While Rafe Chapple, Tre Moore and Stephen Barmore were competing for the starting quarterback job in camp last year Kurt Rawlings wasn't ready.
He was being a freshman.
"I was a little tired, a little exhausted. I'm not going to lie. It was the beginning of the season, just got through camp, school hit and it kind of hit me hard," Rawlings said during Yale's weekly football luncheon Tuesday at Mory's. "I've learned a lot from that time especially with slowing things down.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore and the Bulldogs' clear-cut starting quarterback from Bel Air, Md., smiles when he reflects on it all.
"Yeah college took a big hit on me, but once I got used to the weekly scheduling and the demands of football and school, it became a lot easier."
And it's been easier for the agile, accurate and decisive Rawlings ever since. The Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week gets another opportunity to show it Saturday when Yale (1-0) hosts Cornell (0-1) in the conference opener for both schools at Yale Bowl at 1 p.m.
Rawlings was 20 of 26 for 308 yards and four touchdowns (37, 43, 11, 31 yards) in the Bulldogs' 56-28 demolition of Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., Saturday. He engineered an offense that rang up 14 points in each of the four quarters.
That was his first game since helping the Bulldogs snap a nine-year losing streak to rival Harvard last November with a pair of touchdown passes and another TD on a 74-yard run in a 21-14 win over the Crimson in the 133rd edition of The Game, puncturing a hole in Harvard's chances at an unprecedented fourth consecutive Ivy League title.
Yale coach Tony Reno said Rawlings earned the job this year in spring practice and solidified it through the summer, but he may have locked it up with the win over the Crimson.
It doesn't matter.
The Bulldogs have their man now. Moore, a junior, was thought to be the man last year based on his athleticism and success in running the spread, but Rawlings has moved the offense — his legs have been a big help — and put points on the board since he was entered into the second quarter against Columbia last season. Rawlings led the Bulldogs to a 31-23 win in that game, throwing three touchdown passes in relief.
"Those are two great guys and awesome players, too," Rawlings, 2-2 as the starter last season, said of Chapple and Moore. "I think it was kind of just a tough situation for all of us. It's hard to fight for a role, but once you get the role, you have to settle in and be the guy."
Reno was quick to point out that it was just one game, but behind Rawlings the Yale offense churned out 558 yards of offense on a Mountain Hawks team that hung 62 points on the Bulldogs at Yale Bowl last year — but Rawlings has settled in, no doubt.
"We knew what intangibles he had, and to me that is so important," he said. "What had made Kurt rise to the top was his accuracy and decision-making. Those are the two things in our offense that are paramount. If you have accuracy and good decision-making we, can do really well with it. One of the nice things about him, too, is he knows he has so much room to grow as a player."
Rawlings, 19, is one of the youngest quarterbacks to start at Yale. Jitters now and then were not worries, perhaps a trait picked up as a coach's son. His father Keith is the head coach at The John Carroll School, where Kurt attended, in Bel Air.
Asked if he's seen a quarterback with so much poise before, Reno, a former Harvard assistant coach, pointed to former Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, currently the backup at for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"He's very selfless and understands football on a different level," Reno said.
And yet the intelligent, poised Yale quarterback was held back a grade in school.
"Yeah, that was a school thing," Rawlings said, laughing. "I'd like to think I was a good student back then, but I don't think I was as mature as most fourth graders. I was young for the grade above. It's kind of a weird thing with Baltimore private schools. They actually try to hold back boys when they're young. They added a new grade at the school I went to [St. Paul's]. It went kindergarten to pre-first to first grade.
"I transferred there, and I could've either gone into the fourth grade or into their system, being a year younger doing another year to mature more. You know, I think it definitely helped in a lot of ways. I know I hit my growth spurt as a football player my freshman year instead of my sophomore year, so it definitely helped there."