Tackling Football and Finals

Attention, students: please put away all notes and papers. The final exam for Economics 1813, “The Indebted Society,” is about to begin.

Yes, even you, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Despite the fact that at 2:03 p.m. tomorrow, football captain and NFL prospect Fitzpatrick will be taking the field at San Francisco’s SBC Park for the East-West Shrine Game and a chance to prove his draft status to more than 250 pro scouts, he is by no means exempt from his 2:15 final.

“I’m just glad they’re letting me take it somewhere else instead of them saying ‘Take it at Harvard or fail,’” Fitzpatrick says.

Tomorrow’s final isn’t even the last of it, as Fitzpatrick will fly home to Arizona for a take-home final before heading off to Hawaii for the Hula Bowl and, yes, another Saturday final exam.

But to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL, Fitzpatrick is willing to accommodate any amount of paperwork and preparation necessary. For the past couple months, that has meant juggling essays with absentia forms and planning his schedule out to the letter.

“It made for a tougher schedule with school,” he admits. “There was no time to procrastinate and put it off...I had a lot of papers and projects due on the 14th, so it made for a productive Christmas break.”

Some schedule shuffling, however, is a small sacrifice to make for the opportunities the Shrine Bowl—as well as next week’s Hula Bowl in Hawaii—will provide. These nationally televised senior bowls, along with the NFL combine in Indianapolis next month, will be crucial to improve Fitzpatrick’s draft status.

While pro scouts visited most of zpatrick’s games for Harvard this season, he remains largely unknown to the majority of the football world. Playing for a Division I-AA school—an Ivy League one, no less—he has to prove what he can do against better-regarded competition.

The competition in these senior bowls will undoubtedly provide that, and not just the opposing West squad. The other two quarterbacks on Fitzpatrick’s East team are Purdue’s Kyle Orton and Louisville’s Stefan LeFors, both of whom are already highly ranked draft prospects.

But in this week’s practices, which draw nearly as many scouts as the game itself, Fitzpatrick has impressed scouts with his accuracy and arm strength. He is confident that all he needs to silence doubters is time with the ball in his hands.

“You’ve got tons of scouts on the sidelines watching every move. It’s a high pressure environment, high-pressure to succeed,” he says. “But I think that that’s the kind of environment where I thrive.”

Fitzpatrick expects to split relatively equal time with the other two quarterbacks tomorrow, with playing time divided by series rather than plays.

“We installed a simple offense that everyone can learn and go through,” he says. “Everyone will get a chance to display their talents.”

Fitzpatrick’s teammates have been excitedly following his progress through newspaper articles and internet updates this week, according to senior defensive back Sean Tracy, who is also Fitzpatrick’s roommate. They also helped out their absent captain by emailing him notes from his final exam review session.

But are they going to watch Fitzpatrick’s stint on ESPN tomorrow?

“Well, I was,” Tracy admits, “but I have a final.”

That would be the same pesky Indebted Society final that Fitzpatrick will be taking post-game.

“Just about all of us have a final,” Tracy says. “We’re gonna tape it.”

—Staff writer Lisa J. Kennelly can be reached at kennell@fas.harvard.edu.

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