On game day just a year ago, then-sophomore Ricky Zorn would most likely have been found on the sidelines. Flash forward a full season, and the junior now leads the receiving corps for the Harvard football team.
Zorn has become a prominent force on an already dominant Crimson offense this fall. Just halfway into the 2012 season, the junior has nabbed 17 receptions and caught two touchdowns. But things weren’t always this way for Zorn, who had never started a college game before the contest against Holy Cross, not even a month ago.
The receiver was recruited to Harvard as a quarterback, having excelled at the position during his tenure at Lake Highlands High School.
“When we recruited Ricky, I remember going to his high school in Dallas,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “The first thing his head coach said was, ‘This kid is an outstanding quarterback, but boy, he’s really an outstanding athlete, [the] best athlete in the high school.’”
All-around athlete is a term that is central to describing Zorn, who earned a total of nine letters throughout high school in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. He was named all-district twice in basketball.
“I think there are a lot of similarities between basketball and football,” Zorn said. “When you’re up there catching the ball in the air, it’s pretty similar to getting a rebound in the way you use your body to box out defenders. There are definitely some skills from basketball that translate into football.”
Upon his arrival in Cambridge in 2010, Zorn resumed his training as a quarterback but quickly moved to the defense.
“I had a week at quarterback, and then I had a meeting with our quarterback coach,” Zorn said. “He thought it would be better if I moved to defensive back. At the time there were a lot of injuries in the secondary, so it was a good opportunity, and I would probably be able to get on the field faster at a different position.”
At 6’1” and 190 pounds, with an explosive ability to run and jump, Zorn has an ideal body type for a strong corner. But he quickly injured his shoulder and missed most of his freshman fall.
At the end of the spring season, Zorn began his return to the offense. He planned to train with then-freshman quarterback Michael Pruneau over the summer in Texas.
“I asked Coach Murphy if it would be alright if I started learning the offense, so just in case next year they ever needed an extra guy at wide receiver, at least I’d already know the offense,” Zorn explained. “And he said, ‘You know, I like that. I think that would be a good fit for you.’”
Zorn worked with Pruneau over the break and transitioned back to the offense that fall, spending most of the season accumulating playing time on the junior varsity team and eventually moving up to varsity towards the end.
“Sophomore year was just a chance to learn the offense even more [and to] get some actual practice and game situations,” he said.
It was last April’s Spring Game that revealed to Coach Murphy and anyone with an eye on Harvard football exactly what a threat he could be in the passing game.
During the annual inter-squad scrimmage, Zorn out-caught the rest of the receivers, connecting with then-junior quarterback Colton Chapple for five catches.