Alumni corner: Madden helps Penn to Ivy League title

Photo supplied / Penn Athletics
Former Fairview standout Jack Madden makes a tackle for the Penn Quakers against Princeton this season in a game Penn won in overtime.

If you need any further proof of how small the world really is, then you need to look no further than the story of Jack Madden.

The former All-Conference standout at Fairview was heading into his senior season for the Penn Quakers football team, a squad that was picked by most preseason prognosticators to finish in the middle of the pack in the Ivy League.

Those same people that made those picks underestimated the impact a new coaching staff, including former Colorado School of Mines defensive guru Bob Benson, would have on the Quakers and their season. Benson brought with him Jeff Smart —a name that may be familiar.

Smart, a former Boulder High and CU linebacker, made an immediate impact on not just Madden, but the entire Penn defense that went on to win a share of the Ivy League title with Harvard and Dartmouth.

“I think we needed a lot of changes from last year and coaching, honestly, really helps with that,” Madden said. “I got really close with both coaches really quick and believed in both of them.

“They all made some cultural changes that in the end had the whole team playing together and allowed us to have the season that we did.”

Madden, whose father Pete is from the Philadelphia area, welcomed the Colorado connections with open arms and flourished this season because of it. Despite missing two games due to a knee injury, Madden was still the fifth leading tackler for the Quakers this season and was No. 2 in solo tackles.

“Benson would make fun of me being from Boulder and we all just had fun. Coach Smart was a great coach, he was my position coach and a very smart guy,” said Madden, who recently had breakfast with Fairview senior and Penn commit Kailash Graham-Bell.

Even during the games he was injured, Madden continued to soak up as much of the game as he could. He was able to listen to the defensive play call of Smart in the box and was able to pick Benson’s brain on the sideline. “It was pretty cool to just listen to everything,” Madden said.

And yes, the Boulder/Fairview disdain never goes away. Madden and Smart would trade texts that usually would end with either “Go Knights” or “Go Panthers”.

The highlight of the season for Madden and the Quakers came on Nov. 14 in Boston against the Harvard Crimson. Penn jumped on the defending Ivy champs and eventually held on for a 35-25 win that snapped Harvard’s 22-game winning streak.

“All the players, especially the seniors started getting crazy haircuts and we made the freshman start getting them and we went up there and though just because you are Harvard and you’ve won your last 22, doesn’t mean we can’t beat you,” said Madden, who will graduate from the Wharton School of Business in May, with a concentration in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “Right from the get-go we got after them and we beat them. It was a great game.”

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