Balestracci—who is currently among those on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the nation’s top defender—was one of six Crimson players tapped as members of the first team All-Ivy squad by Ancient Eight coaches in results announced yesterday. The honor mde him the first player in the league’s history to be chosen for the team in each of his four seasons.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Balestracci said. “It’s voted on by all the Ivy coaches, which means you’re respected throughout the league. To be voted on like this any year is a tremendous honor.”
Balestracci not only led Harvard in tackles for the fourth consecutive season with 96, but he also moved into second on the team’s all-time list behind only current Seattle Seahawk Isaiah Kacyvenski ’00. Balestracci’s 9.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage also led the team.
Since the conference’s official formation in 1956, only 21 other players have been three-time recipients of the award, though freshmen only became eligible for varsity status beginning in 1993.
“I don’t think you take it as a given,” Balestracci said. “You still go out and show everyone you’re on top and show them your ability. If you just stay at the same level of ability for four years you’re not going to make it.”
Balestracci—who yesterday was presented with the Frederick Greeley Crocker Award as the Crimson’s most valuable player—was until yesterday the only player to have a chance at accomplishing the feat following his freshman campaign, as he had been the only first-year to ever receive first-team honors.
Now he has company.
Like Balestracci, freshman tailback Clifton Dawson was unanimously selected for the squad, though he was ineligible for rookie of the year honors after spending a redshirt season practicing with Northwestern prior to attending Harvard.
“My goal coming in was to come in and learn the offensive system,” Dawson said. “But once I got that down I was confident that I would not only be able to make an impact, but a big impact on the team’s success. I’m very confident in my abilities.”
Despite playing less than a full schedule and sharing playing time with sophomore Ryan Tyler at the beginning of the season, Dawson ran for 1,190 yards—a record for Ivy freshmen—while recording 12 rushing touchdowns, just one short of the Crimson record for scores in a single season, including four in a single game against Lafayette.
“He’s the best back in the league,” Balestracci said. “He has pretty much the whole package, and the sky’s the limit for him. Being named as a freshman makes you set the bar high, make your goals high, because everyone’s going to be gunning for him now.”
Six straight 100-plus-yard performances to close out the season left little doubt that Dawson, even as a freshman, had already reached the highest echelon of Ivy backs.
“It’s great to come in and have the opportunity to make a direct impact on the team’s success,” Dawson said. “But as a running back, you depend greatly on your offensive line and your fullback. It was a great team effort that resulted in our success running the ball. It just so happened that a lot of our success has been highlighted by individual accomplishments.”
Ivy coaches didn’t forget about the men blocking for Dawson.
Senior offensive guard Joe Traverso was tabbed as a first-team selection while senior offensive tackle Joe Mujalli received an honorable mention.