Interview with Ivy League Football Player of the Year Gino Gordon
“My heritage allows me to experience and claim two completely different cultures and draw from those experiences to help me navigate my own life. It’s nice seeing life with a different perspective.”
Many teens dream of attending a top college. Many dream of playing Division I college sports. Gino Gordon took both of those dreams and ran with them… literally! In fact this season as a senior running back for Harvard University he ran 1,059 yards, becoming the first Harvard player in four years to reach the 1,000-yard mark. Gino will graduate as Harvard’s all-time leader in yards per carry and was chosen by his teammates to receive the award as the program’s most valuable player.
“Gino was our Most Valuable Player in so many ways,” said Coach Tim Murphy, “…he produced at an extremely high level on the field game after game since his freshman year. He was perhaps the best open field runner in Harvard history. What made Gino special though was the fact that he was the rare running back with no weaknesses. He was a great inside and outside runner. He was perhaps the best blocking back in Harvard history and was flexible enough to play wide receiver. What really distinguished Gino among his peers and coaches was his leadership. No one worked harder, no one was did a better job leading by example and he was always willing to hold his team mates to the same high standard he held himself.”
I had the privilege of interviewing Gino, a wonderful multiracial role model on the field, in the classroom and in life, and wanted to share our conversation with all of you:
Kendall: Tell us about how you ended up at Harvard?
Gino: I was actually recruited at Harvard to play football. As a high school senior, I was looking for a school where I could mix the best academics with a high level and competitive football. Harvard was that.
Kendall: What’s been the best thing about your time there?
Gino: I have met so many driven, talented and hard working people here. I am constantly motivated by my peers to raise my level of performance in academics and in sports.
Kendall: We have a lot of members at Teen Project RACE who are preparing to apply to college. What advice can you give to high school students hoping to make it to a highly competitive college or those aspiring to become Division 1 athletes?
Gino: Schools look for well-rounded individuals not just a high GPA. Be sure to do extra curricular activities that positively reflect upon you. To be a Division 1 athlete, you must be very driven and willing to work hard. You have to spend those extra hours working on your craft and perfecting the skills of your sport.
Kendall: What have you learned from football that can help you in other areas of your life?
Gino: Football has taught me to be extremely competitive while still being able to work in a team oriented setting. I believe that is an important skill to develop. As you become an adult, it becomes more and more important to be able to work well with others. Playing sports has also taught me the importance of hard work and putting in the hours needed to be successful.
Kendall: I know your dad is African-American and your mom is Japanese. How do you respond when someone asks your race? And why do you think some people identify with one part of their heritage and not another, while others identify themselves as all races that they are?
Gino: I identify as Japanese and African American. I was born in Japan and grew up in America, so I have experienced both of these cultures and places at one time or another. I really don’t know why. I assume it’s simply a personal preference for some.
Kendall: My parents have always taught us that my sister, brother and I are both black and white equally. But my Dad feels it’s also important for my brother especially, because of the racism that still exists in parts of our country, to know that in many people’s eyes he will be a black man in America. What did your parents teach you about race?
Gino: My parents never tried to emphasize the importance of race. They educated me though on the two very different cultures that I embodied.
Kendall: As a Sociology concentrator, have you studied a lot about race in your classes?
Gino: Yes, I focused mainly on immigration, which tended to lean heavily on race as identifying markers as well as social economic status. I also am an Ethnic Studies concentrator.
Kendall: Did your thoughts on race change in any way when you went to college?
Gino: No, I know race still is a very prominent point of identification and categorization for many people. A lot of my studies have focused on the effects race has on various life outcomes.
Kendall: Who were your role models growing up?
Gino: My father was my main role model growing up. Coming from relative poverty and becoming very successful in the military, I am very proud of his ability to reach his goals.
Kendall: Is there a multiracial celeb that you really admire?
Gino: In terms of sports, I have tried to emulate Hines Ward. It’s not only because of his multiracial background. I also appreciate his physical style of play and how he handles himself under the spotlight.
Kendall: So, in your opinion, what is the best part of being multiracial and how has being multiracial contributed to your life experiences so far?
Gino: My mix allows me to experience and claim two completely different cultures and draw from those experiences to help me navigate my own life. It’s nice seeing life with a different perspective.
Kendall: Yes, Hines has done amazing work in support of multiracial youth. Do you think we are entering a post-racial society?
Gino: I think we are entering a society where economic status is becoming more and more important instead, but not necessarily a post-racial society.
Kendall: Did you have any feelings, as a multiracial man, about the election of our President?
Gino: I thought it was amazing that President Obama was elected. I hope for nothing but success for his current term.
Kendall: My family went to his inauguration. And regardless of where people stand politically, I don’t’ think anyone can argue that it was an incredible event for racial progress in this country. It may have been the first time for many minority children that they could really believe that anything is possible. What would you say to encourage teens that struggle with insecurity?
Gino: Be proud of what makes you different. It’s what makes you so unique.
Kendall: I know you are graduating this year. What will you miss most about your years at Harvard?
Gino: I had an amazing experience at Harvard. I have had a lot of personal success and I cherish that, but I will miss my teammates the most. What really warms my heart is that I spent four years getting to know new players each year, creating a brotherhood where all of us struggled together, bled together, did everything together; it was a great experience and I am so thankful to have been a part of it. This is because I never met a more driven and dedicated group of men in my life. My experience with them has shaped and modeled my mindset and life so much in my four years here.
Kendall: What’s next? What are some of your plans and dreams for your future?
Gino: At this moment currently, I am pursuing my dream to play in the NFL. Coming from a smaller school, my route will be much different, but I know it will be worth it in the end.
Kendall: Well we wish you continued success and we will be watching as you continue to run with your dreams!