July 19, 2009

Cornell Athletes in the Pros

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Let’s not kid ourselves. While the name Ivy League came from an early sports conference, these days “Ivy” conjures thoughts of academia, not athletics.
But that doesn’t mean that an Ivy League school cannot produce some of the finest athletes in the world.
In fact, Cornell itself has produced a prominent list of professional athletes.
One famous Cornellian is running back Ed Marinaro ’72. As great a runner as Marinaro was, he is probably better known for his time on television than for his time on the gridiron.
But we at Cornell recognize Marinaro first for his prowess on the playing field. While carrying the ball for the Red, he totaled 4,715 career rushing yards and 52 touchdowns, both all-time Cornell records. In 1971 alone, the School of Hotel Administration graduate rushed for 1,881, averaging an impressive 209 yards per game. These accomplishments earned Marinaro a second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy balloting in his senior year. He also made the cover of Sports Illustrated that season.
After graduation, Marinaro played for the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets before he retired in 1978.
Following in Marinaro’s footsteps is Red offensive lineman Kevin Boothe ’06. The Florida native was selected in the sixth round of the 2006 draft by the Oakland Raiders. The lineman, however, accomplished what Marinaro never could when Boothe’s New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in a historic upset to become Super Bowl Champions two years ago.
Another Red running back to make the national scene was Derrick Harmon ’84. In his three years on the varsity squad, Harmon rushed for 3,074 yards and 26 touchdowns.
After he graduated Cornell with a degree in engineering physics, Harmon moved on to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. A ninth-round draft choice, he fumbled the opening kickoff in the 1985 Super Bowl.
The NFL contribution of Peter Gogolak ’64 goes much farther than simply the points he scored for the Giants. He is also credited with introducing the soccer-style kick that all NFL kickers utilize in today’s game.
While Red football is big around here, hockey — as you will soon discover — has the strongest tradition at Cornell. And without a doubt, two of the leading names in the annals of Red sports history are Ken Dryden ’69 and center Joe Nieuwendyk ’88.
Considered by many to be the greatest goalie to ever play the game, Dryden was a three-time All-American and led the Red to its first-ever NCAA championship in 1967. While at Cornell, Dryden posted an incredible .939 career save percentage and a 1.59 goals-against average — both Cornell records. Dryden’s career record of 76-4-1 also stands as the best in Cornell history.
Dryden soon graduated to even greater glory. As the starting goalie for Montreal from 1971 to 1979, he anchored the defense that led the Canadiens to four straight Stanley Cup championships, and was later elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2004, he took a job in the front office of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In May 2008, he was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America Hall of Fame.
Nieuwendyk, who co-captained the 1986-87 Red squad, enjoyed three stellar seasons with Cornell.
The speedy center tallied 86 goals and 93 assists and was twice selected to the Titan All-American first team. In his final year with the Red, Nieuwendyk was named the ECAC Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award — college hockey’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Nieuwendyk was a member of the 2002-03 Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, his third Stanley Cup.
Doug Murray ’03 and David LeNeveu ’05 joined the ranks of Cornellians in the NHL when they signed contracts with the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes, respectively. LeNeveu saw action in 15 games for the Coyotes three years ago and six games two years ago.
Following the trend of LeNeveu, the hockey duo of David McKee ’07 and Sasha Pokuluk ’08 signed contracts with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Washington Capitals, respectively, in 2006.
Former captain Byron Bitz ’07 was a midseason call-up for the Boston Bruins on Jan. 10, 2009. Bitz recorded four goals and three assists during the regular season. He also notched his first career playoff goal in the first period of Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes. Former co-captain Raymond Sawada ’08 also made his professional debut last season with the Dallas Stars, netting his first career goal on Feb. 19, 2009 against the Edmonton Oilers.
In last year’s Major League Lacrosse draft, a trio of Cornell players were selected. Tewaararton Trophy winner Max Seibald ’09 was selected second overall. Seibald became only the third player ever to win college lacrosse’s most prestigious award despite not winning a national championship. Joining Seibald in the top-10 was teammate John Glynn ’09, who was picked 10th. Rocco Romero ’09 was taken with the 41st pick.