicted John Oppenheimer, Kurt Stottlemyer and John Powers to be the starters at center, cornerback and strong safety respectively. But after Monday's practice (the ninth of the 12 spring practices), it looks like Jeff Fell, Collin Bibb and Nick Okano have edged into the lead at those three positions. Another interesting fight for a starting position has been at outside linebacker were senior Wes Moyer is running neck and neck with Brian Leffler with Moyer currently holding the slight edge.

Okano is part of a very impressive group of sophomores to be and I will be writing more on that class later in the week as so many are pushing for spots on the two-deep chart.

As for Monday's practice, the highlight had to be a sensational over the shoulder catch by quarterback turned defensive back turned quarterback turned tight end/h-back Bryan Farris. The practice was also another showcase for rising junior receiver Allen Harris (there will be more on his emergence as an impact receiver during the spring in Wednesday's edition of the Register).

Defensively, Okano had an interception and continues to show the ability to be around the ball. It's easy to understand why the Yale coaches are so high on him. Defensive tackle Reed Spiller continues to be a force in the middle of Yale's line.

There are some position changes of note as former quarterback Dez Duron is now a receiver and former defensive back Russell Perkins also moved to receiver.

Duron was a former Louisiana state player of the year but with the emergence of John Whitelaw and Henry Furman, who are a year behind Duron, he was caught up in a numbers game. While the field of receivers at camp is also crowded. Yale coach Tom Williams has liked what he has seen out of Duron at receiver.

"He is not lost there, he does some good things and he has had some good practices," Williams said. "He does some things more naturally (at receiver) than he does at quarterback. Those two guys (Duron and Perkins) will have a chance to impact us."

It doesn't hurt that Gio Christodoulou is taking the semester off so he can return for a fifth year of eligibility and Peter Balsam is not expected to return to campus until the fall so there are more opportunities for receivers to get snaps during spring drills.

While there are two more practices to change things before Saturday's spring game (which starts at 2 p.m. at the Yale Bowl) here is how I see the starting lineup for Yale with returning returns in all caps.

FB: Elijah Thomas
WR: Allen Harris
TE: Kyle Wittenauer
C: Jeff Fell
OT: Roy Collins

DE: Austin Pulsipher
DT: Reed Spiller
LB: Wes Moyer
CB: Collin Bibb
SS: Nick Okano

Among those in attendance at Yale's practice on Monday was former Duke defensive lineman Tevin Hood, who intends to transfer to Yale. His application is currently being read but since he is intending to enroll in summer school and he was a regional winner of the 2010 National Football Foundation National High School Scholar-Athlete Award, it would seem as if his being accepted was little more than a mere formality.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Memorial service and bone marrow drive in honor of Mandi Schwartz

It should be quite the emotional scene on Yale's campus later this week when a memorial service is held in the honor of former women's hockey player Mandi Schwartz on Wednesday. On Thursday the spirit of Schwartz, who lost her gallant fight against leukemia earlier this month, will be prevelant at the annual bone marrow donor drive named in her honor.

Sam Rubin from Yale's sports publicity office wrote up a release on the women's hockey team's trip to Saskatchewan to be a part of the memorial service at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. It's definitely worth a read.

The memorial service will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Calhoun College (189 Elm Street) on the Yale campus while the bone marrow donor drive will held from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thursday at the Yale Commons (on the corner of Grove and College Streets).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tight ends/H-backs progressing well in spring camp

Of all the positional battles during Yale's spring practice, none might be more intriguing than the h-back/tight end situation simply because of the inexperienced group of candidates.

Yale lost tight ends Chris Blohm and Caleb Smith and h-back Shane Bannon to graduation and unlike the situation when John Sheffield and A.J. Haase graduated a year ago, the potential replacements were not upperclassmen.

After Tuesday's practice, Yale coach Tom Williams praised the development of rising sophomores Michael Leunen, Kyle Wittenauer (who had a couple of key catches in the 11 on 11 portion of practice), Beau Palin and Keith Coty.

"I am excited about the young group of tight ends. I think Michael Leunen is doing a good job, Wittenauer, Beau Palin, Keith Coty, they have the potential to be a very special group," Williams said. "The one thing we weren't sure about was their ability to block bigger guys on the perimeter. They are showing that they are able to block some of our guys which is a good sign so they are progressing like we hoped they would."

They are just some of a talented group of freshmen pushing for playing time. Nick Okano is fighting with junior to be John Powers for the starting strong safety position, John Oppenheimer was shifted from defensive line to compete for the starting center position, Elijah Thomas saw a decent amount of time at fullback, Wes Gavin is a returning starter at offensive tackle. At receiver, Cameron Sandquist is making a push for a larger role in the fall. Fellow rising sophomore receiver Deon Randall missed practice on Tuesday and had his left arm in a sling but Williams said it was merely for precautionary reasons.

"He has a slight shoulder (issues), he could have practiced," Williams said. "We're just being extra careful."

Staying on the subject of the Class of 2013, John Whitelaw and Henry Furman are running neck and neck in the battle for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind rising senior Patrick Witt.

Among the highlights on Tuesday was a sweet catch by rising junior Allen Harris, some nifty runs by classmate Mordecai Cargill and some impressive plays by cornerback Colin Bibb, another junior to be.

I caught up with defensive lineman Pat Moran, a starter back in 2009 who took off last season to work on his father's political campaign. Look for a story on Moran to run in the paper perhaps as early as Thursday.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Former Yale tight end finds his calling

Shortly after hanging up his cleats for the final time, Caleb Smith bid adieu to his football career and began to pursue his other passion - film making.

Smith wrote the script, produced, directed, provided the background music, edited and cast the movie with several of his former Yale teammates in prominent parts.

The Belly of the Whale, with former Yale defensive end/linebacker Sean Williams in the lead role as a well-meaning but down on his luck bouncer who was forced into running errands for a mobster, premiered at the Whitney Humanities Center on the Yale campus on Thursday.

The 23-minute screening was attended by the cast as well as other teammates, classmates and the Yale football coaching staff as well as leading figures in Yale's Film Studies Program.

The film was warmly received by those in attendance.

"It has been a labor of love for us," Smith said. "We worked incredibly hard on it. The amount of blood and tears that went into it can't be measured. People reacted really well to us, not just because they know us but I think the connected a little bit. Some people were coming up to me and saying they got some goosebumps afterwards so that is the kind of thing I like to hear as a story teller."

Smith, who has dabbled as a director and intends to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film making, had various versions of the script before ending up with the final product. The filming took place over a span of seven days in February with the entire project costing about $3,000.

"I would have some ideas and I would meet with Sean, Alex (Golubiewski, the film's director of photography) and a couple of other guys but mainly Sean and Alex giving them ideas and they would give me feedback," Smith said. "I had a pretty solid narrative in place so I went back over Christmas break and I wrote it all over Thanksgiving break. I came back, I pitched it to some of my screen-writing peers. They gave me some feedback and I revised it a couple more times. Then I said 'OK, I am ready, let's shoot this thing.'"

Williams, who would like to pursue acting, felt a sense of relief when he saw the crisp, final product.

"I was definitely nervous but at the same time excited to show the product, the fruits of our labor," Williams said. "This was something that was pretty tough to put together because of all the moving parts. It was fun to see on the big screen."

Smith, who drew the praise of both his professors and coaches for his work, has high hopes for the film.

"I am going to look at recutting it, changing, get it better than it is and keep improving it," Smith said. "Then getting it into the festivals is really the next thing, playing it hopefully at some big festivals that can bring it some recognition for the work me, Sean and others have put in.

"I have always liked making videos from the time I was a kid. When I showed up at Yale, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. My sophomore year I decided I wanted to do film, from there on I have been working on it. I want to take on some more directing projects and stay behind the camera, keep working as a director. I have done a commercial, want to keep doing commercials and music videos and get paid to direct."

Both Smith and Williams believe the process of preparing for a football game and making a movie are eerily similar.

"Moving into the film realm, I feel like the same things transfer over, a different style of working together," Williams said. "It's the same thing of being able to feel out each other, kind of the way that they work and how their mind ticks. It helps to know that because it makes for a smoother run through.

"The preproduction stuff is watching the film and looking at the playbook. The actual filming is kind of like game time, it is Saturday for us. There is the breakdown and post production so it is almost like the same exact thing."

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Terrible news about Mandi Schwartz

Former Yale women's hockey player Mandi Schwartz, who has been waging a gallant and inspiring fight against leukemia, passed away today.

The news broke on twitter about three hours. @MandisHeroes posted "We regret to inform everyone that Mandi Schwartz passed away at 10:35 am PST surrounded by her wonderful family, fiance and friends."

The story of Schwartz, an elite athlete struck down in her prime, would be heartbreaking on so many levels but the class and dignity Mandi showed during this process, the relapses and seemingly endless treatments touched so many. Certainly the Yale community got behind Schwartz and not just the women's hockey program. I've covered the bone marrow registry drive in the past and so many members of the Yale athletics family did all they could in an attempt to find a match for Schwartz.

Here is a story I wrote on Mandi about last year's drive.

There is another drive set for April 21 at Yale and I would imagine tears will be flowing on that day.

Spring practice to open tomorrow

Yale will open its spring camp on Monday at 4 p.m. with a practice at Clint Frank Field.

As usually is the case, the focus will be on filling the holes left by graduation.

On offense, Yale lost center Jake Koury, offensive tackle Alex Golubiewski, receiver Jordan Forney, h-back/fullback Shane Bannon and tight ends Chris Blohm and Caleb Smith.

Defensive end Tom McCarthy, defensive tackle Joe Young, linebacker Jesse Reising, cornerback Chris Stanley and strong safety Adam Money are the major losses on defense.

With Gio Christodoulou (who led Yale with 563 receiving yards last season), Chris Smith (a team-best 46 catches), Allen Harris, Deon Randall and Cameron Sandquist among the receivers coming back, that is still a position of strength even with the loss of Forney.

H-back/fullback/tight end is pretty interesting just because of the inexperienced group of candidates expected to play major roles. Alex Birks, who moved from tight end to offensive line, is now moving back to tight end while former tailback Elijah Thomas is being shifted to fullback. A group of talented rising sophomores (Keith Coty, Michael Leunen, Beau Palin and Kyle Wittenauer) figure to be in the mix at either tight end of h-back.

Former defensive lineman John Oppenheimer will be given every opportunity to win the starting center spot while converted tight end Roy Collins is the favorite at tackle.

While Matt Battaglia comes back to start at one defensive end spot, the other DE spot is up for grabs. Defensive tackle Jake Stoller could see some time on the edge while Allen Davis, Cliff Foreman and Austin Pulsipher got to see time last season with injuries to McCarthy and Battaglia as well as the Bulldogs' preference for rotating front seven players in and out to keep them all fresh. Even when Stoller plays end, defensive tackle could be one of team's strongest position with the return of Chris Dooley and Reed Spiller while former starter Pat Moran comes back after taking off last year.

Brian Leffler seems like a natural choice to push for a starting linebacking spot while Wes Moyer and Nick Schneider should also figure into the mix.

In the secondary, Kurt Stottlemyer has been plenty of time at corner while Collin Bibb and Dawson Halliday bear watching.

Yale coach Tom Williams believes in the secondary that "the one hotly contested position should be that (strong) safety position."

Special teams star John Powers as well as Nick Okano, who displayed some intriguing potential as a freshman, figure to vie for the spot.