This past season, the Harvard football team used three starting quarterbacks, each of whom threw the same number of interceptions as touchdowns.
But thanks in large part to senior running back Gino Gordon, the Crimson offense still managed to finish second in the Ivy League in scoring, averaging over 27 points per contest.
The halfback had been very good as a junior, and was named to the All-Ivy first team after rushing for 632 yards and eight touchdowns.
But in 2010, Gordon exploded, rushing for 1059 yards—the seventh-highest single-year total in Harvard history—while ranking tenth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) with 6.3 yards per carry. The senior also found the endzone a career-high 10 times—just the fifth player in Crimson history to reach that mark—while pacing a Harvard rushing attack that finished 19th in the FCS with 198 yards per game.
Along with Dartmouth junior running back Nick Schweiger, Gordon capped his season by winning the Asa S. Bushnell Cup, given to the Ivy League’s Player of the Year.
“It was great that I was able to win,” Gordon said. “I shared it with another really great running back. I was just grateful for the opportunity to play football here and be successful.”
It was not only Gordon’s greatness on the field that made his senior season noteworthy. In addition to being named the Frederick Greeley Crocker Award winner for MVP by his teammates, the running back was named to the American Youth Football (AYF) Ring of Honor for success in the classroom and on the field.
AYF focuses on promoting “good sportsmanship, teamwork, high moral and physical standards and the importance of scholarship and athletic achievement,” and chose Gordon as one of just three collegiate players to receive the accolade. The other honorees included NFL players like the New York Jets’ Santonio Holmes and the St. Louis Rams’ Chris Long.
“It’s nice that AYF puts a very big emphasis on academics as well as athletics,” Gordon said. “The fact that they were able to honor me because I embodied those attributes in terms of going to Harvard and being a successful athlete—I was honored to be able to represent my school and myself in that manner.”
During the season, the senior had some of his best games in Ancient Eight play, rushing for 158 yards against Cornell, 109 against Columbia, and 204 against Princeton—a performance for which he won the New England Football Writers’ Gold Helmet as the top performer in the region.
“Gino was just awesome for us all season long,” senior quarterback Andrew Hatch said. “He’s just a great guy, a hard worker, a great teammate, and a talented running back. So it was really fun playing with him, and working with him, and watching him do so well for us.”
Gordon even ran for 113 yards against Penn, which led the FCS in rush defense and had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 33 games until Gordon broke the mark. In his final collegiate contest, the senior completed his career with two touchdowns, leading the Crimson to a 28-21 victory over rival Yale in a game that Gordon called the highlight of his season.
The win capped one of the best halfback careers in Harvard football history. Gordon finished as the Crimson’s career leader in yards per carry at 5.3, and fourth on Harvard’s all-time rushing list with 2,643 yards.
“My personal goals always started with winning an Ivy League Championship,” Gordon said. “Individual accomplishments are kind of secondary. I never really thought about them as much. But the fact that I had such a successful year was really a testament to the coaching and a lot of the hard work of the offensive linemen. All four years here, I’ve had a very talented offensive line; this year was no different.”
Despite the success, it was often Gordon’s off-the-field personality that had the most impact on his teammates.
“He’s a great guy, a great leader, and a great role model,” said sophomore running back Treavor Scales. “To me, he currently is and always will be an older brother. He’s been a mentor, showed me the ropes of the system. He kept all of our heads on the field, made sure we were all mentally in the game, made sure everyone was alright, that our home lives were good, and he did that with everybody...He genuinely cares about everyone’s well being...not to mention he’s a hell of a player.”
After an accomplished career, Gordon says he is now waiting for the NFL lockout to end and hopes he can sign a free-agent contract to play at the next level.
“It’s going to be a long-shot, but I’m not quite ready to hang up my cleats yet,” Gordon said. “I really feel like I have a lot of football left in me.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman be reached at email@example.com.