After 144 years of play, the Harvard football program boasts nine national championships, 14 Ivy League titles, and 20 inductees to the College Football Hall of Fame. It’s hard to be the first to do anything. Last Sunday, however, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick proved that he’s still in the business of breaking Crimson records.
With a touchdown to tight end Cameron Brate ’14 in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzpatrick completed the first Harvard-to-Harvard scoring pass in NFL history. While the Cardinals earned a 38-33 victory, the score testified to the growing relevance of Crimson players at the professional level.
Last Sunday, Fitzpatrick made it onto the field after an injury to starter Jameis Winston. Midway through the third quarter, the Cardinals held a 31-0 lead. Few could blame Tampa Bay fans for leaving the University of Phoenix Stadium. But Fitzpatrick, Brate, and company still had life.
A third-quarter score reduced the deficit to 31-6. Then, with 13:32 left, the unique event occurred. On third-and-goal from the 10, Fitzpatrick dropped back, scanned the field, and fired a rocket through a pack of defenders.
Another Crimson alumnus was waiting in the end zone. Brate had weaved his way through the Arizona secondary and turned to locate the ball. Hedging a defender with his shoulder, he reeled in the catch and tiptoed inbounds.
The touchdown sparked a larger rally, as the Buccaneers got within 38-33 with 2:02 left. However, the Cardinals recovered the ensuing onsides kick to clinch the contest.
Although nearly a decade apart, Fitzpatrick and Brate had strikingly similar Harvard experiences. The two Dunster House residents guided the Crimson to multiple Ancient Eight championships. As seniors, both players led their squads to 10-0 campaigns.
Fitzpatrick, a Mathematics concentrator, displayed his Harvard roots at the NFL combine, where he scored a whopping 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test. That performance, which assessed cognitive ability, earned Fitzpatrick some pre-draft media attention.
Selected as the sixth-to-last pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick has stuck around for more than a decade. Now in his 13th year and on his seventh team, the quarterback has passed for over 26,000 yards and 169 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Brate graduated from Harvard in 2014 with an Economics degree. Undrafted, he earned a roster spot through preseason tryouts. Last year, “The Brate Train” picked up speed by scoring eight touchdowns.
Having notched four scores already in 2017, Brate looks to further his success—perhaps with the help of a familiar quarterback.