The 6’2, 290-pound frame of center Frank Fernandez emanates an aura of quiet leadership and athletic prowess.
As the senior prepares to play his last game in a Harvard uniform, he looks back on his fondest memory.
“My sophomore year being part of that undefeated team, going down to Penn and winning, being Ivy League champions, it was really just a great moment,” he recalls.
That the defining moment of his football career was not an individual achievement, but rather being a part of a team effort, speaks volumes about Fernandez’s persona.
Never an individualist, Fernandez’s accomplishments in his four years on the Crimson have been the product of his desire to contribute to the squad’s ultimate success. It’s this selflessness and character that attracted Harvard to the Hawaii native in the first place.
This leadership, the game of football, and academics were instilled in Fernandez by his father, who made a huge impact on his son’s athletic career. Though Fernandez excelled in wrestling and track in high school, football and academic aspirations were his top priorities.
“My dad always wanted what was best for me,” Fernandez says. “He always thought [going to Harvard] was a possibility for me and always wanted me to shoot for the best.”
Following in the footsteps of former Crimson quarterback Neil Rose ’02, the first Hawaiian to play for Harvard, Fernandez made the huge transition from Honolulu to Cambridge seamlessly.
Upon arriving at the Crimson’s summer camp, the physically underdeveloped freshman drew his coaches in with his disposition.
“He was just such a great kid,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy says. “He was a high, high academic kid…super high character, slam dunk in admissions.”
While his academic abilities and moral fiber landed him a spot on the team, it was Fernandez’s work ethic that helped him transform into the anchor of the Crimson’s offensive line in only a year, much to the pleasant surprise of his coaches.
It was not until his sophomore year that Fernandez established himself as the starting center, a post he would never relinquish. That same championship year marked the beginning of Fernandez’s ascent to a position of respected leadership.
Soft-spoken and reserved by nature, Fernandez’s leadership style does not entail rallying his teammates with fiery speeches in the locker room or the huddle. His actions define him, and his example holds more weight than any words could.
This was made evident to Murphy when the coach and his wife arrived at the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Facility for a game of tennis one Saturday afternoon. There they saw Fernandez going through offensive line drills with a group of underclassmen.
“I guarantee you there wasn’t another Division I lineman in America doing that on a Saturday afternoon,” Murphy says.
Fernandez’s influence on the team carries onto the field as well. Once again, his actions speak of the consistency and hard work that are a model for his teammates.
“I don’t think we’ve had a bad snap in the thirty or so games that he’s been the starter,” Murphy says.
Harvard will be counting on Fernandez’s sure-handedness when it takes on Yale tomorrow.
Fernandez will need to be on top of his game, protecting quarterback Liam O’Hagan and newly-crowned rushing king Clifton Dawson from the Bulldogs defense.
Fernandez “has always managed to raise his level when it’s needed,” says Dawson, the Ivy League’s all-time leading rusher. “He’s one of the most reliable players.”
This reliability will be missed next season on the Crimson’s gridiron, as the economics major departs eventually headed for the business world, although Fernandez hopes another team will require his talent in the short run.
“I really want to keep playing football, but it’s sort of out of my hands,” Fernandez says. “I think I still have a couple of good years left in me so we’ll see what happens.”
But the future can wait, as Fernandez must first complete his final challenge as a Harvard football player.
“I’ll tell you what Frank’s meant to the team and to the offense,” Murphy says. “He’s the glue.”
Tomorrow, Fernandez will look to hold the Crimson together for one final time.