Tyler Varga, MVP, and Charles Cook each get two awards at Yale football banquet, while 6-year old “adoptee” Dante Chiappetta watches in awe

Yale running Tyler Varga, center, celebrates a touchdown against Army during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Conn., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Yale defeated Army in overtime, 49-43. (AP Photo/New Haven Register, Peter Hvizdak)

By Joel Alderman

To anyone who has been following Yale football this year,  it should hardly be a surprise that Tyler Varga was chosen last night by his teammates for the Edwin Foster Blair Most Valuable Player Award. Varga and Charles Cook each received two of the 15 annual awards.

The season-ending banquet at Yale’s Commons was also distinguished by the presence of six-year old Dante Chiappetta of North Haven, who may have been the youngest person ever to attend a Yale football banquet. He was there as a special guest, along with his parents and a brother.

Dante, who has cerebral palsy, as well as a condition known as cortical visual impairment, was “adopted” by the team in September in a widely publicized ceremony. He later attended  several games and practices.

In addition to Dante and his family members, the gathering included parents of several players, as well as coaches, trainers, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, and others in the Yale athletic and academic administrations. The introductions were made by Steve Conn, the associate athletic director for sports information.

A devastating running back, Varga is now a three time first team All-Ivy League selection. He was born in Sweden but was raised in Kitchener, Ont., Canada, after his parents moved there. He was also the Yale MVP as a sophomore.

Varga added this year’s Jim Keppel Award as “the offensive back who best exhibited Jim’s work ethic, pride and dedication to Yale football, as well as his ability to enrich the lives of his friends and teammates.”

The other double recipient, Charles Cook, from Dallas, Texas, played a linebacker position. He received the Ryan LoProto Award given to the player “who best exemplifies Ryan’s passion and competitive spirit, skill in the defensive secondary, and devotion to teammates.”

Later, Cook was presented with another, the Jordan Olivar Award, for “that senior, other than the captain, who, through his devotion to Yale football, has earned the highest respect of his teammates.”

Following are the other award recipients:

Woody Knapp Memorial Trophy

Bill Chism, Ridgeland, Miss., “best typifies the cheerful disposition, leadership qualities, and unselfish devotion to others, which characterized Woody’s live and accomplishments at Yale.”

Robert Gardner Anderson Award

Wide receiver Grant Wallace, St. Louis, Mo., “the player who best exemplifies Bob’s interest in the sport by combination of skill, spirit and pride in accomplishment.” (Note: Anderson encouraged many football players from the Chicago area to attend Yale).

Norman S. Hall Memorial Trophy

Wide receiver and outgoing captain, Deon Randall, San Diego, Calif., “for outstanding service to Yale football in memory of Norman Hall ’30.”

Gregory Dubinetz Memorial Trophy

Defensive end Jeff Schmittgens, Naperville, Ill., “the lineman who best exemplifies the spirit of Greg Dubinetz as a player and person.”

Charles Loftus Award

Linebacker Matt Oplinger, Summit, N.J., “the most valuable freshman.” (Note: Charley Loftus was Yale’s pioneer Sports Information Director. Originally this award was given to the MVP on the freshman team. After that program was discontinued, it was changed to recognize the most valuable freshman on the varsity.)

Chester J. LaRoche Award

Running back Everett Johnson, Union, N.J., “that senior who, by his character, academic talents and concern for others, did the most for Yale.”

Ledyard Mitchell Award

Place kicker Kyle Cazetta, State Hill, N.Y., “for proficiency in kicking.”

Ted Turner Award

Lineman Ben Carbery, Oak Grove, Calif., “offensive lineman of the year.”

Defensive Lineman Award

End Earl Chism, Elk Grove, Calif., the only freshman to receive an award not restricted to freshman’

Hammer Award

(tie) Running back Kahlil Keys, Petaluma, Calif. and line backer Bill Vaughn, South Orange, N.J.

Specialist Award

Defensive end Tyler Manu, Meridian, Idaho

Concluding observation

The banquet had its emotional moments, not only for the 20 seniors but the entire Yale squad, which adopted the simple identify of 142, for being the 142nd team in the history of Yale football.   It was an extremely close group of young men. Monday was probably the final time this “family” would all be together.

And that is the saddest part of playing college sports.

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