Ends of an Era

Mark Kelsey

Senior Kyle Juszczyk has grown close with fellow tight end junior Cam Brate over two increasingly successful seasons, but their on-the-field relationship will end Saturday.

One is a 6’5” former high school basketball star built like a wide receiver. The other is a 6’3” former high school track standout whose unique versatility has allowed him to play five positions on the gridiron. The former goes by a full name just eight letters long, while the latter has a surname only rivaled in Boston sports lore by “Yastrzemski” in its complexity.

Indeed, side-by-side, junior Cam Brate and senior Kyle Juszczyk would appear to be very different. But together, they have formed a dynamic duo at tight end for the Harvard football team that has often been a nightmare for opposing defenses to try to contain.

Both players broke out last season, when Juszczyk and Brate were named first- and second-team All-Ivy, respectively. But in 2012, each has taken his game to a whole new level. Juszczyk, a preseason All-American, leads the team in receptions, with 49, and yards, with 686. Brate is second on the squad in both those categories.

The two have established themselves as the go-to weapons on one of the top offenses in the FCS. In one game against Princeton this year, Juszczyk—nicknamed “Juice”—recorded 15 receptions for 192 yards and tied a program record with three touchdowns, while Brate hauled in seven catches for 109 yards and a score.

“Juice, being the absolute dominant force that he is out there, he’s all over the field, one, and two, he’ll just do about anything to put himself in position to make a catch—he’ll catch screens, he’ll catch a post behind you, and he’s athletic enough to take over a game whenever his number’s called,” says senior running back Treavor Scales. “As far as Cam goes, he’s literally a big-play machine.”

The paths each player took to get to that upper level were very different. Juszczyk played quarterback his freshman year of high school, but by the time he made the varsity team the following season, the squad had brought in a transfer quarterback who would be the starter for the next three years.

“I learned quickly I had to play different positions, and since then I’ve always done different things,” Juszczyk says.

The Medina, Ohio, native excelled as a running back and a wideout, leading his team in rushing and receiving as a senior. He then brought that versatility to Harvard, where he has played halfback, fullback, tight end, and slot receiver for the Crimson throughout his career. This season, he has even lined up at quarterback and taken snaps under center in goal-line situations.

“He’s a guy that can truly play all the positions,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy says.

Brate arrived in Cambridge a year after Juszczyk, but unlike his fellow tight end, he failed to make the varsity team his rookie season.

“When I came in, I was pretty much last on the depth chart, and Kyle was up at the top,” Brate says. “I [had played] receiver in high school, [and] I was like 215 pounds as a freshman, so I had my struggles.”

But in Juszczyk, Brate found someone who also had been unaccustomed to the tight end position early in his collegiate career, and Juszczyk became something of a mentor to the Naperville, Ill., native.

“Kyle has always been so good at teaching me the offense,” Brate says. “He was a returning starter coming into his sophomore year, so to have a guy like that to look up to as a freshman I think was really big in my development. I’m thankful for that.”

The following season, Brate made the varsity team and put what Juszczyk had taught him to good use, immediately establishing himself as a red-zone threat. In just his second career varsity game, the sophomore recorded a game-high 93 receiving yards and made an acrobatic one-handed touchdown grab to help Harvard beat Brown and start a winning streak that would become the longest in Division I.

“I thank Coach for giving me the chance,” Brate says. “The biggest thing for me has always been gaining weight.... I gained 25 pounds that offseason. The extra weight and extra confidence really helped me be able to compete at the college level.”

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