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.
It’s a big time of year for pro sports, with Super Bowl XLVIII just around the corner. The Back Page takes a look at a trio of former Harvard athletes now playing professionally, starting with a product of football coach Tim Murphy’s high-flying offense.
The Improving Draftee: Kyle Juszczyk ‘13
Mouthful of a name aside, Juszczyk had the NFL in his blood even before he was drafted – his great uncle, Dickie Moore, played for the Green Bay Packers. After a long and successful career for the Crimson, it was no surprise when the Baltimore Ravens took the 6’1” Juszczyk in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
You know that Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and maybe even ATP star James Blake graduated with Harvard degrees, but they’re the exceptions to the Harvard kids are all brains, right? Not so fast – there are other Crimson alums out there. The Back Page takes a closer look at a few notable ones, with more to follow.
Brains—and Brawn: Matt Birk ’98
Two-time All-Pro, six Pro Bowl appearances, Super Bowl ring wearer…and Harvard football star? Scouts told Sports Illustrated the 305 pound (at the time of the 1998 NFL draft) lineman “may be the best Ivy League prospect to come along in several years.”
Boy, were they right.
After a decorated career at Harvard in which Birk was an All-Ivy, All-New England, and All-ECAC lineman, and let the Crimson to the Ivy title in 1997, Birk moved onto the NFL as the Minnesota Vikings’ sixth round draft pick.
Though he won’t be playing in any frostbite-inducing playoff games anytime soon, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ‘05 can feel at least a little more confident about his job prospects.
Filling in for injured starter Jake Locker in Week 4 against the New York Jets, Fitzpatrick inherited a Titans team that struggled on both sides of the ball, though most of it was beyond Fitzpatrick’s control. The former Harvard star guided the NFL squad to a 7-9 record and a second place finish in the AFC South division.
When the Harvard Football team (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) welcomes Penn (4-4, 3-2 Ivy) for its Senior Day on Saturday, the fate of the Ancient Eight will once again be in the balance. The Crimson finds its Ivy League title chances resting on a win against the Quakers, as a victory and Princeton loss would put Harvard in first place. Nonetheless, there are no guarantees when it comes the gridiron in the Ancient Eight, as Harvard has been in this same situation multiple times against Penn in recent years.