Former U.S. President and Harvard alumnus Theodore Roosevelt, Class of 1880, popularized the saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Almost a century later, Ed Pankau, co-captain of the men's volleyball team, has embodied the spirit of that message.
Never one to grandstand on the court or explode verbally off of it, Pankau plays professionally, practices methodically and respects his teammates. In an age of media-seeking superstars and flamboyant prima donnas, Pankau is a refreshing break from the ordinary--he prefers to do his job away from the glare of the spotlight.
This is not to imply that Pankau is undeserving of the spotlight. To the contrary, he has been the key player in the Crimson's recent success. The 6'7 senior middle blocker leads the team in blocks (19) and blocks per game (1.227), is second in hit percentage (.438) and third in kills (70). He is also one of just three players this year to have played in every game of every match.
What is truly compelling about Pankau, though, is not that he is a leader for his team as a senior at Harvard, but that he has been a leader on the court every year since high school.
Hailing from Los Olivos, California (pop. 900), he was one star out of many at Santa Ynez High School, a high school volleyball powerhouse. While there, he played volleyball with future first-team All-Americans Andy Witt and George Roumain. The team went an unprecedented 22-0 in Pankau's junior year and won all except one of their matches in 3-0 routs.
They handily won their second consecutive California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) championship and were considered by many sportswriters and coaches to be the best high school team that year in California, and perhaps even the nation.
Pankau, in his usual humble tone, plays down his role on the team.
"Those teams were awesome to play on," Pankau said, "George and Andy were amazing players and it was fun being on their team."
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