Nov. 30, 2006
By Nick Baumann `06
John "Rick" McCarthy '68, an offensive guard who helped coach Carm Cozza to the first of his 10 Ivy League titles in 1967, had been cut from his high school's football team as a freshman. So when Rick's son Ed tried out for the team at the same school decades later, Rick was understandably worried.
"There are always a lot of kids at tryouts, and you have to earn a spot either by being big and strong or by being fast," Rick said. "Ed isn't fast, and he wasn't strong yet. So when Ed was going into his freshman year of high school, my only interest was, `Do you think you're going to have to make any cuts?' "
Rick McCarthy shouldn't have worried. His son "just kept getting bigger," he said, growing into the 6-foot-5, 302-pound offensive left tackle he is today. And after following in his father's footsteps at Fairfield Prep, Ed McCarthy decided to take part in yet another McCarthy family tradition: Yale football.
The decision paid off. The younger McCarthy's career as a Bulldog has been nothing short of spectacular. As a senior this fall, Ed McCarthy is an All-America candidate, a pro prospect, a team leader, and probably the best offensive lineman in the Ivy League. Now, as Yale plays for its first title since 1999 and a chance at its first perfect Ivy season since his dad's senior year, Ed McCarthy is hoping to help return Yale football to its rightful place atop the Ancient Eight.
Yale quarterback Matt Polhemus '08 has nothing but praise for Ed. "Ed is the leader of our OL," Polhemus said. "He's such a force physically, and he opens up huge holes for [running back] Mike McLeod. It's great to know the guys protecting you are so good, especially Ed. Ed's never going to take a second off during a play."
McCarthy is a success off the field as well. Twice academic All-Ivy and all-district, McCarthy recently was named a national scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The honor includes an $18,000 scholarship for postgraduate studies.
Mike Galbo, who has been best friends with Ed since kindergarten, said everyone always knew his buddy was something special.
"Eddie's always been the smartest kid I've known," Galbo said. "Between football and rugby in high school, he was just really athletic and really intelligent. He was a leader, too - even off the field, everyone loved him. He sets a high standard for himself and he works really, really hard."
Because Rick had played at Yale and reared his family just 25 minutes away in Fairfield, the McCarthys had been going to games in Yale Bowl for years before Ed joined the team in 2003. But having a McCarthy on the field has brought the family's Saturday ritual to a whole new level, Ed's sister Maura said.
"My dad's been taking us to Yale games since we were little, so it was amazing that Eddie became part of the Yale team since it was already so much a part of our lives," Maura said. "I honestly don't know who's going to be more upset when it's over - Eddie or my dad or my mom. It's something we all look forward to, and it's become a big family tradition. It's just what we do in the fall."
Ed's dad agreed but said that this year is different.
"The first three years it was just `Let's go have fun, and if we win, it's more fun.' As parents of a senior we approach it with a little more urgency. ... The end is coming, whether we want it to or not. We just want to go and cheer as hard as we can and hope for the best, but I think if he had college to sort out all over again, he would pick Yale again, and he would do that regardless of how they do these next couple of games." Rick knows his son well. Ed said it is his teammates who have made his Yale football experience so enjoyable.
"It's everything I'd hoped my college football experience would be," he said. "The biggest thing, and I think a lot of guys will say this, is the camaraderie. The friendships and the people that you meet -- that's the best part."
But to be a great player, you have to have talent, too. Rick McCarthy tells about one of the first moments he knew his son would be a great football player. When Ed was a sophomore at Fairfield Prep, his team was playing Hamden, a school known for big, tough lines. One of Prep's starting linemen was injured in the game. Ed went in as the replacement and held his own against a huge all-state defensive tackle. "He always had a good attitude and believed in himself and gave it everything he had, and in that game Ed held his ground," Richard said. "That's as much as you could expect of anyone in that situation." The Hamden player was Anttaj Hawthorne. He was a senior that year, but now he plays for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL. As a sophomore backup high school lineman, Eddie held him off.
Pretty good work for a kid whose dad feared he wouldn't make the team.