The Back Page takes a step back from the NCAA tournament bracket madness to reconnect with some Crimson alums from years past.
He’s Got Heart: Desmond Bryant ’09
A little over a year ago, Crimson sports alumnus Scott Sherman covered Bryant’s new contract with the Cleveland Browns. Since his multi-million dollar contract, Bryant has been busy; after recording 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 12 games in his first season with the Browns, the former Crimson star underwent an emergency medical procedure in December to correct an irregular heartbeat.
With his career on hold, Bryant worked hard to return to his former strength. Just a few weeks ago, the defensive end was given full clearance to return to full football activities. He is currently preparing to make a full comeback to the Brown’s starting defensive line.
The 6’6” Bryant turned town offers from Duke, Florida A&M, and Towson to come to play for the Crimson, and he became a key starter on the perfect 10-0 2005 Harvard team that was led by fellow future NFL player Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05.
After the promising start, Bryant ran into some trouble and was suspended from the team twice, first for violating team rules and then for academic reasons. He returned for his senior year, though, recording 4.5 tackles for a loss and was granted second-team Ivy League honors.
Undrafted coming out of Harvard, Bryant got his chance with the Oakland Raiders as a rookie in 2009, recording 32 tackles in 16 games. Since then, the 310-pounder has found continued success in the NFL, recording five sacks in his third year and four in his fourth year.
Harvard Ice Hockey Legend: Julie Chu ’06-07
It’s not often that you find an athlete that competes at the Olympics before he or she sets foot on a college campus. But for Chu, the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics were just the start.
After this year’s Olympic games, the 5’8” international ice hockey superstar now has three silver medals and a bronze to her name. She was also voted by the Team USA captains to be the US flag bearer at the Sochi closing ceremonies just a few months ago.
Chu has competed at almost every women’s ice hockey level possible, from the NCAA to the Western Women’s Hockey League to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Among the dozens of accolades littering Chu’s ice hockey resume are the 284 points and 196 assists she scored in her four years playing for the Crimson. Both put her at the top of the NCAA record books. She was a four-time All-American at Harvard and earned the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best collegiate hockey player in the US in her senior campaign.
In what may have been her final Olympic games, Chu was reunited with her former coach, Katey Stone, who is in her 19th season as coach for the Crimson.
Freshman Frank and the Quest for Belonging: Frank Hermann '06
In a slight change of pace and in a nod to the start of baseball season, I’d like to take a look at Hermann’s career—not necessarily just because he is one of 15 Harvard baseball players to make it to The Show—but also because of the intriguing, self-reflective writing he did for the Crimson a few years ago when he was a prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization.
In a portion of what turned out to be a nine-part diary back when he was playing minor league ball, Hermann wrote:
“I am now at the point where I am trying to balance the initial shock of brushing shoulders with my former idols and convincing myself that I belong. Each day I‘ve been here, I’ve had that moment of realization when I say to myself, “What am I doing here?” Most of us experienced that feeling when we walked into the stately confines of Annenberg or saw our name alongside “Harvard University” on a letterhead.”
It’s not often that you find a first-year player with the maturity to write so eloquently about the professional sports grind and that is also a Harvard graduate. It can be easy to forget that for every pro athlete that has made it to the biggest stage, there’s at least a dozen trying to get there too.
But that’s enough philosophizing for The Back Page, so let’s get back to Hermann. The 6’4” right-hander made it to the bright lights of the big leagues, turning in two-plus solid seasons as a relief pitcher for the Indians before missing the entire 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery.
Hermann has run into some trouble in this year’s spring training, giving up six runs in just under two innings of work. Even with the rocky start, Hermann still remains on the Indians’ 25-man active roster and hopes to earn a spot in the bullpen after the year of recovery.