November 14, 2011
"I will be playing in the Yale-Harvard game this Saturday," Witt said in an official press release. "My focus this week is solely on preparing for The Game alongside my teammates and coaches."
Two weeks ago, Witt became a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, but the joy of the news was dampened when Witt learned the interview would be on the same day as The Game against rival Harvard. With interviews at Emory University in Atlanta, Witt would never have had enough time to do the 8 a.m. interview and fly back for The Game, which starts just four hours later.
Witt's teammates told the Yale Daily News they knew of his decision earlier in the week.
"He told me a couple of days ago that he wasn't going to continue to pursue the Rhodes Scholarship and was definitely going to play in the game on Saturday," wide receiver Chris Smith told the paper. "I think he felt like that he had a responsibility as one of the best players on our team to be at the game."
Witt, a history major with a 3.91 GPA, transferred from Nebraska two years ago for academic reasons and has since become one of the leaders of the Yale football team. It didn't seem right that he not be there to give the seniors a chance for their first win against the Crimson. Yale has not defeated Harvard since 2006 and this year's Harvard team is 8-1 and has already clinched the Ivy League title.
Football and the Rhodes Scholarship have collided a few times in the past few years. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy was a finalist and Florida State safety Myron Rolle actually earned a Rhodes Scholarship. Rolle's interview was on the same day the Seminoles played at Maryland, but the NCAA allowed him to take a chartered flight from his interview in Birmingham to College Park, Md., so he could still play in the game.
Witt was able to talk to a fellow Yale man who knew his situation. Coach Tom Williams missed his Rhodes finalist interview to attend San Francisco 49ers minicamp.
There is a bright side to this athlete-student tale. Witt, 22, can reapply for the Rhodes Scholarship; eligibility expires at age 24.
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