The Indy chats with Connor Sheehan.
Standing out on a team that is 117-players deep in talent is quite an impressive feat. While that may seem daunting for some, it is everyday work for linebacker Connor Sheehan ’15. In the past couple of weeks, Sheehan’s name has been everywhere. His name is almost always guaranteed to come up when people talk about Harvard football’s defensive dominance in their 9-0 win-streak. However, based on my interview with him, I can tell that despite accolade after accolade, Sheehan remains humble. He stands out not only for his role as a key defensive player, but also for his diligence and calm demeanor.
Sheehan’s Harvard football journey starts all the way back in Austin, Texas where he played pick-up football with his friends. “I wasn’t allowed to play full contact football until the 6th grade,” he recalls. His next stop along the way was in sophomore year of high school when he began thinking about playing ball in college. “I had a really good year, sophomore varsity. Being from Texas, I was looking at some schools in Texas like TCU and Baylor.” Sheehan didn’t consider playing for the Ivies until his junior year when he received a call from Brown. “Getting that call opened my eyes,” Sheehan remembers. “That summer I visited Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Brown, and after my senior year, I got an offer from a couple of them.”
However, moving from southern comforts to play football with any of the icy Ancient Eights was a weighty decision Sheehan had to make. But, being the thoughtful student-athlete he is, he chose Harvard. “If I was going to play football 1500 miles away, I was going to play at the best school athletically and academically,” he stated. Harvard seems to be a perfect fit for Sheehan, given his football career. Sheehan has won multiple awards this season and has been a key defensive player.
Currently, Sheehan is the COOP’s Athlete of the Week. This season the College Football Performance Awards selected him as the National Defensive Player of the Week. Other organizations in college football have recognized his excellence on defense including College Sports Madness. In addition, the Ivy League named Sheehan as the best defensive player during the week of November 10th.
Why has Sheehan garnered so much attention? Because he has had an amazing season! During the November 15th game against Penn (34-24 Harvard), Sheehan recorded five tackles and one sack — his first of the season. Even more impressively, Sheehan scored not one, but two touchdowns in Harvard’s November 8th domination of Columbia. Sheehan had returned both interceptions for touchdowns for 97 yards total. He has had a consistent presence on the field, averaging about two tackles a game.
When asked about his favorite moment this season, he said, “So far, there have been so many great moments. I would probably say my favorite is…the Princeton game. The previous game against [them] left bitter tastes in our mouths.” Harvard made up for last year’s triple overtime loss by defeating the tigers 49-7. Sheehan had four tackles and four assists. “Getting to go down there and lay a whooping on them felt really good as a team,” Sheehan says.
After so much success on the field, Sheehan knows a thing or two about how to be an amazing outside linebacker. “My position is a hybrid between a linebacker and a safety. That is because I am playing outside the box a lot, and I am covering a lot of spot receivers and tight ends. At the same time, I have a run responsibility; that is a responsibility that safeties have.”
Sheehan holds another position on the team. With four years under his belt, he sees his role on the team as being the one to keep things lighthearted. “I think that fun attitude and enjoying the game as I play helps take the stress off of the other guys,” Sheehan says. He adds, “I love football. It is such a fun game. I am always excited to play.”
Having been a part of thirty-nine football games and starting in over half of them, this Saturday, the 131st Harvard-Yale Game, marks Sheehan’s fortieth and final game as a player for the Crimson. Looking ahead to The Game, Sheehan is eyeing another win for Harvard. “It has been quite some time since Yale has beaten Harvard. No one on our team wants that to change. We will be real dialed-in this week like our lives depended on it.”
Beating Yale this Saturday means several things for the Crimson. Not only will the team end the season with a perfect record, but Harvard will also have sole ownership over the Ivy League Title (Harvard could potentially share it with Yale — who is currently 8-1 — should the Crimson lose). While defeating Yale and having a perfect record is important to Sheehan, he says that the team looks at each game individually and that “a win in one week doesn’t guarantee that we will win the next.” At the same time, as he states, “We only get 10 FCS games, and we want to win each and everyone of them just as badly.”
After The Game on Saturday, Connor Sheehan will have played his last collegiate football game. While this moment is bittersweet, it marks another milestone in his football journey. Whether or not he continues his football career is another story, but it should be noted that his leadership and contributions to the 2014 Harvard football season should not to be forgotten.
Sheehan credits football with providing many opportunities and an awesome community over the course of his college career. “The best thing football has given me is the opportunity to come to Harvard. Everyone at Harvard has their hidden talent that has gotten them here; football was mine. I am forever grateful for that opportunity, and I cherish it every day.”
Shaquilla Harrigan ’16 (sharrigan01@college) wishes Connor and the rest of the 2014 Football team good luck this Saturday!