Harvard’s influence in the NFL expanded over the weekend as four graduating members of the Crimson, defensive tackle Nnamdi Obukwelu, longsnapper Tyler Ott, tight end Cam Brate, and defensive back Brian Owusu, signed with NFL teams after going undrafted in the seven-round NFL Draft.
Obukwelu, who recorded 109 tackles and nine sacks over his Harvard career, signed with the Indianapolis Colts Sunday. Ott will not go nearly as far to live his NFL dreams, agreeing to a deal with the nearby New England Patriots. Brate, meanwhile, will return to his Midwestern roots, joining a Minnesota Vikings organization that also includes former Crimson lineman Kevin Murphy.
Lastly, Owusu will return to San Diego, where he had five tackles in a 42-20 win over the University of San Diego Toreros to start the 2013 season. This time, Owusu will be suiting up in Chargers blue and gold.
Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid was the only Ivy League player taken in the NFL Draft this year, going in the fifth round, 158th overall to the Detroit Lions. Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews signed with the Atlanta Falcons after going undrafted.
With the seasons winding down for most of the spring sports, let’s take a look at some former athletes—some Harvard alumni—that have left their mark on the university recently.
Olympic Excellence: Angela Ruggiero ’02-04
A little over two months ago, Ruggiero—perhaps one of the most accomplished US women’s ice hockey stars in recent memory—came to speak at the Harvard Innovation Lab as a part of the tech company MC10’s sports advisory board.
The four-time US Olympian focused on key issues concerning the intersection of technology and sports, notably commenting, “At some point in time, your natural abilities aren’t going to be enough. I think at that point in time...you actually decide as an athlete that you want to get even better.”
A baseball player injured in last year’s bombings who returned to raise money for the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund. A men’s lightweight crew coach who ran all 26.2 miles while undergoing chemotherapy. An 18-year-old sailor who was the youngest runner in the field. An assistant hockey coach who was given a bib to raise money for Parkinson’s disease. An assistant baseball coach who finished with a qualifying time and made his team’s Beanpot game against UMass immediately after. This handful of Harvard athletes and coaches all had one thing in common: they left their primary sports on Monday to participate in the 2014 Boston Marathon.
While admitted students were exploring the campus for Visitas, this past weekend also served as a fall preview for the Harvard football team. On Saturday night, the Crimson took the field at Harvard Stadium in organized fashion for the first time since November to play its annual Spring Game.
Harvard women’s golf has quietly been one of the best teams out of all the 42 Crimson varsity teams. On the six occasions the team has played this season on the East Coast, each time it has come out victorious. Its West Coast performances against some of the best competition in the nation has also seen some extremely respectable finishes–placing sixth in Colorado and eighth in Mississippi. The consistently high quality of the squad’s performances is even more remarkable given the typically high variance nature of the sport of golf–Tiger didn’t even make the cut at the Masters!
For these reasons, Harvard will stride into the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ as favorites to three-peat as Ivy Champions.
The Crimson may have won both of the last two Ivy crowns, but it has always been close. Over three rounds of play and four golfers per round (12 rounds in total going into the final score), Harvard was victorious by merely six strokes in 2012 and only one single stroke in 2013.
Princeton pushed Harvard to the limit last year and will return last season’s individual Ivy champ and honorable mention All-American Kelly Shon. Shon will be looking to close out her senior season with another individual title as she attempts to lead the team to victory.
The other main pretender to the Crimson’s throne is Yale who finished third last season, but have added a star recruit to its mix. Freshman Elisabeth Bernabe had already competed in the 2012 Women’s open before coming to college and shot a ludicrously low 10 under par 62 at El Prado Golf Club this season. This team is on the rise and will certainly be a serious threat to win it all. There certainly exists animosity between the two teams: freshman Julia Yao's bio is a little bit hostile, as she cites her reason for choosing Yale as “because it’s not Harvard”. Watch out for that one.
The Crimson is hardly short of weapons of its own though. Bonnie Hu has long been the backbone of the team, serving her second year as team captain, and the senior will be looking to graduate on a high note. Junior Tiffany Lim holds the record for team low round this season with a 66 and has never been part of a team that didn’t win Ivies.
Sophomore Christine Lin came in as a revelation last season, winning The Crimson’s Female Individual Achievement of the Year for losing against Shon in the championship playoff last season. She will be hoping to repeat that performance this time around.
Remarkably though, for all the upperclassman talent on the team, freshman Anne Cheng leads the Crimson in scoring this season with an average of 74.94. It speaks to the depth of talent on Harvard’s team right now that the other roster members junior Brenna Nelsen, a Crimson sports editor, freshman Nina Fairbairn and sophomore Courtney Hooten have all had top-five finishes this season. In a sport where everyone’s performance matters, it is Harvard’s depth which ultimately singles them out as favorites.
It all comes down to this weekend. One team will leave as champions, and whoever that may be, the only reasonable bet is that it will be close.