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"I still play with the same intensity, I just don't hate the way I used to," Harvard fullback Chris Doherty was saying at Quincy House last week. The occasion was the eve of the Brown game--Harvard's "do or die" contest of the year--and Doherty was reflecting on his Harvard football career.
"Freshman and sophomore years, I got crazy for games. I got into some fights--but I knew I'd have to curb that stuff if I wanted to play varsity," he reminisced.
The man they call "The Beast" was describing how Harvard "mellows outs a player." It seems the Ivy League's gentlemanly spirit, so manifest at the tailgates, carries over into the gridiron, where players who were genuine sickies in high school are now helping each other off pile-ups.
But as any Ivy athlete will tell you, the Brown Bruins are no gentlemen. Before the game Doherty had said, "I;m going to try to find that real intensity. I want to play with the emotion I had in high school."
On Saturday in Providence, The Beast exploded. "They lived up to their reputation," Doherty said of the Bruins, who are notorious for their obnoxious name-calling and extra-curricular hitting.
Doherty was called for a penalty on the extra-point attempt following the Crimson's first touchdown, which came right before the half. And when a Brown defender merrily taunted him from close range, Chris responded with a good, quick right.
But then the new Chris Doherty took control again, avoiding a seemingly imminent game ejection by trotting off the field before the brouhaha got out of hand. This is the Doherty that has tamed his temper and come up with a banner season in the Crimson backfield.
The 205-lb. fullback leads the Crimson in rushing with 262 yards, is the squad's second leading pass receiver, and--perhaps his best asset of all--is a punishing blocker.
Doherty's versatility has long been his trademark. Captain of the football, baseball and basketball teams at Monsignor Coyle High School in Taunton, Mass., Chris at first attracted a flock of recruiters with his defensive prowess. But then he learned some offense during a post-graduate year at Andover, and has not played a minute of defense during his Harvard career.
The year at Andover helped Chris in many other ways. "It was especially valuable in terms of studying," says Doherty, who had not even applied to Harvard after graduating from high school. "Because I never opened a book in high school," he explains.
And it was at Andover that Doherty also learned to play lacrosse. Although he never played the game in high school, Doherty stepped right in and earned a starting role on an Andover team that was ranked first in New England. Chris has kept it up and earned two varsity letters in lax since coming to Cambridge.
Doherty also earned the tag "Beast" at Andover. After Chris rolled up 200 yards total offense on only five carries and three pass receptions in his first game, the Andover fans paid homage to his intensity by coining the nickname. A reporter for The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune heard the crowd and printed it in the following day's article, and after that it stuck.
Perhaps The Beast's best feature is his efficiency. He has led the team's ground attack while averaging only six-and-a-half carries per game. Despite the fact that his 5.8 yards-per-carry average ranks right up there with Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett, Doherty doesn't mind the infrequency of his carries.
"I'd rather have the team win the Ivy title than me rack up a lot of yards," Doherty claims. "Sure, it makes me feel good when people tell me I should carry more, because it means I'm doing a good job. But I'm not the kind of player who's going to complain to the coaches or make waves on the team--that stuff just hurts the team."
The same unselfish attitude helped Doherty last year, when he played all season injured, yet still carried 25 times and grabbed six passes. Despite a chronic dislocated shoulder, Chris insists he was "thrilled just to be playing."
With the shoulder repaired by an off season operation, this year's Beast is back at full-strength. And he's a beautiful sight to see.
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