While many college students are finding it difficult to obtain jobs in the harsh economic climate, four former Crimson football players had as tough a time trying to find a place in the NFL.
Of the Harvard players on the 2011 Crimson squad who attempted to enter the league—quarterback Collier Winters ’11 and defensive tackle Josue Ortiz ’11, both of whom were fifth-year seniors, linebacker Alex Gedeon ’12, and left tackle Kevin Murphy ’12—only Murphy, who now plays on the practice squad for the Minnesota Vikings, has successfully gone pro.
"When you play at a school like Harvard, it's hard to get recognized, it's hard to stand out on film because there's an understanding [among NFL scouts] that you're not really playing against schools with scholarship players," Ortiz told Newsday in April. "So it's definitely tough to make a name for yourself. There are a lot of good football players in the Ivy League, but they get pushed to the side and get overlooked."
Currently, three former Crimson football standouts are on active rosters with NFL teams: Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant ’09, and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk ’98.
At Harvard, Murphy was awarded the Joseph E. Wolf Award for being Harvard’s top interior offensive lineman, and was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent shortly before graduating in May.
“[San Francisco] is the perfect place for me, the perfect opportunity,” Murphy told The Crimson after being signed.
But Murphy was released from the 49ers less than a month later. Shortly thereafter, the Vikings signed the undrafted free agent—ultimately waiving, resigning, and waiving him once more, according to ESPN—before Murphy landed a practice squad contract with Minnesota on Sept. 3.
“Obviously, the rosters are very small in the NFL, so the practice squad becomes guys that you think have a real chance to make it, and therefore you’re going to invest in them.... So it’s a good sign,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said.
Winters, who won the 2011 Manning Passing Academy’s Air It Out” competition over future NFL quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck and Greg McElroy, participated in Harvard’s Pro Day and Boston College’s Pro Day on his quest to the NFL. But due to his height—the quarterback was listed at 5’11”—Winters was considered a long shot and ultimately went unsigned.
“It’s going to take the right team and the right situation for me to get a chance to get into the door, and the height obviously makes that window of opportunity a lot smaller,” Winters said shortly before the NFL draft in April. Winters also expressed interest in playing in the Canadian Football League.
Facing similar struggles, Ortiz, the 2011 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, was undrafted and unsigned.
“There was a high quantity of players who also have the same skill set that I do,” Ortiz said.
Though he subsequently participated in rookie mini-camps for the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears, neither team elected to sign the former Crimson defensive tackle.
Gedeon, the Crimson’s captain in 2011 who also attended BC’s Pro Day, never signed with an NFL team despite earning first-team All-Ivy Honors.
“I think he was deserving of at least a free agent contract,” Tim Murphy said.
According to the long-time Crimson coach, Gedeon is currently working with the well-known consulting firm Bain & Company in Chicago, while Ortiz, a former economics concentrator, now has his sights set on law school.