The Forgotten Captain
The storied 1996 Columbia Football team had four captains.
Most die-hard fans remember three of them very well. They were the late Randy Murff, the great Marcellus Wiley, and the amazing Rory Wilfork.
But the fourth captain was a quiet senior tight end from Connecticut named Ryan Gabriele.
At 6-1, the 245-pound Gabriele was not really tall enough to be a serious receiving threat at tight end. In fact, he caught fewer than 5 passes that entire season.
But Gabriele was a very strong wrestler and thus, a super-effective blocker and a cog for Columbia’s “wear ‘em out” running attack that season.
Gabriele kept opening holes on the outside despite a knee and an ankle that needed surgeries earlier in his career.
He ended his career with a TD catch in his final game, a 31-27 thrilling win over Brown at Wien Stadium.
I mention Gabriele because we enter tomorrow night’s Spring Game with a yawning need for a new tight end to fill the void left by the graduation of Andrew Kennedy and the fact that promising freshman Chris Mooney has left the team.
I’m not sure how much playing time we’ll see from the three remaining tight ends on the roster. They are Hamilton Garner, Rafael Lopez and Zack McKown. It’s interesting that in an era of ever-heavier players, none of them is as big as Gabriele’s 245 pounds in 1996.
But Garner is a nice 6-foot-5 and if he can get his currently listed 225 pounds up to something like 240 with good speed he could be a force.
Lopez also might make some noise in what will be his senior season.
Often, when a team is dealing with a non-receiving weapon at TE, it uses an H-Back set to keep defenses honest. I know that’s been an option Columbia has considered in the past and there are some good candidates for that position if that’s the way the Lions go. Andrew McHugh and Griffin Lowry come to mind.
If you’re coming to the Spring Game tomorrow night, I’m sure many of you will focus on the tight ends.
I’d love to “discover” a new standout, but we should all be fine if we end up with someone like the quiet, hard-to-notice Ryan Gabriele.