Birk ’98 Highlights Harvard Football
The Harvard alumnus reminds fans why they should be proud of their football program
Buffalo and Harvard fans became one last Sunday when Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 threw for 208 yards and four touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Bills’ 41-7 victory.
For fans of each, the storylines seemed to be similar. Buffalo isn’t used to winning, and fans of the Crimson aren’t used to bragging about the prowess of our football alumni.
But we should be.
Because one of the NFL’s most consistently productive offensive linemen is Harvard grad Matt Birk ’98, currently with the Baltimore Ravens and a former standout for the Minnesota Vikings.
He’s been named All Pro twice and has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times.
While Fitzpatrick and the Bills were dismantling Kansas City, Birk and the Ravens took down the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-7. Birk won’t appear on the stat sheet for that victory.
But when you read that quarterback Joe Flacco threw for three touchdowns and 224 yards and running back Ray Rice ran for 107 yards and a touchdown, you know that Baltimore’s offensive line had to be pretty decent.
The Ravens won the battle on the line of scrimmage again and again on Sunday, no small feat given that many consider the Steelers to have the best defense in the league. (Baltimore’s victory made me grateful that my fantasy league with my cousins never materialized because I picked Pittsburgh as my defense).
And on a more personal note, it’s pretty awesome to see the best defense in the league being picked apart by a guy from the town next to yours (Ray Rice) because of a hole created by a guy who went to your college.
Given Buffalo’s run of bad luck, Bills fans could certainly argue that their team’s victory was more significant, as it might mean that the tide is changing for Buffalo.
But in terms of league standings, the Ravens’ win was definitely bigger and was likely why Baltimore was ranked fourth in Sports Illustrated’s most recent power rankings, behind the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and New York Jets.
Believe me when I say I was as psyched as anyone to see Fitzpatrick succeed, probably more excited than a lot of people.
I write not to suggest that we discard Fitzpatrick’s accomplishments, but rather that we don’t ignore an alum of ours who is one of the best at his profession.
As a Patriots fan, I became all too familiar with Birk’s blocking ability, especially after the Pats-Rams 2010 AFC Wildcard match-up, when Ray Rice burst through the New England defense for an 83 yard touchdown run on Baltimore’s first offensive play. I felt personally humiliated when Rice burst through a gaping hole in the middle of the line of scrimmage.
As a loyal Patriots fan, I’ve seen many of their worst games, but I don’t think I’ve seen another play quite as humiliating as that, which is certainly a tribute to the Ravens’ offensive line and Birk’s abilities as a center.