Ivy League football should have a few more fans from the local area this season as teams open play on Saturday. It's not just Palo Alto grad Nathan Ford's league any more.
Ford remains the top local athlete in the Division I non-scholarship conference, however, as he prepares to lead Cornell into its opener at Bucknell on Saturday.
"We have as deep and talented a receiving group as there is in the league, and we have the triggerman, Nathan Ford," Cornell coach Jim Knowles said. "I was playing golf this summer with one of my best friends, former NFL MVP (and Oakland Raiders quarterback) Rich Gannon, and he said 'you tell Ford all he has to do this year is have a 70 percent completion rate, win the TD-INT ratio and finish the season.' He's the MVP of the baseball team, he's an engineering student, and he spent this summer abroad. He's a talented young man and I think one of the best quarterbacks in the Ivy League."
Ford was 209-of-332 passing for 1,902 yards and six touchdowns last year. His .630 completion percentage ranked second in a single season for Cornell, while his career mark of .599 is second in school history. He closed the season third on the school's career passing yards list (3,451).
This year, he'll have Menlo School grad Ricky Hawkins as a wide receiver. Hawkins spent his freshman season playing junior varsity.
At Columbia, Menlo School grad Leon Ivery prepares for his sophomore season as a running back. He did not see action as a freshman. The Lions host Fordham on Saturday.
"This is probably our deepest position," Columbia coach Norries Wilson said. "Zack Kourouma had a pretty good fall and Leon Ivery fights hard going from tackle to tackle."
At Dartmouth, Sacred Heart Prep grad Hudson Smythe returns for his senior season. The fullback scored four touchdowns for the Big Green last year. He led the team with 409 yards and 11 carries in the final scrimmage.
Palo Alto grad Buddy Benaderet makes his debut with Dartmouth. The sophomore defensive end played on the junior varsity last year.
Dartmouth, coached by former Stanford coach Buddy Teevens, opens at Colgate on Saturday.
Menlo School grad Andrew Dixon continues to improve his skills as a sophomore quarterback for Princeton. He's currently fourth on the depth chart behind two seniors and a junior.
Dixon follows a family tradition with the Tigers. His father, Don, played soccer there, and his older sister, Bayley, played volleyball at Princeton after playing for Menlo.
The Tigers travel to The Citadel on Saturday.
Palo Alto grad Michael Anderson gets his first taste of collegiate football as a defensive lineman for Yale, which hosts Georgetown on Saturday.
Harvard and Yale tied for the top spot in the Ivy League coaches poll, followed by Brown, Penn, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth and Columbia.