Dartmouth football racks up postseason honors

by Devan Fink | 12/30/19 2:00am

football-harvard

The Big Green celebrates after defeating Harvard on Nov. 2 on a game-ending Hail Mary play. 

Source: Gil Talbot/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

When looking back at the 2019 Dartmouth football season, it’s hard to fathom everything that happened. A last-second Hail Mary, a resounding victory over Princeton University at Yankee Stadium, the Ivy League title. 

These landmark achievements will live on in Big Green football history, and in the month since winning its record-setting 19th Ivy League championship and finishing ranked No. 20 in the FCS Coaches Poll, Dartmouth has continued to rack up the hardware, with multiple individual awards, 16 players named to the All-Ivy League teams and regional and national attention. 

At the helm of the Big Green's success was head coach Buddy Teevens ’79. Teevens was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year, while also taking home similar honors from the New England Football Writers and the American Football Coaches Association for Region 1.

“Maybe they couldn’t figure anybody else to give it to,” Teevens quipped. “These awards, they’re really team-based. We had wonderful players who played well together, guys that worked well together, and I’m just a part of the group. It’s an award for all of us. Our coaches and our players put us in a situation to have success, and the head coach gets all the attention or all the blame — one of the two. This year, it was the attention.”

It was Teevens’ first time winning the award from the Ivy League, which established the Coach of the Year honor in 2014. The distinction is unique in that each of the eight coaches in the conference vote for the most deserving candidate, according to Teevens. 

“It is flattering to have your peer group say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy,” Teevens said. “Who knows how the vote went? It could have been 4-3, or something like that; who knows? When your peers say that you’re doing good work, it’s quite an honor.”

Teevens is in the midst of his second stint as the head of the Big Green, having coached the team first from 1987 to 1991 and winning Ivy League titles in 1990 and 1991. He then left Dartmouth for other opportunities, serving as the head coach at Tulane University and later at Stanford University, but he returned to the College in 2005 to rebuild the program. After a rocky start to his second tenure, Teevens has helped turn the Big Green around this decade.  In addition to sealing the Ivy League title, Dartmouth’s victory at Brown also gave Teevens his 105th career victory as the head coach of the Big Green, breaking legendary coach Bob Blackman’s record for most wins in College history.

“To be talked about in that same light [as Blackman] is certainly tremendously flattering,” Teevens said. “For me, it just means that I’ve been [at Dartmouth] a long time. [Blackman] did so much for the game of football. He was the winningest at Dartmouth, and now that they say that Teevens is in there, I certainly appreciate it — but the goal is always just to win the next one.” 

Standout offensive lineman Zach Sammartino ’19 described Teevens’ compassion as a chief reason as to why he is such a successful coach. 

“During recruiting, he sat down with me at my school and we talked for an hour,” Sammartino said. “We didn’t actually talk about football at all. He genuinely cares about your life after football and your family. I think that playing under him inspired us to bring the whole team together to know that there’s more after football, but we’re going to get the job done under him for him.”

Linebacker and captain Jack Traynor ’19, said he is impressed by Teevens’ attention to detail. 

“He’s always striving to make sure that every aspect of the football program is humming along,” Traynor said. “He is always thinking about how things can be improved ... Whenever you’re around [Teevens], you have got to make sure you’re on top of your game, because he’s looking at every little detail.” 

Teevens was far from the only winner of an esteemed Ivy League distinction. Earlier this month, Traynor won the Bushnell Cup, recognizing him as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, following a terrific season in which he recorded 75 tackles and four takeaways. This marks the third time in four years a Big Green defenseman has taken home the honors, following in the footsteps of Folarin Orimolade ’16 and Isiah Swann ’20.

“I was kind of shocked,” Traynor said. “If you think about all the great players, especially those on our defense this year and in the league as a whole, it’s really an honor to be thought of in that light.”

Traynor finished his Dartmouth career with 270 tackles, ranking 11th all-time in College history. He served as a team captain in the past two seasons, becoming just the 13th player in program history to be named a captain in multiple years.

“He’s obviously a tremendous athlete on the field,” Teevens said. “Coaches have identified him as a guy who makes plays. But the competitive nature off the field, in terms of a guy who puts it out in the weight room, sets a wonderful example for our players.”

Teevens, in particular, was quite proud of not only Traynor’s accomplishments in uniform, but also his work ethic in the classroom and selflessness. 

“He’s a tremendously intelligent individual, aligning people and communicating effectively on the field,” Teevens said. “The great thing is, he’s a 3.8 student in engineering. He has that same intensity in the classroom. It’s one of the most demanding curriculums or majors that the College offers, and he’s doing that and playing Division I football at an extremely high level.”

In all, 13 Dartmouth football players were named to the All-Ivy League teams, along with three honorable mentions, tying the team with Princeton for the most honors in the conference. This included six first-team selections, the most of any team. For the defense, Traynor and Swann were unanimously selected to the first team, alongside linebacker Nigel Alexander ’20 and linemen Niko Lalos ’20 and Jackson Perry ’19. On the offense, Sammartino was the only Big Green selection to the Ivy First Team. Lalos, Sammartino, Swann and Traynor garnered spots on the Division I All-New England Team as well, while Swann has been named to four All-American teams since then, including the Associated Press All-America Second Team for the 2019 season. 

Sammartino said he was happy to receive recognition after guiding the Big Green offensive line as the only returning O-Line starter. 

“I was pretty excited,” Sammartino said. “I feel like, last year, I got snubbed a little bit, so it was definitely a main goal of mine coming in this year — in addition to winning the championship — was to get more recognition this year.” 

Sammartino, along with the rest of the team, accomplished both goals. In an outstanding year for the program, the Big Green clinched a share of the Ivy League championship as well as multiple individual awards. The attention has all been cast on Dartmouth.