Inside the Hash Marks: A Dream Fulfilled
Dartmouth long snapper Josh Greene ’23 reflects on what this season has meant to him as the Big Green prepare for the final game of the season.
Dartmouth long snapper Josh Greene ’23 will be sharing his experience playing for the Big Green, covering topics such as the team’s preparation following COVID-19, the academic-sport-life balance required of an athlete at an Ivy League school and other musings on his experience in Hanover. This installment reflects on Greene’s experience throughout the season following the Big Green’s final home game on Saturday, a 41-7 victory over Cornell.
It’s funny how life works sometimes. I am writing this edition of my column, the last one of the season, the morning after a dominating win over Cornell. I think that I did a good job in appreciating the moment. High-fiving the little kids bargaining for one of our gloves in exchange for a piece of pizza, taking in the third-down cowbell rings and holding that green jersey in my hands for the last time this season. My appreciation for these moments comes from the journey that made this possible.
In my first column, I wrote about the team’s journey coming back from having our 2020 season taken from us. Now that we potentially sit one game away from being Ivy League champions, that journey is beginning to justify itself. I’ve loved using these biweekly pieces to talk about my teammates and coaches because they deserve to know how much they are appreciated. I relish the opportunity to play on Memorial Field, or at any other venue, with my teammates. But this week I want to take a moment to reflect on my own journey.
As an eighth grader, there were two things that I really cared about: getting good grades and playing sports. If I wasn’t playing in a game, you could almost guarantee that I was watching one. My parents taught me to prioritize, so I knew that in order to watch a Thursday night Miami Dolphins game, I would have to get all of my homework done beforehand.
I can pinpoint the moment where the trajectory of my life changed. I remember walking into school on a typical Florida October morning in 2014. The humid air had me sweating even though it was only 7:45 a.m., and I was about to lock my phone in my small blue locker for the day when I decided to check Bleacher Report one more time. This was foolish, of course, since it was highly doubtful that anything in the sports world would have developed since the last time that I checked the app 15 minutes prior, but I did it anyway. That is when I saw the notification: ESPN College Gameday to be at Yale University vs. Harvard University football game on Nov. 22.
Okay. I know what you may be thinking: what does this have to do with Dartmouth? Well, in terms of me getting here, it meant everything. I thought that it was cool that College Gameday was going to show the Ivy League some love, so I sent the message to my dad. Although he was busy at work, he responded to me almost immediately and asked if I wanted to go. Why not? At the time I couldn’t even name all eight Ivy League colleges, but as a hard-working student with the dream of playing sports at the next level, going to this game could give me a different perspective on what my future could be. And, boy, it did.
The day was amazing. I got to take in an Ivy League campus, watching Harvard defeat Yale in a thriller, and I also met Kirk Herbstreit. Academically, this trip gave me something to shoot for. I knew I worked hard in school, so why not keep grinding and get to a place like Harvard or Yale? Athletically, however, things were not so clear. I was shocked by the size and speed of the players on the field. The common public misconception is that because the Ivy League schools are so prestigious academically, the athletes recruited to play there will be inferior. That is certainly not the case — just go check our current roster. But, as an eighth grader who loved playing offensive and defensive line, but who also did not know how much more growing I would do (not much by the way), perhaps this goal was unattainable. That didn’t end up being the case though.
As you might have realized by now from reading my pieces, every team has a long snapper, or at least someone who long snaps. If my goal was to go to a prestigious school and be on the football team, snapping could be my “in.” There were far easier routes, for instance if I had grown to 6’3” and played defensive line, but football has taught me that adversity is a necessary evil. I think that having the simultaneous and difficult goals of getting into schools with small acceptance rates and playing a position that only one person plays on the team made me work harder.
For years, before I knew any better, I wanted to go play at, well, Harvard (*gasp*). It was the flashy Ivy League that everyone knew about, and also where I had my first Ivy League football experience. My dad and I went to the next two games between Harvard and Yale, I participated in Harvard Model Congress and my high school football teammates and coaches would jokingly call me “Harvard” when I would say something particularly dorky (something that I still do quite frequently.) But, to make a long story short, I am glad that I was not so myopic and allowed myself to impartially go through both the college admissions and recruiting processes. After several trips to Hanover for football games, witnessing the CHAD run and other Dartmouth traditions, I realized that Hanover was the place I wanted to be. So when Coach Teevens offered me the chance to come long snap at this school, it wasn’t too difficult to bypass other collegiate opportunities.
This year was when all my hard work really paid off. Actually being a starter and playing in real games with my friends, although it’s at a position that most people don’t know exists, has been everything eighth grade Josh could have wanted and more. Obviously, we are trying to win a championship, and if we are fortunate enough to do so that would be the highlight of the season, but everything came full circle for me on a dreary Saturday in Cambridge. When I stepped on the field at Harvard, I knew that I belonged. It was finally time to live out my dream. It was always my dream to win on that field with my team, but I am beyond thrilled that my team was wearing white and green. I was once a naive kid in the stands with a dream, but the moment that Harvard’s field goal attempt sailed wide and I ran onto that field to celebrate, part of that dream was realized.
Before I sign off for the season and move on to preparing for our final game against Brown, I want to share a picture from the end of the Harvard game. In the picture, the team is celebrating, hugging and rejoicing. As I — No. 56 — made my way over to grab defensive back John Pupel ’22, I took in the moment. Arms outstretched. But here’s the kicker: I’m out of focus. Fittingly, all of my teammates jumping in the air are in focus. As the long snapper, nothing gives me more joy, actually, than not being the focus of this picture. If from the outside looking in, I am always in the portion of the photograph that’s out of focus, I will happily live with that. Because I know what being on this team means to me. I know what these coaches, teammates, friends and family mean to me. Does life work out the right way all of the time? Absolutely not. But, luckily for me, being on this team, at this school, with these people, is where I was always meant to be. Now let’s go get this ring on Saturday. Go Big Green.
P.S. Shoutout again to all of our seniors. Love you guys, let's finish the job on Saturday.