As Penn celebrated its second-straight Ivy title, a somber Cornell football team dejectedly walked off Schoellkopf Field, many for the last time.
But four seniors abstained from immediately filing into the locker room, sharing a moment to commemorate their final game in a Cornell uniform. Through all the injuries, losses, heartbreakers and good times, Jackson Weber, Ben Rogers, Matt Sullivan and Jaivon Gibbs have been through it all as one.
“We didn’t want to leave. We didn’t want to step off that turf for the last time,” Weber said. “We don’t want to take our pads off and hang it up.”
“For the record I don’t want them to leave either,” joked head coach David Archer ’05.
The 42-20 loss to Penn seemed inconsequential at that point. Being a part of this team — both on and off the field — was a way of life for these four players and the rest of the football team’s senior class during their time at Cornell.
“It just hits you and emotions start flooding the system, the tears start to roll down your face,” Weber said. “There was a lot of blood, a lot of sweat put into this program. It’s a tough day. But you know it’s coming and you just kind of hope you make the most of it and not look back on your four years with any regrets.”
An emotional Rogers struggled to describe the emotions that he was feeling after the game.
“I’m not sure words can describe it,” he said. “This is so much more than 10 football games. This is really a family. To have to say see you later to some of your family members, it’s tough. I thought I got all my tears out. It’s more than football. You build bonds with guys and coaches that are really like a family.”
Despite the emotions that the senior class feels, its members can leave Ithaca reassured that they left the Cornell football program in a better place than they found it. The team won more games its senior year than any other season they were on the team, leaving the team poised to continue to improve.
“I really feel like this time, the foundation is built on incredibly solid ground,” Archer said. “I think these guys have pushed us to a competitive level. We certainly were competitive in seven games.”
In addition to the improvements in the win column, Rogers noted that team has also improved its on-the-field mentality throughout his tenure at Cornell.
“We had guys fighting all four years,” Rogers said, “but this fifth year it was not, ‘Alright I’m just going to give it my best effort and see what happens.’ It was ‘I’m going to give it my best effort and we’re going to go win this game.’ ”
While the seniors will not officially be playing another game for Cornell, they know they still have some time left to make an impact on the underclassmen, and hopefully build upon the foundation they laid.
“Especially for the freshmen that are just getting here they need to understand that there are moments where you may question why you are doing this, why you’re committed to this, why you’re spending so much time on it,” Weber said. “But ultimately, this brotherhood makes it all worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
While these 26 seniors will depart from Ithaca without an Ivy title to show, nor a winning record, the four years they spend playing football in upstate New York will live on with them in them in the bonds they made, memories created and impact left.
“Seeing the families up there, hearing the band, being out there with guys that you love. What’s better than that in life?” Rogers said. “I told Jackson, ‘How lucky are we that got to be part of this?’ It was so much fun, we’d do it again in a heartbeat.”