By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

HANOVER – The Dartmouth College football team’s best player might be an offensive guard. Jake Guidone is also the squad’s best quote and perhaps its friendliest person, which is saying something on a roster that always features some wonderful human beings.

The senior from East Walpole, Mass., combines a wrestler’s balance and leverage with startling agility and his position’s requisite brute strength. Offensive line coach Keith Clark instructs his charges to “stick” to opponents on their blocks, getting in under their arms and using footwork and hand placement to drive them backwards or sideways. Guidone is the stickiest of the bunch.

Jake Guidone, right, rests alongside John Paul Flores. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Safe to say then, that the Big Green is awfully lucky to have No. 72 back for a fourth season that didn’t look likely a year ago.

“I told him “You do the thing that’s best for you and your family’,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who watched several other players leave for schools like Indiana State, Albany and Samford after Covid-19 erased the Ivy League’s 2020 season. “They were very intelligent in looking at the academics and playing opportunities.”

Because of the Covid void and not having gone over the playing-time cutoff as a freshman tackle, Guidone had two seasons of NCAA eligibility remaining. Should he use them on scholarship elsewhere and get a graduate degree paid for? Or was it better to remain at Dartmouth?

“Familiarity,” Guidone said in naming the key variable. “The coaches here know me and they’re going to be able to utilize me to the best of my ability. I’m going to be able to help the team much more than a team I could have gone to.”

Jake Guidone poses with family and friends after Dartmouth’s defeat of Princeton at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9, 2019.

Guidone said he was offered a scholarship to play offensive line at Texas State but never visited its campus. Because he’d played tight end as a sophomore and junior, he didn’t have any real offensive line video with which to woo other schools. At Dartmouth, he could move back inside to the line and prove himself, hopefully to higher-level suitors like Boston College, which is Guidone’s dream landing spot.

“He’s very athletic and tough-minded and smart,” said Teevens, whose team opens at Valparaiso on Sept. 18. “He moves his feet well. He’s a happy, fun guy and a crowd favorite, but an intense competitor as well.”

Guidone caught two touchdown passes as a tight end his sophomore season, memorably celebrating in wild fashion and narrowly avoiding a penalty flag. His unselfishness in agreeing to the position switch allowed Dartmouth to extend its blocking power outside, but now it’s time to do what his frame is truly built for – battling in the trenches. 

With nearly a year to bulk up, Guidone grazed on the culinary offerings of his mother, Sherri, while living at home. He served an internship with a Boston construction company during the first six months of this year. He weighed 270 pounds as a tight end and is now around 295.

“I’ve got an Italian mother who can cook, so I’ll never go starving,” Guidone said with a big smile. “We knew I was going to make transition before last season, so I had lot of time to put that weight on and do it as healthily as possible.

Paxton Scott (86) attempts to cut block John Pupel. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“When you add 25 pounds, you’re definitely not going to be as fast as you once were. But the game is a lot slower on the inside and you don’t want to get pushed back into the quarterback on pass plays.”

Assuming Guidone plays to his considerable potential, this fall should be much more enjoyable than the last, when he lived in an off-campus apartment, needed to stay away from most of his teammates and fellow students and could only weight lift at a West Lebanon gym alongside civilians. 

“It was the first fall I hadn’t played since fourth or fifth grade,” said Guidone, part of Dartmouth’s 2019 shared Ivy League championship. “It’s weird to feel that weather and realize it’s football season and not be able to come out here.”

He’s back. And big things are expected. 

Notes: Senior quarterback Jake Allen has “retired” in Teevens’ words. The coach said the former University of Florida player has a bad back but will remain with the team as an undergraduate coach of sorts. A similar fate befell the last transfer quarterback to join the Big Green, onetime Illinois signal-caller Jimmy Fitzgerald… Nickels coach and former Dartmouth player Kyle Cavanaugh has left the staff to work in the real world. He’s replaced by Ahmaad Smith, a former Tennessee State standout and professional indoor football player… One of the more intriguing members of the roster is sophomore quarterback Jace Henry, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound quarterback from Fairbanks, Alaska, where he was that state’s player of the year and earned offers from UC Davis, Montana and Montana State. Teevens recalled his home visit, when he flew out of San Diego in a light golf jacket and landed in weather so cold the rental-car company issued him an extension cord to keep his vehicle’s engine block plugged in for warmth.

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Certified athletic trainer Ben Schuler oversees Donald Carty, left, and Nate Boone. The trio were testing an upper-body injury on Carty to determine whether he could return to drills. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.