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Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics

Hall of Fame Series: 1996 Football Team

Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics
          Release: 07/10/2014
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NEW YORK - Over the next few weeks, GoColumbiaLions.com will take a look at the teams, student-athletes, coaches and staff members set to be inducted in the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame this October. Our next installment features the 1996 football team.

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1996 Football Team
Columbia’s 1996 football team brought an energy to Morningside Heights that had been non-existent for decades prior. Beginning the year with a six-game win streak, the Lions finished the season with an 8-2 record and a second-place finish in the Ivy League standings. Both of those milestones proved historic.

The Lions last posted an eight-win season in 1945 and had never finished second in the Ivy League since round robin play began in 1956. The runner-up showing is the second-highest finish in program history following the 1961 Ivy League Championship team, which was inducted into the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.

The season kicked off in thrilling fashion with Columbia knocking off Harvard in overtime, 20-13. Future second round NFL draft pick Marcellus Wiley blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation to preserve a 13-13 tie, sending the game to the extra period. A 12-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Thomason to David Ramirez gave Columbia the lead and a Roy Hanks’ interception sealed the victory.

Success continued the following two weeks with triumphs over Fordham and Holy Cross, moving Columbia to 3-0 with a fierce battle against Penn the next week. Overtime was once again a necessity for Columbia to come away victorious, as was another blocked kick. Identical to the Harvard contest, the Lions and Quakers went to overtime tied at 13-13 with Penn striking first. Lined up for the extra point, Columbia defensive tackle Brett Bryant swatted away the attempt to swing the momentum in the Lions’ favor. On the next possession, quarterback Paris Childress hit receiver Dennis Lee for a deep strike and the game-tying score, with kicker Matt Linit nailing the extra point for the win.

The foot of Linit, in conjunction with a smart coaching adjustment by Tellier led to the Lions edging Lafayette the next week, 3-0. In exceptionally horrible conditions that featured 40-mph winds and horizontal sheets of rain, Linit knocked home a 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter following a switch to the Wishbone formation that moved the Lions all the way down to the Lafayette six-yard line, setting up the score.

A stingy defensive effort moved the Lions to 6-0 on Oct. 26, as Columbia held Yale to just 156 yards of total offense in a 13-10 triumph.  Undefeated to that point, Columbia moved into the Division I-AA national rankings at No. 24. Unfortunately, two tough losses to Princeton and Dartmouth dropped Columbia to 6-2, but the Lions roared back in the season’s final two victories with Ivy League wins over Cornell and Dartmouth.

For all their accomplishments, the postseason awards poured in for the Lions. Tellier captured DI-AA Regional and National Coach of the Year honors. Star defensive end Marcellus Wiley earned a spot on the All-America third team, was selected to participate in the East-West Shrine Game and garnered a spot on the All-East and All-Ivy League first teams. Joining Wiley on the All-East first team was linebacker Rory Wilfork, while kicker Matt Linit picked up second team accolades. Wilfork and cornerback Roy Hanks completed a trio of first team All-Ivy League selections, with nine others earning second team or honorable mention recognition. Notching academic awards were Dennis Lee and Linit. Both earned a spot on the Academic All-Ivy League squad, while Lee also boasted a spot on the Academic All-District team.

The 1996 squad becomes the third team from the program to be inducted into the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame, joining the 1933 team that won the 1934 Rose Bowl, 7-0, over Stanford, and the 1961 team, the only Columbia football team to win an Ivy league title.

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