Updated: Feb 27, 2021
On this episode on Real Talk, we talk with the 2020 Captain of the Yale Bulldogs John Dean! Dean was born in Wrentham, Massachusetts, and started every game for the Bulldogs in its Ivy League Championship season. With an Impressive football resume he gives some insight on what its on within a Division 1 program.
Dean talks about what his team has been doing to prepare for the next season, what it means to be the only captain at Yale, and his struggles with injuries during his career along with much more.
What was it like to hear the news that your season was canceled?
"It was defiantly something that we considered as an option that could have happened. I think we got booted off campus right after spring break so from that point to the summer the virus was progressing and as it got more and more rapid across the country that was something our couches defiantly talked and our team talked about is the option of having the Ivy league canceling the season.
When it went down, our head coach called us into a meeting, and he let us know that the season was canceled. It was kinda dishearting for a day or two then right after that, we decided that as a team, that even though we are getting this adversity, were just going to hit it full steam and get ready for the next season that we're gonna play so were planning on attacking the next year, where get the chance to play in whether its the spring or the fall doesn't matter, we are going to be ready to play."
What have you and the team been doing to stay prepared?
"Were a player lead not coach lead team, so being accountable with each other, staying connecting, doing everything we can to make were on top of our own stuff apposed to the coaches hounding us to make sure we are actually working and getting our reps in.
Like no were about the team taking care of each other that's what we been doing and making sure. You know the older guys been through seasons and off-seasons they have been doing a great job, our senior class is awesome with 16/17 guys coming back next season. Everyone doubling down with the extra time if there was a level of commitment for the season that got canceled it's even increased id say for this next season coming up."
How have you adjusted academically?
"Well I have withdrawn from classes in the Ivy League or at yale at least, you only get 8 semesters to complete your course work, and in order for me and some other seniors to get that extra semester to play football, we had to withdraw for the fall and some guys are going to withdraw in the spring. But for me, it's been a withdraw from classes."
What’s it like to be THE captain for Yale?
"If it was the case where I had to take the load by myself, I'm sure it would be a lot. As was touching on earlier, we got a senior class that has really bought into what we're doing, we got 16/17 guys coming back for next fall. You know the guy whos not coming back is taking a six-figure Wallstreet job, he's still with the team now getting the young guys ready. So it's an overall investment from our whole class, you know it's never really been too much for me considering I have such great leadership around me."
What was it like to be on such a successful team last season?
"It was something special, we put a lot of work into that season, you know our offseason is tough, I don't know what other schools do but we have to wake up at like 4:15, 3 to 4 days a week in the spring. You know we go out and it's like 5 degrees out, we're just rolling around the field. That's coaches style, get gritty guys going, just mentally tough guys so the amount we put into the off-season really made it a special season.
We had two really crazy games that year Richmond and Harvard where we were down 2 scores with like a minute and a half left. We score onside kick, then score again in both those games so just living that, personally why I play the game to be in moments like that with guys that you put so much into the game for."
Talk about the culture at yale.
"I'll start on the football side, so coming in I had some things I thought about the team, Like am I just going to be playing with nerds, are kids going to be using like Abacus in the locker room and stuff like that. To my pleasant surprise, the team was filled with guys just like me who love football, consider themselves Football players who just happen to have good enough grades to be able to get into Yale and play.
That was awesome for me, and it basically stayed the same way, I mean everybody on our team is football first over everything so that's great, makes it that much more fun to practice and train or play with the guys. So from the football end, the culture is everything wanted it to be for a college football experience"
"Id say for the campus culture, it's a good time you wouldn't think it would be as fun as it is. New Haven is a good college town. Students, in general, I'd say, everybody is really good at something and that's something a lot of people are not used too in including myself, every single time I walk down the street on campus I look at people and be like, 'oh that guy launches satellites into space or that person is an Olympic figure skater or something like that."
It's crazy, that, and all the international diversity, with how many different prospective you get, it's really a crazy world and at firsts, its a little shock but you really enjoy the different perspectives I have been able to gain here."
What has helped you developed mentally and physically throughout your high school and college career?
"Yeah I'm sure you know my tough injury history in high school having torn my ACL three times. A lot of people say you don’t love something till it is gone and for me that was Football starting from ACL one then two then three before I got to college. The game that I grew up loving to play and watch my older brother play, my dad played linebacker at Fordham, it got taken away from me three times."
"It wasn’t just miss the last couple weeks of the season it was nine month to a year recoveries which was tough on me and my family too because they had to watch me go through that. Everytime it happened I made a decision I am not going to look in the past, not going to stay up at night asking why me, just going to keep pushing and realize that I was only one ACL away from playing football again. When it came down to it I did not think I could watch people in college do the thing I love so I decided to push for it and after ACL three keep playing."
"So that while it was tough to go through that’s made me 100 percent the player I am today, the worker I am today, I realize that everything is from within and the first battle in football you have to fight is the mental battle and then everything else follows. For me those are probably the biggest developers, going through that and everything that goes along with the ACL, the muscle activation, the nutrition, the mobility, the strength. Those are things that implemented me as well but the biggest thing was the mental toughness aspect and dedication that got double downed on and tripled downed after those three ACLs."
What advice do you have for incoming college freshmen?
"Yeah I would give two pieces of advice. First being hit the play book early and often, that is probably the biggest factor on whether kids play or not. Know your assignment because you know they are already recruited they got their height, weight, explosiveness, that ground level what everyone in the conference is going to have. So I feel like the mental game is what separates everybody once your athleticism is recruited so just hitting the playbook hard is huge."
"Then again to go with the mental thing don’t be scared to go up against college kids. I feel like I have seen that in a lot of guys having been through two three classes of young guys. Some guys come in and they are like oh man its college football what am I going to do? Its still the same sport if you are a college football player you have probably been playing for a while so just go out there let it rip don’t be afraid of some older guys."
With your past school experiences talk about the importance of grades and how that gave you some extra opportunities.
"Academics are huge and they just open up so many door ways for you. Yale was my only offer coming out of high school and if I didn’t have the grades I wouldn’t have been offered. Yale has some pretty high demands for grades so that was huge for me. Another thing is as passionate about football a lot of guys might be, as much as Tom Brady wants to say there is not there is an ending for everybody playing the game.
So at some point you are going to have to put your brain to work and not just your body. For me thinking down the line I want to take care of my family, support whoever I need to support, give back to my parents because they have done a lot for me, academics are going to be a key to that doorway."
What do you have planned after your college career?
"It is up in the air, I have been considering a lot. Maybe finance I worked an internship at the Yale investments office this summer which was super cool. I love Football so coaching always has been something in the back of my mind and maybe business consulting something like that. Those are three options that have been in my mind."
What is your favorite coverage?
"Cover 0 send them all. I like it because it’s a blitz or I pick up the running back it is pretty simple."
How was your time at Xaverian?
"I loved every single second of it. Some of my best friends are from there, best football memories playing at Gillette, Fenway, a couple state championships it couldn’t have gotten any better as a high school experience."
On the Yale website it says some of your hobbies are reading yoga and traveling. Are these true and if so how do you implementing into your everyday life?
"People that see me around campus usually find my nose in a book so definitely true about reading. Yoga I am a big fan of the mobility and relaxation aspect a little bit of meditation in there so that’s always been huge. Then traveling yeah I love traveling, I go to Nantucket every so often, I plan on going to Denver, Orlando, San Diego with some friends in the near future."