The Van, The Van Niel Mobile, and Wide Body–whatever you want to call him, 250-pound fullback Noah Van Niel ’08 makes his presence known on the football field. But there’s one more nickname that has nothing to do with Van Niel’s impressive size.
“Where’s Pavarotti?” Football Head Coach Tim L. Murphy asks as teammates drag Van Niel into the center of the huddle. A video on The New York Times’ Web site shows Van Niel serenading the locker room with an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” ‘Cause we all know that the game’s not over until the fullback sings.
“I got goose bumps,” says Murphy.
Van Niel’s experience as an opera-singing fullback (or perhaps a football-playing lyric tenor) recently captured the interest of the national media. The sudden attention surprised Van Niel.
“It’s kind of funny,” he says. “I was doing these things before...and I’ll be doing them after.”
Noah’s mother, Maureen Sayres Van Niel, remembers her son running off a sports field to make it to rehearsal. “He’s always been able to juggle several things at once.”
Niel considered attending a conservatory, but decided on Harvard in the end. “I wanted to keep playing football as long as possible,” Van Niel says. He continued to pursue his two passions as the president of the Dunster House Opera Society and a starter for the Harvard football team this year.
“He has never thought twice about being himself,” says his mother.
Although this English concentrator’s extracurricular activities may seem completely disparate, Van Niel points out that both football and opera are “performance venues.” Coach Murphy agrees.
“Whether you’re on the football field or the stage, you have to be very prepared, very focused, and good under pressure.” Noah embodies these qualities, says Murphy.
Is there anything Van Niel can’t do? “I can’t draw to save my life,” he says. “I can’t skate. I’m really bad at staying up late.”
After graduation, Van Niel plans to pursue a career as an opera singer. “We’ll see where the singing thing goes,” Van Niel says. Just for now, though, he’s still got to complete his Science A requirement.