-Courtesy, John "Jocko" Connolly, Boston Herald
Just before noon (today), Harvard senior Colton Chapple will walk out on the green grass of The Stadium to begin warming up for his final appearance as a college quarterback when the Crimson host Yale in the 129th edition of The Game.
"I don't even want to start thinking of that because then I'll start choking up," Chapple said earlier this week. "When I walk out on the field I'm going to be thinking about the guys in the senior class because I've been through so much with them. They mean so much to me and I'll be trying to play hard for them. That's the essence of Harvard football. You play for each other. I just want to go out there one more time and hopefully win and sing 'Ten Thousand Men of Harvard.' "
A win today by No. 24 Harvard (7-2, 4-2 Ivy), combined with a Penn loss at Cornell could earn the hosts a piece of the league title. Chapple won't look that far ahead.
"With the history of the game, it is 'The Game.' It's national television. It's a big deal. We're not thinking about (an Ivy title). All season we've tried to focus on one day at a time and one game at a time. This week, we've focused on each practice, Monday to Friday. Then, once we get into the game we try to take it one play at a time."
This has been a magical year for the 21-year-old Chapple, who has established single-season Harvard bests for passing touchdowns (22) and offensive yardage (2,898).
"Ever since spring ball, I kind of knew that I'd be starting and, like the old cliche, with great power comes great responsibility. So, I knew I had to get the offense ready," said Chapple, who is 13-3 as a starter. "The senior starters here have played so much more than me and they have been a tremendous help. I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great playmakers. You pay your dues and then your time will come."
Harvard coach Tim Murphy, who is 13-5 against Yale, has developed a steady succession of able and proficient quarterbacks that allows the Crimson to appear to reload at the position, although that would be an oversimplification.
"You know, we've probably asked more of Colton Chapple than just about anybody I can think of in my tenure and we've had so many great ones in Collier (Winters), Chris Pizzotti, Fitzy (Ryan Fitzpatrick), Neil Rose, Rich Linden. I'm note sure we've ever gotten more out of a guy than we have out of Colton. He's the heart and soul of our team. He has exceeded our expectation as to what he could accomplish as a quarterback. He is a great deal of our offensive success and is a great human being. I love the kid."
Asked if he anticipated Chapple, a native of Alpharetta, Ga., to be as efficient a quarterback and leader, Murphy said without hesitation, "No."
"I expected him to be a good player," Murphy said. "That's the thing. You have to do your time. We've been fortunate to recruit and bring guys along and develop under some other good players. They have good leadership qualities and they haven't had to play early and have been in backup roles."
Chapple is aware of the Harvard quarterbacking royalty and is humbled by it.
"It definitely means that much more," he said. "You come in as a freshman and watch film with them and learn about the kind of players they are and I think it's all a tribute to the coaching staff. They've done a great job with everyone that has come here. When you put the jersey on you realize you're playing for the guys here before you. That's important because Harvard is such a historic place.''
Harvard offensive coordinator Joel Lamb said Chapple has exceeded expectations the coaching staff had for him coming out of high school.
"Just a great kid. He has great character. He's always done a great job in reaching his potential as a player because of his work ethic," Lamb said. "It doesn't surprise me just based on knowing him and his work ethic and his determination. He's the ultimate competitor, a very determined kid."