Gotta go; I'm late for practice

In newspaper interviews, Noah Van Niel throws around such sports lingo as "I wasn't out of my league." Which is understandable, since he's the fullback for Harvard University's football team. But it's not football about which he speaks. Although the 250-pound senior blocks for his smaller teammates and has scored two touchdowns so far this season, his ultimate ambition is to take his talents to a radically different stage. He wants to be ... an opera singer. In fact, he has been pursuing that dream since he was in middle school, and his first destination after the coach dismisses the football team each day is the room where he warms up his vocal chords and belts out arias by composers Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Rossini, and Gaetano Donizetti – in any of four languages: Italian, German, French, and English. Why? Because when the time comes to audition for a postgraduate program in vocal performance, he won't know which he'll be required to sing. As he told The Boston Globe, "It's like football; When they call a play for you on the goal line, you can't say, 'I don't know that one.'" Van Niel, a tenor, already has studied in such operatic centers as Florence, Italy; and New York. In case you're wondering, Harvard has produced one other football player who later went into professional opera. That was 39 years ago, and he's still at it.

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