The 2016 Senior Perspectives is the 11th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
For a complete listing of 2016 Senior Perspectives, click here.
Ben Braunecker, Football
Hometown: Ferdinand, Ind.
Concentration: Molecular and Cellular Biology
House Affiliation: Cabot
Nearly four years ago as a football star in small-town Midwestern America, I made my decision to come to Harvard to maximize my future opportunities. I had heard the “4 to 40” rule that describes football as only being a part of your life for the next four years, and what you did off the field, academically, would determine your success for the next forty. I began my journey as a collegiate student-athlete certain only about my passion for football, an interest in science, and an excitement about what an Ivy League education could do for my future. I now sit here at the end of my collegiate adventure amazed at my naïveté for thinking that the most important part of my Harvard education would come from a classroom. Contrary to my former belief, I would learn my best lessons not in the classroom, but on a football field.
Make no mistake. I thoroughly loved my academic time at Harvard, especially concentration courses. The wealth of information from world-class professors undoubtedly transformed early interests into passions that I will only explore deeper in the future. However, my athletic involvement supplied me with something more valuable than mere information: character traits, personal relationships, and emotional experiences. Ebbinghaus forgetting curves project that 90% of new material learned from a classroom is forgotten in only a month. Personally, I can confirm this is true, especially in some of the Gen Ed’s I’ve taken here. Therefore, due to this unfortunate psychological imperfection, I value the physical, mental, and emotional lessons I learned on the football field more.
As a part of Coach Tim Murphy’s Crimson, I was a part of the most successful senior class in Harvard history — going 36-4 in our career and winning three consecutive Ivy League championships. However, this four-year journey was not all success, and it definitely wasn’t easy. In order to contribute on the field and become a valuable part of the team, I forced myself to make certain lifestyle and character changes.
I grew up. I became a man. I learned how to work with people I love and people I don’t. I contributed to a cause that was greater than myself. I learned how to manage my time in a near robotic fashion. I pushed myself to the limit of what I thought I could do to what was uncomfortable and then beyond. Finally and most importantly, I learned how to handle adversity. The best part of it is that I didn’t go through this transformation alone. My teammates, my brothers, friends that I will have for the rest of my life were pushing themselves alongside me.
As I now reflect on the football class of 2016 just before it parts ways, I know that some people may only know us by what they see on the field: our triumph, toughness, and teamwork. Being a part of this team has shown me that the Harvard athletic experience is much deeper than on-field performance or championship rings. It’s about integrating young, determined individuals of diverse backgrounds and buying into a philosophy, a culture, so that we can put aside what separates us and unite to achieve what we couldn’t alone.
I would like to thank everybody that played a part in my recruitment to this fine university. Football and the Harvard athletic experience has truly been a vessel that carried me to the success in my life.