Yale's Witt To Take the Field

Published by Chelsea Gilbert on November 14, 2011 at 10:22PM

Yale quarterback Patrick Witt '12 has chosen to play in The Game instead of going to his Rhodes Scholarship interview.

A dilemma for many athletes is balancing school and their sport. Yale quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 had to face this challenge in a big way—he had to decide whether to play against Harvard this Saturday or to take his interview for the Rhodes Scholarship, which happened to be on the same day. He chose The Game.

This is no decision that could have been made by picking a daisy in a field, plucking the petals off one by one, and saying “play, interview, play, interview…” This was a serious pro-con list situation.

If he chose to fly to Georgia, his home state in which he applied to the scholarship, instead of going to the game, he would be letting his team down. Without him, the Bulldogs would have start one of their sophomore quarterbacks, who don’t come close to Witt’s passing yards.

Witt has thrown 2142 yards in the nine games he has played in this year, earning him a spot in Yale history as the quarterback with the most yards for complete passes. He has also made 312 plays to date for the season and averages 229.2 yards per game, taking sacks into account.

Now with stats like those, why wouldn’t Witt just pick the game right off the bat? Oh, right, because the Rhodes Scholarship is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. The chance to study in any master’s program at Oxford for two years complicates the matter a bit. Then there’s the aspect of the scholarship that puts a high value on leadership position—the very thing Witt would have abandoned if he went to the interview instead of leading his teammates against the Crimson.

In the end, the senior quarterback decided that he was an essential part of the team with his passing talent. So he dumped his scholarship application in pursuit of another once in a lifetime opportunity: beating Harvard, something the Bulldogs haven't pulled off since 2006.

Witt isn’t the only Yale football player who has had to make such a decision. In 2008, Casey Gerald ’09 had a similar situation, except that he got lucky and his Rhodes District was split, so he had the choice to hold his interview on Friday or on Saturday. Witt wasn’t as fortunate, as his district decided to hold all of their interviews on the same day.

This instance is similar to one that happened here at Harvard, except this one ended with a double happy ending. Wide receiver Zar Zavala ’10 was a walk-on on the football team, worked his butt off during his career, and played in the Game his senior year. After the game, his fiancée, Melanie, gives him his phone, which had a text informing him that he was a Rhodes Scholar for that year.

Well, some people just have it all and for the rest of us, we just have to make do with the choices we make. As for Witt, he decided to stick with his team until the end. Maybe the football gods will grant Yale a win in return, maybe not.

See you in New Haven on Saturday.