The football team will welcome back a number of familiar faces to the gridiron on the offensive side of the ball in 2011. For three of those players, their classmates will have already shaken President Ruth Simmons' hand, received their degrees and entered the post-Brunonian world. Because of injuries and the Ivy League's medical redshirt rules, 2009 All-Ivy quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero, 2010 All-Ivy wide receiver Alex Tounkara and wide receiver Matt Sudfeld — all seniors — will take a leave of absence in the spring 2011 semester and return for the fall semester and season.
All three players have eligibility to play another year due to substantial injuries sustained in past seasons. To qualify for the medical hardship waiver, a player must have proof of his injury, not play in more than 20 percent of his team's games and not play after the midway point of the season, wrote Newhall-Caballero in an e-mail to The Herald.
Newhall-Caballero played in only the second and third games this fall due to a wrist injury, while Sudfeld missed the entire season with a nagging hamstring injury. Tounkara, who led the Bears with 61 catches for 842 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2010, was forced to sit out all of his junior season in 2009 due to injury.
The three credited their decision to return to the unique opportunity of playing the game they love at Brown and the camaraderie they share with their teammates — something that they are "not ready to part ways with quite yet," according to Newhall-Caballero. In addition, each said he has his own personal reasons for returning. For Sudfeld — the player pegged to fill the shoes of Bobby Sewall '10 and current New England Patriot Buddy Farnham '10 — coming back is about ending his career on the right note, he said.
"It's difficult when you work year-round and have high expectations going into a season, only to end up watching from the sideline," wrote Sudfeld in an e-mail to The Herald. "Playing football at Brown has been a fantastic experience, and I didn't want it all to end while sitting on the sidelines, watching my team play without me."
For Tounkara, whose 2010 season was a breakout effort in his first starting role, the chance for another opportunity to prove himself — maybe even to NFL scouts — spurred his decision.
"Although an extreme long shot, there is still a chance of playing at the professional level," Tounkara wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "I owe it to myself to try. It is every football player's childhood dream to make it to the pros, so when you have even the smallest chance, you have to give it all you've got."
Like Sudfeld, Newhall-Caballero said he did not want to end his career at Brown on the sidelines, adding that returning would also allow him the chance to work on his future outside of football.
"I was offered a great opportunity to work and develop my career skills this spring," wrote Newhall-Caballero, who will be working at a private equity firm in New York City during the spring semester. "I know that my time this spring will give me great exposure to a field of work in which I am very interested in pursuing, and that I will have a better idea of the work I will choose to pursue upon graduation as a result of it."
Tounkara, an economics and international relations concentrator, said he will also be working in New York, while Sudfeld said he plans to spend a month in Uganda and Kenya with Assist International, a humanitarian organization. He said he also plans to work for the New England Technical Institute and prepare for law school.
While the three are excited about their academic plans and the 2011 season, the decision does not come without sacrifice — especially regarding graduation and spending the final semester with their classmates.
"I'll do everything I can to attend commencement and senior week, but it's a long shot," Tounkara wrote. "It would be difficult to have my family fly out here and not return home with a degree in hand."
Though it is a ways away, excitement for the upcoming season is running high, as Newhall-Caballero will have an impressive arsenal of weapons in what has the potential to be the Ivy League's most explosive offense. Mark Kachmer '13, Bruno's leading rusher, will be back taking handoffs, while Tounkara and Sudfeld will be part of a deep receiving corps along with Jimmy Saros '12, Jonah Fay '12 and Tellef Lundevall '13. Linebacker Robert Gillett '11, who also has red-shirt eligibility after missing the majority of last season, will also be returning on defense.
"Any one of the seniors would give anything to have the opportunity to come back and play another year," Tounkara wrote. "I was just lucky enough to have it."