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College

GCC graduate helps pick new Yale bulldog

| Sunday, May 8, 2005

Jeff Mroz hopes to show up on ESPN's SportsCenter this fall because of his quarterback prowess with Yale. In the interim, he's had to settle for an appearance there for another reason.

By virtue of his captaincy of the Yale team, the senior quarterback from Greensburg was part of a panel of judges that picked the school's new bulldog mascot, to replace a deceased predecessor.

Let Mroz take it from there.

"Everyone was out on the Quad. The band was playing. The media got wind of it, and ESPN, Sports Illustrated and USA Today were there," he said.

So far so good.

But, when Mroz arrived for his judging duties, he was handed a bow tie and blue blazer to wear.

"I've never worn a bow tie in my life," he said. "But they put it on me, and I'm looking like a nerd with the bow tie and blue blazer, and sure enough, that's how I show up on ESPN."

For the record, Mugsy, a two-year-old male, was selected from a field of 10 dog contestants, and will henceforth be known as "Handsome Dan," the name handed down from mascot to mascot. He's the 16th Yale bulldog mascot in 116 years.

"That's the one I picked," said Mroz, who was one of five judges. The vote was 4-1 for Mugsy, or rather, Handsome Dan.

The criteria was standard bulldog mascot stuff, according to Mroz.

"How well he looked. He's Handsome Dan, so we wanted a good looking bulldog. He had to strut down a runway. It was important how he'd interact with little kids because after the games there are always little kids around the bulldog. He also had to be good with the band, because the halftime show always involves the dog."

Tackling a stuffed Princeton Tiger and having at a crimson Harvard blanket also were on the agenda of bulldog tasks.

Helping pick the mascot was just another chapter in what has been a whirlwind spring for Mroz. At the end of March, he was elected the team captain in a player vote, the 128th player so honored in school history.

Considering that Mroz had taken off the 2004 season and had barely played in 2003, he was taken aback by it.

"This wasn't my class that I came in with. Two of the classes hadn't really seen me play," he said. "There were definitely many people they could have picked. I'm surprised, but I'm also very happy. This is a group I have a lot of respect for. I've never been around a team that worked harder and with more commitment. To represent a team like that is special."

Mroz went on to complete 13 of 18 passes for 127 yards in the rain-shortened spring game

Mroz was a starter in the 2002 season as a sophomore, throwing for 1,731 yards and 14 touchdowns. But in 2003 the former standout at Greensburg Central Catholic was reduced to holding for kicks and threw just one pass, a 26-yard touchdown effort.

When Mroz approached coach Jack Siedlecki about his prospects for 2004, he was told he'd be second team again.

"I got a taste of starting my sophomore year and I really wanted to play, so I took a semester off," said Mroz, who worked for two financial firms in New Haven while sitting out to save a semester of school and playing time for this fall.

He spent the time studying the game of football, too.

"Being away from the emotions, you get to understand a lot more," he said.

Mroz also added weight -- now checking in at 228 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame -- without sacrificing quickness.

"It's not your traditional college football story, but I've learned so much from it," said Mroz, who will graduate in December with a degree in American studies. "It's been a very unusual ride, and I hope it all works out in the end."

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