October 28, 2009

Bulldog Determination

By Arsi Sefaj '11

Coming into this season, the offensive line was ostensibly the biggest area of concern for the Bulldogs. As a senior and the only returning starter on the line, Cory Palmer had to shoulder a lot of responsibility, both as a player and as a leader. And if te first two games of the season are any indication, the Yale offensive line is going to be just fine.

“We have a bunch of young group of guys on the O-line, and I would say that that’s the only negative,” said Palmer. “But the talent’s there; our best five can compete with anyone, its just a matter of getting them the experience and getting it fast.”

Yet by all accounts, the offensive line has performed admirably. The O-line has opened holes for senior running back Jordan Farrell, who has picked up 165 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. And after allowing six sacks in the opener, the Bulldogs allowed just one last week against Cornell.

Palmer commented on the Georgetown game, “We had a couple of small errors on the line, letting guys through. But these were mostly little mental errors, and going forward I think we’re going to be fine.”

At six-foot-seven and 290 pounds, Cory Palmer is an imposing figure. Yet this wasn’t always the case. When Palmer first arrived at Yale, two weeks before the start of camp his freshman year, he weighed about 240. After the end of his senior football season in high school, Palmer had picked up basketball for the first time. Being unused to the high level of conditioning required for the long basketball season, he had lost 20 to 30 pounds by the end of the year.

“When I first got to Yale, I wasn’t a Division I varsity football player at all,” said Palmer. “I just wasn’t big enough. So I spent my entire freshman and sophomore years making myself into an offensive lineman. But it was awesome; it’s every guy’s dream to lift weights and eat whatever you want.”

By last season, Palmer had gotten up to around 320 pounds. However, during this past off-season, he has trimmed down to a more powerful, slimmer physique.

“I had a lot of bad weight last year, but right now at 290 I am stronger and quicker than I’ve ever been,” he said. “This is definitely the best playing weight for me.”

Palmer’s friends on the team recognize the work he has put in.

“Cory and I often worked out together and pushed each other in the offseason, especially this summer,” said senior defensive lineman Tom McCarthy. “After spring ball this year, coaches asked him to drop a little weight. He spent extra time lifting and running this summer, which helped him get much stronger while losing weight. He's played four positions on the offensive line this season so far. His work ethic has allowed him to be our most versatile and best offensive lineman.”

During his freshman year, Palmer played on the junior varsity squad. He got some playing time with the varsity team on the field goal unit as a sophomore, but it was during his junior season that Palmer got his big chance. One of the returning starting guards had experienced a season-ending injury in the off-season, so Palmer went into preseason knowing he would be competing for the starting spot.

“I got thrown into the rotation with the ‘ones’ pretty fast and had to learn quickly,” said Palmer. “It is the biggest jump, from junior varsity to Division I varsity football. You can’t prepare for it until you actually play in a game, so that first game was pretty nerve wracking.”

Luckily, that first game went well for the Bulldogs. The Elis opened the 2008 season with a 47-7 win at Georgetown. For Palmer, his first three varsity plays were a 40-yard pass, a big run, then a short pass in the end zone.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I hope it’s always going to be this easy,’ but of course it wasn’t,” joked Palmer.

Now going into his senior season, Palmer’s goal is to compete for an Ivy League Championship. He is excited by the philosophy of Tom Williams, Yale’s new Joel E. Smilow ’54 Head Coach of Football, who refuses to have set starters, but rather always puts on the field the guys who are playing the best.

“It really keeps everyone playing as hard as they can, whenever they can,” said Palmer. “It means that everyone has something to go out and compete for when they are practicing, they aren’t just going through the motions. This approach is especially appropriate with the offensive line right now, because we have a bunch of young guys around the same talent level. Any one of them could be out there, it just depends on who is practicing better and who is making fewer mistakes.”

Aside from football, Palmer is an economics major as well as the secretary and “grillmaster” at DKE fraternity. He says that economics is tough, but he enjoys it.

“I’m definitely a math guy” said Palmer. “I wouldn’t say I love it, but it definitely comes more naturally to me.”

Though he hasn’t made too many plans yet for after graduation, he is considering working for his father’s excavation company back in Ohio. Palmer and Son Excavating was founded by Cory’s father and grandfather many years ago. Given that they work with oil and gas wells, the family business has piqued Palmer’s interest.
“Fossil fuels and energy have become very controversial issues at the moment; they are both interesting and important, and the field is certainly something that I have taken a liking to,” said Palmer.

Alternatively, he is also very interested in working in Washington, D.C., behind the scenes in politics — perhaps in activity directing or events organizing.

“I want to see what else the world has to offer, besides sitting in Wooster, Ohio,” said Palmer. “I have an aunt who works for the Republican Governor’s Association in D.C., and every time I have visited, I have loved the city. And her job seems very interesting. It is definitely a place I want to see and explore.”

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