Rick Cleveland: Mississippi’s lone Ivy League player serious about football

JACKSON
Poet Robert Frost could have been writing about William Chism, a Ridgeland 21-year-old, when he penned these words in The Road Not Taken 94 years ago:
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Chism, a St. Andrews Episcopal School product, took the road not traveled much at all, at least not by Mississippians. This fall, Chism will play his fourth season of varsity football at Yale. And, for the fourth straight season, he will be the lone Mississippian playing Ivy League football.
“So, I’m not going to lie, it can be a grind,” Chism, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive guard, says. “There’s not a lot of free time, but, basically, I wouldn’t change anything.”
And why would he? He plays his home games in the 60,000-seat Yale Bowl, a National Historic Landmark, which turns 100 this year. He practices on the field where Walter Camp literally invented the sport. A political science major, he has a 3.6 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale). He interned in investment banking at Barclays in New York City this summer and was rewarded with a generous offer for a job he already has accepted beginning next summer.
“I have been very fortunate,” Chism says.
And he has worked very, very hard, taking several roads 21-year-olds do not often travel.
For instance: In high school, he owned and operated his own business, Pearl River Bottom Firewood, a firewood cutting, splitting, sales and delivery service.
The descriptions of his summer internships, while at Yale, will make you dizzy. One sample: In the summer of 2012, he interned at Tangoe, Inc., a publicly traded telecommunications solutions company, and was responsible for verifying contract rates, researching contracts, and organizing billings.
So, what did you do on your summer vacation?
William’s father, Brad Chism, played tight end on the undefeated Millsaps team of 1980 and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. He has enjoyed his son’s Ivy League experience.
“These are special young men who do this,” Brad Chism says. “They are true amateur athletes who really do play for the love of the game.”
William Chism could have walked on at State or Ole Miss and surely would have been on a full academic ride. He was recruited by Conference USA and Sun Belt Conference schools as well, but was up front with them.
“By the time I started my senior year at St. Andrews I knew I was going to Yale,” he says. “I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time.”
‘Great Fit’
He visited all the Ivy League schools and was accepted by all. Yale, for William Chism, was extra special because of the traditions and because “it’s a big university with a small school feel.
“For me, it was a great cultural fit,” Chism says.
He says he has forged special bonds with teammates from all over the United States. Just his offensive line mates include guys from San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Chicago.
Chism suffered a broken hand as a freshman, but still lettered. He started every game of his sophomore and junior seasons and enters his senior season as a pre-season Al-Ivy League choice.
After a 2-8 season in his sophomore year, Yale improved to 5-5 last season.
“We were young last year, especially on defense, but we’ve got a lot of people back,” he says.
So what, Chism is asked, is something most people in Mississippi probably would not know about Ivy League football?
“It’s serious,” Chism answers. “We spend as much time in the film room, the weight room and on the practice field as players in the SEC. It’s the same commitment level. The difference is that most of our players are an inch or two shorter or maybe a step slower than at the major football powers.”
True, but the Ivy Leaguers have other assets, primarily between their ears. And one, the one from Mississippi, has flourished on that road less traveled. The guess here is that he will make a difference.
Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.`