Hall of Fame

Dante Balestracci

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

3-time All-American (2003 CSTV first team, 2003 Sports Network second team, 2003 Associated Press third team) … First student-athlete in Ivy League football history to earn All-Ivy League first team honors all four years (2003, 2002, 2001, 2000) … William J. Bingham ’16 Award co-recipient as the most outstanding male athlete in the Class of 2004 … Frederick Greeley Crocker Award winner as Harvard’s MVP (2003) … Ivy League Rookie of the Year (2000) … Ivy League Champion (2001) … Team captain (2003).

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

Sports have always been a big part of my life. They have shaped much of my character and my accomplishments have been a source of tremendous pride that I still hold dear today. It has been great to look back and reflect on my time at Harvard. As I relived each memory, all the games, practices, rides to/from games and practices, meals, and the countless hours of fellowship, what stood out was always the focus on the “who” and not the “what.” Team sports have a unique way of bringing people together, forging enduring relationships through a collective experience that is difficult to replicate. Football hardens that bond, as the physical and mental strain of each practice, workout and game; the literal blood, sweat and tears shed; and requirement that each player must be willing to sacrifice for the team, brings you closer together. I loved football because of this dynamic and it was this sense of camaraderie that I was seeking for my college experience. Which brings me to my decision to come to Harvard. I remember my official visit, which, due to my basketball schedule, was on a random Thursday night in the middle of winter. By that point, Harvard was the frontrunner. I had visited the school, met with Coach Murphy, experienced goosebumps walking into The Stadium, and, obviously, the opportunity to attend the best school in the world weighed pretty heavily. But, I was still unsure whether it was the right fit, on the field and off. So, the fact that I was missing out on the festivities of the big recruiting weekend and, more importantly, meeting all the other recruits and current players had me uneasy. That Thursday my dad dropped me off and I met my host, Niall Murphy ’03, and any question I had was answered almost immediately. Niall and I had gone up against each other in high school and I had the upmost respect for him as a competitor – he was one of the most talented guys I ever played with or against. But he was also a truly genuine person who had a positive impact on everyone that knew him. He embodied what it is to be a Harvard football player. And, I thought, if Harvard football was filled with guys like him, then that’s where I wanted to be.

The next four years flew by. We had a good run - we won more games than we lost and had a lot (some might say a little too much) fun in the process. I had the opportunity to play as a freshman, and I owe a huge thank you to Coach Murphy for believing in me right off the bat and to Coach Tall for speeding my development along. Sophomore year saw an undefeated season and Ivy Championship. We dispatched Yale at the Yale Bowl and returned to Cambridge to watch the highlights of Matt Fratto’s ’04 two TDs and me running the option on a fake punt with Adam Kingston ’04 on loop on ESPN late into the night. Junior and senior years saw identical winning records, a mix of highs and lows, and, most importantly, victories over Yale. Overall, we beat Yale 3 out of 4 times; never lost to Princeton or Brown; were featured on ESPN Game Day; and our post-game tailgate game was consistently strong to quite strong. My parents never missed a game and I had the unwavering support of my family; the love of my life Kelley was there for the entire ride; senior year I got to play against both of my brothers (Mark at Holy Cross, Tommy at Brown) and my best friend from high school (Tim Walsh at Lafayette) – and beat all three! I met amazing people and formed friendships that continue to this day. As I said, we had a good run. My only regret is that we only had four years.

At the end of it all, now 15 years ago, I was asked to reflect on our senior season and speak for the football Class of 2004 for a passage in the yearbook. At the time, and in collaboration with a few members of the Tenman crew, I wrote: “It has been amazing to watch this team evolve from one with question marks and unlimited potential to a cohesive unit, each person playing a role, and everyone pulling for each other. We had high expectations as we progressed through the winter, spring, and summer, but honestly did not know what character or shape this team would take. True to form, Harvard amassed a bunch of tough guys with unrivaled character. When you continue to stock your football team with such upstanding athletes, the fall takes care of itself. It’s surreal to play football for the Harvard Crimson. The tradition is so rich, the fans so loyal, and the legacy is continued with each gritty season of blood, sweat, and tears. This one was no different. As seniors, we are sad to leave fair Harvard. But I rest assured that great things will come from those that we leave behind because tradition never graduates. It is such a rare opportunity to come down everyday and give everything your have with 100 of your closest friends. That, however, is what makes it great and what sustains a Harvard Crimson football player. It’s what sustained those who came before us and will sustain those that come after us – at this school you play for the man standing next to you. You play for all the men who stood on those grounds and gave it their all. That’s what we sought out to do this season, to play for each other. To give our all on every play because we refused to let each other down. The merit of this season can’t be measured by statistics. It will be measured by the bonds we’ve made with each other as we left our mark on the legacy of Harvard football.”

Decidedly the product of a soon to be graduating Harvard government major! But, aside from some of the verbosity, nearly all of it still holds true and accurately reflects how I feel:

Harvard is a special place and Harvard football a special experience. Coach Murphy then, and to this day, stocks the program with men of incredible character, resiliency, and toughness. He’s fostered a culture of family within the program that extends long after graduation and across generations of Crimson alums. And, he has set the bar high for what it means to be a Harvard football player. “To whom much is given, much will be required,” – we were all given a tremendous opportunity to attend Harvard and play the sport we love. We were all blessed with talent, on the field and off, and through Harvard Athletics, we were provided the setting and the tools to realize our true potential. Everyone being honored tonight rose to that challenge.
Give it your all, selflessly, every day. My parents taught my brothers and I to work hard and be humble. They instilled in us the importance of doing the right thing, taking responsibility for your actions, and giving great, honest, and consistent effort towards whatever you do. A Crimson article from senior year quoted my father, “I raised my kids to be humble, to let their actions speak for them. If accolades come, that’s good, but if not, you have the peace of mind that you gave it the effort.” I’m proud of all of my personal achievements, but I played for my family and teammates and hope my effort was worthy of their respect.
Measure success by the bonds and relationships you have, not by statistics. I’m not big on quotes or mantras, but I do believe “to be rich in friends and family is to be poor in nothing.” The friendships that I made at Harvard are some of my proudest accomplishments and more important than any “W” or award. I never cease to be amazed at how strong and enduring they are and I know we can count on each other to be there – no matter what.
Simply put, my experience at Harvard and playing Harvard football was incredibly fulfilling. Being inducted to the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame with my outstanding classmates is a tremendous honor and I’m truly humbled. In addition to recognizing my accomplishments as an athlete, it validates the faith and support of all those that were there for me, for which I am eternally grateful. I’m inspired by the love and support I’ve received from my friends and family throughout, and am driven to hold up my end, to be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good brother, and a good friend.

It was the people and tradition that drew me to Harvard, and it is the people and tradition that I will forever remember and cherish. TNG