Senior Perspective: Football's Carl Ehrlich

Senior captains and representatives of varsity teams at Harvard contributed viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard. Each year the Senior Perspectives are compiled into a book and handed out at the Senior Letterwinner’s Dinner.

Senior Perspectives thus forms a valuable portion of each team’s legacy to sport at Harvard and to the permanent record built here by our varsity athletes. Throughout the summer, these senior essays will be posted to for all to see.

Growing up, millions of people dream of attending Harvard. I was not one of them. From the moment Harvard started recruiting me, I knew I wasn’t going there. Harvard, I thought, stood for everything I was opposed to. Elitism. Pocket protectors. Tweed jackets.

My junior year in high school, Harvard started recruiting me. When they sent me letters, I responded with the appropriate information, but did so only as a formality. Really, behind closed doors, I would laugh with my buddies about the idea of me at Harvard. Despite being a hard-working student and a disciplined athlete, my friends and I decided I wasn’t nearly polished enough for the 02138. A bull would’ve been a better fit in a china shop.
A year later, with two months left before signing day, I was still undecided on my college choice and still equally as opposed to choosing Harvard. I had been to Yale three times and couldn’t see myself in New Haven. Two hours from my house, I made five visits to Princeton, but something didn’t fit there. The whole time, despite having expressed little interest, Harvard kept recruiting me.

The first thing that got me to reconsider Harvard was a home visit by the offensive coordinator and Maryland recruiter, Dave Cechinni. Walking into my house with the Harvard crest on his polo shirt, I was ready for him to puff out his chest, stick up his nose, and tell me how lucky I would be to come to Harvard. Instead, he greeted my parents, asked for a cup of decaf, and sat down to play with my dog. The entire night, while we sat and talked about everything Cambridge, my dog sat beside him while he pet her.

In my family, this is a big deal. If my dog liked Coach Cechinni, I thought, I guess I could give Harvard a chance.

And while Coach Cechinni’s visit made me reconsider Harvard, Coach Murphy’s stamped my ticket. Coming to my house early one Sunday morning, Coach Murphy sat across the table from me and, between bites of his everything bagel, told me about everything Harvard had to offer. The best education money can buy. The richest football history you can find. The best sports city in the nation.

But, above all, he told me to come to Harvard for the people. Yes, I would have access to top-of-the-line facilities. Yes, I would have the chance to play for the Ivy League championship. Yes, I would be surrounded by the greatest academic environment in the world, but none of it would mean anything if I wasn’t comfortable with the people around me. Coaches come and go, he told me, and facilities are nice to look at, but the one thing you can always count on is the people you surround yourself with.
Wise words from a wise man.

So, when Nathan Fry asked me to write an essay on my experience at Harvard, that’s what I chose to write about; the people. Anyone reading this will already know about the rich sports history at Harvard, about the unrivaled tradition, the indisputable fact that Harvard is “the opportunity of a lifetime.” People reading this will know the historical significance of Soldiers Field. They’ll remember how enormous Annenberg felt the first time they walked inside, and how small it felt when they left. They’ll shiver as they recall the frigid walks from Harvard Yard to the field house.

But above all, we should never forget who was alongside us during those incredible four years. Without teammates like mine, my experience would never have been the same. Without the friends I made during my playing days, the locker room would never have been what it was. If it weren’t for the people I played alongside, winning two Ivy League championships would never have felt so sweet.

When I think about Harvard, I think about myself as a junior in high school, laughing at the idea of me in a Crimson jersey; then I think about how hard it was to take that jersey off six years later. When I think about Harvard, I think about a coach who won over my dog and, in the process, won over my family; then I think about Coach Murphy hugging my mom as we left the football banquet my senior year. I remember wondering into a locker room with 110 strangers and leaving it with a 110 new brothers.

When I think about my time at Harvard, I think about the people. That’s what makes this school so great.