When one thinks of Cornell University, many things come to mind — academics, Ivy League, Ithaca — but the National Football League is usually not one of them. At least, it hasn’t been the case in the past for a team that has gone 4-6 and 5-5 in the last two seasons. But times are changing, and Cornell is starting to make its mark on the NFL.
For the last six years (since the 2007 season), Kevin Boothe ’05 was the sole player representing the Red in the NFL. But as of this season, he has been joined by Bryan Walters ’10, J.C. Tretter ’13 and Luke Tasker ’13 who are all currently in professional training camps with Seattle, Green Bay and San Diego respectively, looking to secure spots for this season.
“It’s even more exciting right now,” Boothe said in an April 12 interview with the Shreveport Times. “For a while, it was just me. It’s exciting to see younger guys getting an opportunity. I am always honored and proud to represent Cornell in the NFL.”
As the only Cornellian on the field in the pros for the last six years, Boothe did everything he could to make his alma-mater proud.
“I didn’t look at it as a burden or a responsibility. I was just proud and I realized that I was the only one in the NFL. I tried to do what I could to make the University proud,” he said. “I approach every day as if I am trying to make the team, regardless of my situation, whether I am starting or not. That’s always been my approach.”
As far as not being the new guy on the block, Walters — who was an undrafted free agent with the Chargers in 2010 — is working to start for his third team in four years. As a Seattle kid, Walters could be playing with the team that he grew up spending Sunday afternoons watching and cheering on.
“To get the chance to play for the team that you grew up watching and for it to become a reality, it’s pretty crazy. But you get past it pretty quick and realize it’s your job and you’ve got to focus,” Walters said to the Shreveport Times. “Special teams, obviously, are where I need to show up during these preseason games.”
The road for Tasker has been different than the others. He grew up as the son of seven-time Pro Bowler Steve Tasker, which meant spending a lot of his childhood around the Buffalo Bills organization, so he knows what the inside of a professional team looks like. But that doesn’t seem to be making things easier for the 22-year-old who has thrown his own cleats and stepped out onto the field to vie for a spot with the Chargers this season.
“This has been my dream since I was a kid. The surrealism, the wow moment when you first walk in, that wears off pretty quickly,” Tasker said to the Shreveport Times. “Right when you get here, it gets down to work pretty fast. At this point now, it’s just football.”
Tasker’s teammate, Tretter, seems to echo his statement as he pushes to show his stuff as an offensive lineman for the Packers.
“It’s a hard experience. You come in excited and ready to prove yourself and now you can’t,” Tretter said to the Shreveport Times. “You have to stay positive, study the plays, and make sure you’re learning everything every day that everyone else is learning.”
Original Author: Haley Velasco