Coming off a tough defeat against Holy Cross and starting the second-string quarterback on Friday against Brown, the Crimson offense needed a spark.
Harvard’s tight ends helped provide that spark.
In the first quarter, sophomore tight end Cameron Brate reeled in an acrobatic catch against Brown. The 31-yard one-armed grab was instrumental in Harvard’s first scoring drive that put the Crimson in command, 7-0, early in the game en route to a comfortable 24-7 victory.
Brate, who earned his starting role after playing on JV last year, led Harvard that night with five catches for 93 yards against Brown.
He also leads the team with eight receptions for 152 yards through two games.
And this past week, he was awarded DI-FCS Tight End Performer of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards and won the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Week honor.
But he is only one of two impact tight ends for the Crimson.
Junior tight end Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk is notable for more than the consonant string in his name. Unlike Brate, Juszczyk already has his share of varsity experience.
Last year, he led the team with four touchdown receptions and had 234 receiving yards on 25 catches. With multiple catches in five different games in 2010 and 11 catches for 124 yards and three touchdowns his freshman season, he has consistently been a stalwart on the Crimson offense.
Together, this fun-loving, hard-working tandem forms one of Harvard’s key offensive weapons.
Traditionally, a tight end finds himself caught between two worlds. On the one hand, they are routinely called upon in crucial moments to have the playmaking ability of a wide receiver—the sure hands, the ability to break tackles, and the bursts of speed.
But at the same time, they are expected to have the mentality of a lead blocker, putting their bodies on the line for the benefit of the team. The versatility required to play the position is tough to come by.
“I love the tight end position, as I have always been a naturally versatile player,” said Juszczyk, who attended Cloverleaf High School in Lodi, Ohio. “In high school I used to play quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.”
The duo is in many ways the engine of the offense. At the beginning of pre-season, Harvard coach Tim Murphy decided to instate a two-tight end offense. Murphy attributes this to the athleticism and physicality of his players.
“It’s a luxury not many teams have because we can play any set,” Murphy said of this offensive style in a postgame press conference. “It’s really tough at a no-huddle pace for [opponents] to figure out what we are trying to do. We have not had that luxury of having two really athletic [and] physical tight ends [in the past].”
Juszczyk and Brate have certainly helped carry the load so far. The duo has 14 receptions and more receiving yards—191—than any pair of wide receivers.
The two are also on the field together for roughly 90 percent of offensive snaps, according to Juszczyk, who enjoys more opportunities than last year, when he split time at the tight end position.
Their relationship off the field is nearly as dynamic.
“Cam has become one of my really close friends … [He]’s a goofball,” Juszczyk said. “Sometimes, we’ve got to remind him to be serious—even during the game, [but] when it comes down to it, he’s always focused.”
“It’s a quarterback’s dream to have those two tight ends,” quarterback Colton Chapple said in the postgame interview. “They’re big. They’re fast. They’ve got great hands.”