New London's Roman finally gets to be part of Yale-UConn rivalry

·5 min read

Oct. 16—Every football practice and every game brings D. Major Roman closer to the end of his college career.

A former all-state and scholar-athlete award honoree at New London High School, Roman thinks about that fact every time he puts on his Yale gear.

"It's pretty bittersweet, actually," Roman said during a phone conversation this week. "I certainly have enjoyed my time at Yale and my time in college. Obviously, last year with COVID and everything, I took a semester off. I'm able to enjoy this last semester with my last football season.

"I'll be sad when it's over, but I'm enjoying it as much as I can right now. ... Every day before we go out to practice, I'm just extremely thankful for the opportunity that I had, and I still have right now. Practice isn't always the most fun thing to do every day. But I'm just happy that I have the opportunity to go out there and do it. It's what really drives me."

Up next for Roman and his fellow Yale teammates is Saturday's game against UConn at Rentschler Field in East Hartford (noon, CBSSN). It is the first time the in-state rivals have played since 1998.

The Bulldogs (2-2), a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team, will be facing a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team. The Huskies (0-7) are still searching for their elusive first win.

"There is a lot of hype going into this game," Roman said. "We haven't played in quite some time. Walking around our facility, I see all the old posters of UConn-Yale games and all the great matchups we've had.

"Obviously, it's an in-state team and an FBS team that we're going against, so we feel this is an amazing opportunity to show and prove that we're one of the better teams in the state. Being able to go toe to toe with UConn is a great opportunity for us. There is certainly excitement going into this game, but we don't want to get ourselves too hyped up or too excited. We still are preparing just like any other game, but with a little extra chip on our shoulders."

A senior tight end, Roman is one of two former Eastern Connecticut Conference players on Yale's rostet. Montville graduate Nick Tibbetts, a senior, is the team's long snapper.

When they were both home last year, they did some workouts together. Roman also worked out at Waterford Fitness and in his backyard with his father, Juan, his coach at New London.

"He's doing a great job for our team, and he's really embraced his role very well," Roman said of Tibbetts. "I know he enjoys it and our special teams unit has definitely benefited from the work that he's put in."

Roman has mainly a blocking role in the offense and plays on special teams. He's also embraced his leadership role.

His contributions on campus extend beyond the playing field.

He's involved with a few campus organizations, including a diversity, equity and inclusion group.

"It's aimed to foster a better experience for students of color, particularly student-athletes of color here at a predominantly white institution," Roman said. "My experience with that has been great, trying to work with a community outreach team on that panel. And I'm also involved with Athletes in Action, a Christian ministry group that we have on campus."

"... I felt like reaching out and being able to use some of my free time being involved in different on-campus groups would be great for me and it has been. It's allowed me to meet people that I probably wouldn't have otherwise and have experiences that I wouldn't have otherwise. I would strongly recommend any student-athlete to broaden their horizons."

Roman will be doing his part to help the Bulldogs to finish the season strong.

Yale enters Saturday's game at .500, beating Cornell and Lehigh and losing to Holy Cross and Dartmouth.

His whole Yale experience has lived up to what he hoped it would be, athletically, academically and socially.

"We've had a lot of success on the football field," Roman said. "I've won two Ivy League championships in my past three seasons. That's great but the best part is the relationships that I've built with my teammates, on and off the field. Then the same goes for the people I've met through academics and the people that I've lived with, my suitemates I've had over the years.

"My Yale experience has been great."

As far as what's next for Roman, a political science major, he's still trying to figure that out. He'll finish school at the end of this semester.

Roman would love to continue his football career, so that means he could potentially play somewhere as a graduate transfer. And, if he has an opportunity to play professionally, he'll explore that avenue.

His Yale degree will open some doors for him.

"The great thing about going to Yale is having a Yale degree also helps tremendously in any industry in the workforce," Roman said. "If football isn't the immediate option that I have coming out of school, I'll probably find a job maybe somewhere within finance."

g.keefe@theday.com

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