Senior Spring: Jack Traynor ’19 engineers an outstanding career

by Justin Kramer | 4/5/19 2:00am

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Jack Traynor’s tireless work ethic bears fruit on and off the football field. (Gregory Fisher/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department)

If there is one thing linebacker and co-captain Jack Traynor ’19 has always been good at, it’s tackling: tackling the most high school opponents in Illinois history (378), tackling the second-most (98) foes in the Ivy League last year and tackling an impressive engineering course load. Though his knowledge of the game has evolved, Traynor has consistently been a highly aggressive player on the field.

“You’re not trying to avoid people, and I’m a pretty physical guy, so I just love the fact that you can run with your head cut off and hit someone, and I thought that was fun,” Traynor said. “Over time, I’ve realized the nuances, the techniques and the schemes that go into that, but fundamentally the fact that you’re the team that’s trying to stop the other one — that’s really cool.”

His physicality is not his only attribute, however, as he has developed a strong drive for perfection. 

“He’s so perfect out there that the tiniest mistakes tick him off so much,” long-time friend and teammate Matt Kaskey ’19 said. “He’ll come out of a game being like, ‘That was a terrible game, I played so [badly].’ And I’ll look at the stat line, and it will be like ‘Jack Traynor, 15 tackles, two [tackles for loss], an interception.’”

Both Traynor and fellow captain, Kyran McKinney-Crudden ’18 TH ’19, echoed that sentiment, casting Traynor as a detail-oriented perfectionist.

“I really try to do everything to the best of my ability in the sense that even if a certain game goes well or a certain play goes well, I’m kind of the person that will nitpick this thing that didn’t go right,” Traynor said. “I hopefully am coaching myself as much as [the coaches] are.”

His combination of hard work, intelligence and raw talent have earned him back-to-back, unanimous All-Ivy League First Team selections. To boot, Traynor won team Most Valuable Player on Sunday. Head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 and Kaskey discussed the brilliance of consecutive All-Ivy selections.

“It’s voted by a collective effort of the coaches,” Teevens said. “You can’t vote for your own players, so other coaches in the league who’ve played against him, watched him on tape, evaluated him through the course of the season say he’s one of the best in the league.”

But Traynor does much more than fill the stat sheet. Kaskey, McKinney-Crudden and Teevens all emphasized that Traynor leads by example and has garnered plenty of respect as captain.

“He prepares thoroughly, he’s always in the right place, he’s kind of the quarterback on the defensive side of the field in terms of assisting in alignment, communication skills, getting people lined up and [adjusted],” Teevens said. “He’s right on top of it, and people look to him in that capacity.”

Impressively, Traynor transfers his work ethic and mental prowess to the classroom, where he pushes himself to perfection in one of the hardest majors: engineering. Kaskey described a scenario in which Traynor was frustrated by his ECON 20, “Econometrics” exam score, leading him to believe Traynor had gotten a “C.” He got a 93.

Engineering and football are both heavy commitments, and it would be hard to blame Traynor for struggling in one of the most competitive, time-consuming majors. Traynor, though, said he thrives in competitive atmospheres, and he worked tirelessly to earn his 3.65 GPA, consecutive FCS ADA Academic All-Star awards in 2017 and 2018 and the athletics department’s Class of 1948 Scholar Athlete award last year.

“Athletics helps with [time management] a lot when you originally get here because coming from high school to college, you’re used to living with your parents on a very strict schedule,” Traynor said. “Now it’s a rinse and repeat situation where I know what I have to get done and when to do it.”

The relationship between academics and football goes both ways for Traynor. Every hour he spends on an engineering problem set teaches him valuable lessons for his on-field performance. 

“[One big similarity is] the iterative process, especially from engineering where you’re going to have to experiment and maybe not be successful on the first try and kind of be willing, in a difficult major, to fail,” he said. “To deal with those failures and be resilient, the perseverance and the discipline it requires to be on top of everything for a test — a lot of those skills translate really easily.”

It is his engineering major that will keep him in a Big Green uniform next season, as he completes his culminating experience in his fifth year. Traynor was injured as a freshman and worked with the junior varsity, preserving his eligibility. 

While the team has not voted yet, Teevens thinks Traynor has a “great chance” at donning the “C” again atop his No. 51 jersey in his fifth year. McKinney-Crudden, a fifth-year this past year, believes that Traynor will serve a prominent leadership role regardless of his position.

“When you come back for your fifth year, you kind of have to take the role of being everyone’s older brother, and not that you don’t do it before, but you really have to take an additional step in making sure you mentor younger players, making sure you’re teaching them the ropes of how we do things,” McKinney-Crudden said.

Traynor is a role model; he works tirelessly in and out of practice, supports his teammates and shows emotion to them. Teevens gave a laundry list of compliments to his star linebacker and captain, calling him a “self starter,” “dedicated” and “adaptable” while Kaskey zeroed on what others can learn from him.

“That’s what everyone wants to be,” Kaskey said. “They want to be this guy who has great season after great season, knows what they’re doing out there and tries to be nothing short of perfect on game day and in practice. He’s what everyone is striving to be when they’re working in the offseason or in practice.”

Traynor is already back to practice as of this past Tuesday, and in the immediate sense, his goal is to prepare for next season. Eventually, Traynor figures he will end up in finance, but depending on how next season goes, he could still end up playing professionally.

“He certainly will have a shot,” Teevens said. “His productivity is consistency, he’s a good-sized guy, he plays hard, he runs well. Measurables and so forth, they’ll continue to evaluate that, but he’s got as good of a shot as anyone in our league at that position to take the next step.”

Indeed, Traynor fits the mold of success, with strong drive and competitiveness. But he is more complex than that. As his teammates all know, he has a soft side to him — “a gooey inside” as Kaskey calls it. He fills numerous roles as a captain, an academic and a friend. For Teevens, he checks all the boxes.

“He hits all the things we look for,” Teevens said. “I want a great football player at football time — which he is, a great student at academic time — which he is, and a great guy all the time — which he is. When we talk about what we’re looking for in a football player, Jack Traynor is going to be a guy that pops up foremost in mind.”

Osezele Okoruwa contributed reporting.