September 15, 2000

The Dannimal

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It was a typically frigid Minnesota night when Dan Weyandt stepped onto the football field prior to his high school’s section championship game. And as Weyandt took a look at the field, he saw that the early days of winter had covered the grass with a glossy layer of ice.

“It was really cold that year, and the ground was frozen on the field,” Weyandt explained. “The other team came to the game in tennis shoes and we had cleats on; we didn’t realize how cold it was going to get that night.”

Slipping and sliding through the first half, Weyandt and Cretin Derham Hall High School found themselves down 7-0 at intermission.

That’s when things took an odd, but perhaps fitting, twist.

“At half-time, all our fans took off their shoes, and I was wearing some kid’s shoes for the rest of the game,” he recalled. “We ended up winning 10-7, and [the shoes] made a huge difference.”

Like the image of a football player taking the field in tennis sneakers, Dan Weyandt — senior co-captain and middle linebacker for the Cornell football team — seems himself a paradox.

Wide receiver Joe Splendorio called him a “quiet storm” and Weyandt has lived up to the moniker. While teammates describe him as calm and laid-back off the field, once on the field he morphs into the “Dannimal” — half Dan, half animal.

“He was raised by a pack of wolves, that’s the word,” fellow linebacker Nate Spitler explained.

After a year in which he ranked third on the Red with 89 tackles as the middle linebacker, Weyandt returns this season as the key ingredient in the defense, taking over the leadership reins from recently graduated Nate Fisher ’00 and Dave Pitman ’00.

“When we look at Dan, we really feel that he’s a product of our program,” head coach Pete Mangurian said, adding, “He’s got the motivation to be a dominant player. He’s very calm and doesn’t lose his poise and that’s what you need as a defensive player.”

A native of Roseville, Minn., Weyandt was dealt an unlucky hand freshman year when he shattered his shoulder during the close of the 1998 season. But after enduring surgery and a rehab process that caused him to forego the 1999 spring practice session, he returned to the team that fall to discover that he would have to play on a defensive line that had been decimated by injuries.

“I didn’t exactly enjoy it, but I dealt with it,” Weyandt said. “It had to be done.”

Having moved back to the linebacker spot last season, Weyandt earned the Charles Colucci Award, given to the non-senior contributing the most to the squad.

“It’s always an honor to win an award,” Weyandt expressed, adding modestly, “I had a fair season, but I don’t know if I necessarily deserved it.”

As soft-spoken and self-effacing as Weyandt acts off the field, his play on it exudes a sense of driven intensity, even drawing sometimes towards masochism.

“I am a perfectionist. Even at practice, I tend to get down a lot on myself. If I make one bad play, I think I have a bad practice,” he stated.

And while he leaves the role of vocal leader to others on the Red, Weyandt is not too reluctant to play the part of mentor on the field.

“I’m not hootin’ and hollerin’ all the time. I’m not going to stand up and give a great half-time speech, throw some chairs around, and kick some lockers,” Weyandt asserted. “I just try to do my thing, and concentrate on what I need to get done.”

“I know what I’m capable of doing,” the Dannimal explained. “As an individual, my goal is to live up to my own expectations.”

Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj