by Ron Vaccaro '04
For the past several summers, Steve Ehikian '04 has made a habit of visiting major league baseball stadiums around the country with family and friends, and has taken in America's pastime at almost every park. The Eli safety has thoroughly enjoyed the best modern ballparks have to offer, but make no mistake - no stadium is more endearing to him than Yale Bowl, where he has been playmaker as opposed to spectator for the last three seasons.
"When we line up in the tunnel and get ready to go out onto the field at the Bowl, it's unbelievable," Ehikian said. "It is a very special place to play, especially when the fans get loud in there. It is very memorable and I always tell new recruits what a privilege it is to play in Yale Bowl."
Back when he was a recruit, Yale was an easy sell to Ehikian, who cancelled scheduled trips to Columbia and Dartmouth upon visiting with Bulldog players and coaches on campus.
The 5-10, 177 pound defensive back gave the Yale Bowl faithful reason to cheer very early in his career. Ehikian is one of only three Bulldogs to have already earned three varsity letters, a distinction attributable to the immediate impact he made on the Yale special teams.
"He has great get-off quickness and has been a kick block threat throughout his career," said head coach Jack Siedlecki. "We expect that to continue in his senior year."
Ehikian turned that threat into reality in the Bowl against Penn in 2000, blocking a punt that Scott Wagner '01 recovered for a touchdown to give Yale a crucial big play early in the game.
As a sophomore, Ehikian blocked two punts against Columbia, one of which he recovered in the endzone for a touchdown. It was during his second season that the Atherton, Calif., resident also became an impact player in the secondary. Ehikian started eight games while making 40 tackles and intercepting one pass in the fall of 2001.
Ehikian's hopes were high heading into last season, but a hamstring ailment forced him to miss the Elis' first six games. While it was excruciating at times to watch his teammates compete while he was sidelined, Ehikian made the most of his opportunities when he returned to the lineup. A great deal of perseverance was required to get through the injury and back onto the gridiron, but that's an attribute necessary for survival for a defensive back.
Even the best at the position are going to give up a big play on occasion; the key to sustained success is the ability to bounce back from snap to snap or week to week, and not lose confidence.
"You need to stay calm during a game and not get too caught up in the moment," Ehikian said. "That is easier said than done, but it's something that you need to work with. As the coaches always tell us, the key is to forget about the lows and ride the highs."
Ehikian, whom Siedlecki describes as one of the most upbeat athletes he has ever coached, has displayed an excellent work ethic from the moment he entered Yale, both on and off the field.
Having played at running back, wide receiver, cornerback and safety in high school, getting acquainted with the complexity of the Bulldog defense took time to learn. But as a freshman, Ehikian made sure he learned as much as he could from an experienced secondary which featured the likes of Than Merrill '01 and Todd Tomich '01.
"Just to watch everybody in that secondary, to see what the proper positioning was, really benefited me," Ehikian said. "I still watch their tapes."
He has also endured the grueling physical work necessary to improve his game. Now, as his final season in the Yale blue is about to kick off, Ehikian is in position to redeem the rewards of all of his efforts.
"Steve has worked very hard in the weight room and off-season program to make himself a competitive Ivy League football player," Siedlecki said. "He has become our best man to man cover guy."
He has also become one of the squad's natural leaders, through the example of his work ethic.
"[Ehikian] is a great teammate," said Ron Benigno '04. "He works hard everyday and is one of the best athletes on the team. He is someone that you can depend on to give maximum effort on every play."
An economics and mechanical engineering major, Ehikian's studies have also been rigorous, though he has excelled in the classroom. This summer, he worked for a technology start-up company in Sunnyvale, Calif. His projects included financial analysis, website design, marketing and software testing.
Despite all of the hard work he has undertaken, Ehikian has thoroughly enjoyed his Yale experience. Whether it be helping teach a football clinic with his teammates, or simply partaking in the enjoyment of locker-room pranks, it's the people who color the Yale experience for the senior safety.
One prank, of which he was the subject and Alvin Cowan '04 the perpetrator, stands out.
" My sophomore year, I had a meeting at Smilow before a Friday walk-through practice," Ehikian said. "When I returned to my locker, I found my lock covered in tape. Alvin Cowan did not use one continuous roll of tape, but rather many small pieces to cover my lock. I was late to that practice because it took me a half hour to remove the tape to open my locker and get my cleats."
As a senior, this is Ehikian's last opportunity to immerse himself in all aspects of the Yale experience, a reality that is always in the back of the mind of any of the Eli seniors who have their sights set on an Ancient Eight championship.
Thanks to the tireless work he has put into improving the mental and physical aspects of his game, Ehikian's final tour of Ivy League football stadiums figures to be memorable.
"The senior class talks about this being our last year all the time," Ehikian said. "It is amazing how quickly it has gone by, but we know that for most of us, this is our final chance to play sports competitively. We all want to capitalize on that."