For senior Colton Chapple, it has been a slow rise to the top. Now in his fourth and final season, he finally has his starting job at quarterback.
In 2010, Chapple came in as the team’s third-string option, appearing in just a few games after two quarterbacks above him on the depth chart went down with injuries.
In 2011, he filled in as a substitute again and excelled. Against Cornell in his third week as a starter, Chapple became just the second Harvard quarterback to ever pass for over 400 yards in a single game. But Chapple wasn’t finished; the following week against Bucknell, he tossed five touchdowns in just over a half, tying a program record that was over a half century old.
But despite Chapple’s throwing eight touchdowns in six quarters, fifth-year senior Collier Winters ’11 started the last five games of the season after returning from injury, and the Crimson finished off a perfect year in conference play and took the league title.
In 2012, the job is all Chapple’s, and he now has a chance to lead the Ancient Eight’s preseason favorite to a second consecutive Ivy League title.
But Chapple’s journey to Cambridge, to Harvard Stadium, and ultimately to the starting job, dates back to the time when he was eight years old, first picking up a football with his brothers and his father as the coach.
Throughout his childhood, Chapple—the second of four boys in the family—worked with his three brothers and their father on drills, and Colton followed in his older brother’s footsteps by playing in high school.
Chapple says he was a good student in high school who wanted to play football in college. But Harvard was not on his radar until his senior year.
“To be honest, I never thought I’d end up here,” Chapple says. “I was a pretty good student, but the H-word was just, ‘Whoa. There’s no way. This isn’t the place for me.’”
But with the opportunity in front of him, Chapple visited Harvard in November 2008, watching The Game and meeting with his brother’s high school teammate who played for Harvard at the time. The experiences sold him on the school, and he joined Harvard football as a freshman the following fall.
Slowly over the course of his college career, he has worked his way up the quarterback depth chart. But even as the third-stringer as a sophomore and the back-up as a junior, he has already started almost a full season’s worth of games.
“Any time you have a quarterback that is [6-1] as a starter, you’re really happy,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy says. “But it’s really a big difference being the starter as opposed to the backup who’s waiting for the other guy to come back.”
Despite having thrown just one pass in three games played his freshman year, Chapple was thrust into the starting role for three games during his sophomore season after Winters and second-stringer Andrew Hatch both went down.
Looking back now, Chapple says, it was valuable—even if it’s painful to watch.
“I go back and watch film of myself sophomore year, and I really just gawk at some of the decisions I made, some of the throws I made,” Chapple says. “I feel like it was very uncharacteristic of me.”