Former Bushnell Winners and Ivy Champs Recognized
MANHATTAN, N.Y. – The guy who stood a mere 5 feet 9 and 185 pounds as Yale's 1980 Bushnell Cup winner, looked like the tallest person in the room last night at the sold out Ivy Football Association Dinner held by the Sheraton Times Square Hotel. Not only was he one of the most impressive success stories honored by the eight institutions, Kevin Czinger '81, the former Bulldog nose tackle, had more support from his alma mater than any other honoree.
Bulldogs packed the Empire Room on the second floor of the hotel prior to the dinner. Jeff Rohrer '82, who played 7 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, provided classic anecdotes about his former Yale teammate (Czinger) while sharing many funny stories. Yale's honoree followed Rohrer with a brief speech. Others who spoke at the reception included Vicky Chun, the Thomas A. Beckett Director of Athletics, IFA President Bill Primps '71, Jerry Kenney '63 and Tony Reno, the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach, while Jeff Manning '81 led everyone in singing "Bulldog."
Yale had the most tables purchased among the Ancient Eight, which was an impressive feat considering Greg Hall '77, who passed away last month, was not involved in the promotion for the first time since the event began in 2000. Hall, arguably the most galvanizing of former Yale football players over the last 25 years, was honored at the reception for his contributions to the program and then got another significant mention (with photos) at the dinner by master of ceremonies Jack Ford '72.
There was a brief video of each honoree, and they all had a chance to say a few words. Czinger, a classical civilization major who earned his law degree from Yale in 1987, provided the anticipated, impressive oration after a very compelling introduction from Ford. Czinger's video included an interview with Yale President Peter Salovey. The other Eli who was honored during the dinner was Matthew Oplinger '18, who won the Bushnell Cup for defense in 2017 and went on to compete for a roster spot with the Arizona Cardinals. Oplinger was introduced by former Cornell and NFL star Ed Marinaro, who became a well-known actor and comedian. Tony Reno also went up on the stage to be recognized for the 2017 outright Ivy title. Legendary Yale coach Carm Cozza was the most recognized individual not in the ballroom. Ford gave a 3-minute speech about his late coach and then showed part of a video used at Yale's memorial service.
Czinger, who constantly forced opponents to double- and triple-team him despite his size, also had to juggle hardware as a senior. He earned ECAC and New England Player of the Year honors for the 1980 Ivy League Champions while garnering scholar-athlete honors from the National Football Foundation and the College Sports Information Directors of America. The icing on his undergraduate cake was the Mallory Award, Yale's prize for the top male senior athlete.
The founder of Divergent 3D, a company that combines visionary design and software with 3D metal printing, Czinger hopes to revolutionize sustainable auto manufacturing. He is on a mission that is likely to make him as feared by business competitors as he was by offensive players.
IMPACT ON THE BULLDOGS
In the first 41 years the Asa Bushnell Cup was awarded to the Ivy League's Player of the Year, only six defensive players won it and just one was a guard: Czinger in 1980. With Czinger clogging the middle, Yale led the nation in defense against rushing (75.0 yards per game) in 1979 and was second (83.3 per game) in 1980. His signature games were the 13-12 victory over Brown in 1979, when his punt blocks set up both Yale touchdowns, and the 27-9 loss at Boston College in 1980, when his 13 tackles included four in the Eagles' backfield.
2019 IFA HONOREES
William J. O'Brien 1992, BROWN
Paul C. McCormick, M.D. 1978, COLUMBIA
George A. Arangio, A.B. 1965, M.D. 1969, CORNELL
Hon. John Carney, Jr. 1978, DARTMOUTH
Joe Azelby 1984, HARVARD
Gavin O'Connor 1986, PENNSYLVANIA
Jason C. Garrett 1989, PRINCETON
Kevin Czinger 1981, YALE
"When I reminisce about playing at Yale, two different scenes play out," said Czinger, whose son, Lukas '16, played soccer for the Bulldogs.
"Against Brown my junior year, we were playing in the Bowl and were losing 12-7 with only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. The game was being nationally televised by ABC (with Keith Jackson commentating) and there was a long, fourth down television timeout. Brown had the ball deep in their own territory and was set to punt. I had already blocked one punt that had set up our score to that point. On the sidelines during the timeout, the defense, including myself, was dead silent; I believe we all felt a sense of frustration at our team's inability that day to move the ball offensively against a very strong Brown defense. We felt the game slipping away. I wasn't thinking about blocking another punt; once you've blocked a punt (which is a very humiliating thing for an offensive team, particularly if it leads to a score), it is very unlikely that you'll repeat that feat in the same game because the opposing offense will be paying attention to you in a particularly pernicious way. In any case, the time-out finally ended and we began to run on to the field. However, as I began to sprint back on the field, Buddy Amendola, our defensive coach (who had brilliantly developed our slashing, stunting, attacking defense; a defense that was number one overall and against the run in Division I that year), called out to me, which was unusual in that I rarely spoke to the coaches during a game and basically did my own freestyle thing on the field. So, I turned and ran back to Buddy, wondering what the hell he wanted at this point. Well, as I ran up to him, Buddy smiled, grabbed my facemask, leaned back and matter-of-factly said, 'It is time for you to win the game.' I said something like 'how the hell do I do that.' He then nodded his head and responded, 'Stop fooling around; go block the punt.' I think that was the longest conversation I ever had with Buddy (he died way too young a few years later before I ever had a chance to talk with him as an adult). In any case, his total belief infused total belief in me. I felt like a volcano preparing to erupt. When Brown lined up for the punt, the Brown line and blocking backs shifted to cover me with as many bodies as sensibly possible. Well, it was so sensible because a moment before the ball was snapped, I moved over to the other side of the line and exploded through the gap without being touched. A second later the punter's kick cracked against my outstretched hands and we recovered the ball inside the Brown five-yard line. Thankfully, on our offense's fourth try, they scored with the last seconds of the game ticking away and we won 13-12. I wish I had had the chance later to ask Buddy what he had been thinking in the instant he called out and stopped me. All I do know is that his total belief in me was warranted at that moment in the Yale Bowl.
My other, more general, memory of the Bowl is the recollection of standing in the tunnel between the locker room and the portal going out onto the field. You would stand there sweating and preparing in the twilight, listening to the echo of cleats against the floor and pads being adjusted, and you would feel as if you were a piece of something with a majestic and meaningful history, even if it was crumbling at the edges. You knew that you were a representative of a team that had seen its members create the modern game and college athletics, win National Championships and Heisman trophies, fight honorably (and sometimes die) in wars and embody determination and the will to fight. That was a very special and unique feeling for me when I stood in the Yale Bowl tunnel, at one end was the field and history to be made and at the other end was the collective team memory of all the good fights that had been waged and the people that had waged them."
Contact: Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity – email@example.com