The Harvard football team had a running back problem.
Entering the 2013 season, the Crimson had graduated first team All-Ivy halfback Treavor Scales ’13, one of the top backs in program history. And in the first game of the fall against San Diego, sophomore Zach Boden went down with a knee injury that would sideline him for the rest of the year.
In this position of need, Harvard turned to sophomore Paul Stanton, and the running back more than just stepped up. For the rest of the year, Stanton served as the Crimson’s go-to runner out of the backfield, averaging nearly 95 yards per game while racking up 17 touchdowns.
“Stanton definitely had a breakout year,” incoming captain Norman Hayes said. “He is an incredible running back and a great teammate all around, but I don’t think anyone was surprised by that. Everybody knows how much potential he has.”
In his freshman campaign, Stanton carried the ball just three times per game. But his reps and production skyrocketed in 2013, and Stanton was named to the All-Ivy second team after finishing second in the conference in touchdowns and fourth in all-purpose yards.
Consistency may have been Stanton’s most valuable asset, as he appeared in every game and scored a touchdown in every matchup except one. However, it just so happened that the sophomore rushed for a season-high 146 yards in that game—including a 63-yard dash down the sideline—to help Harvard notch a 24-21 victory over Dartmouth. Yet what Crimson fans likely remember most vividly about Stanton was his dominant, four-touchdown performance against Yale.
Stanton found the end zone on each of Harvard’s first four drives, with two scores coming on rushes and the other pair on screen passes. As a result of Stanton’s efforts—aided by some timely blocks up front—The Game was effectively over after two quarters.
“That was a great experience,” Stanton said. “I’ve never played in front of that many people, and to be able to play that well in that game was an amazing feeling, to be able to do that for my team.”
Entering last fall, Harvard was searching for answers out of the backfield. Stanton emerged not just as a fill-in, but as a force to be reckoned with. If the Crimson has its way, the rising junior will continue to run wild out of the backfield for the next two seasons.
“Based on the premise that Paul was only a sophomore last year, our expectations are for him to take the next step,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “He’s a terrific player…. He’s one of the guys who can make something out of nothing. The guy you’ve got to contain because he can take it to the house on every play.”
—Staff writer David Steinbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.