As the Harvard punt unit headed to the field for its first attempt against Columbia, the Lions’ radio broadcaster stared in disbelief.
“That’s got to be the stockiest punter in the Ivy League.”
The announcer wasn’t talking about usual starter, sophomore Jacob Dombrowski, who was sidelined by an ailing back that day. Instead, the Crimson had hastily trotted out junior linebacker Alex Gedeon, whose 230-pound frame looks more natural demolishing ballcarriers than kicking to them.
But after a Friday night phone call, a couple of warmup punts, and a lot of confusion, the special-teams experiment was underway. And once the ball left Gedeon’s foot, everyone seemed to forget whether he fit the typical mold.
“I’m on the punt team, and I didn’t even realize he was punting,” says senior defensive tackle Chuks Obi. “I found out afterwards, so I was kind of shocked. He did a pretty good job—I didn’t even notice a difference.”
It certainly wasn’t the first time the linebacker has impressed the Crimson with his versatility. Hailing from Hudson, Ohio, Gedeon was raised on a steady diet of football like any good Buckeyes fan. But when it became clear that Ohio State or Notre Dame might not come knocking, Gedeon realized that his versatile talents as a quarterback, defensive back, linebacker, and punter might come in handy elsewhere—and Crimson coach Tim Murphy agreed.
“In high school...he never came off the field,” Murphy said after the game against the Lions. “And you want to recruit athletes...kids that under pressure can do it, and number two you want to recruit guys that are versatile, because you never have enough athletes, you never have enough versatile guys. So [Gedeon] fits that.”
But when the junior arrived in Cambridge, most of the skill positions were filled, and converting to a full-time linebacker offered the best opportunity to get back on the field.
Although he was relegated to the bottom of the depth chart his freshman year, Gedeon took the time to rededicate himself to his best position.
“In high school, you sample a lot of different things but not one specific thing,” he says, “so playing just one position at linebacker in college has allowed me to be more fundamentally sound.”
With a strong corps of upperclassmen to learn from, including current senior teammate Nick Hasselberg, Gedeon quickly adjusted to the complicated Crimson playbook—and to the bruising his body would take at the college level.
“In football, and playing middle linebacker, the biggest thing is toughness, and [Gedeon] is very tough,” says senior defensive lineman Josué Ortiz. “He’s smart. He knows we have a very complex defense, [and] if you know what you’re doing, that’s 90 percent of the battle. He has a lot of heart, and he just wants to play.”
That determination showed as Gedeon battled injuries for his first couple of seasons. But after tirelessly rehabilitating and shoring up his skills, the junior arrived in the fall of 2010 a complete linebacker, and the coaching staff rewarded his effort with a starting spot.
“You always really look forward to those opportunities, so this whole offseason it was really exciting that I was going to be competing for that No. 1 job,” Gedeon says.
And the junior has made the most of the role. Gedeon has posted 32 tackles and a pair of interceptions—tied for second on the team—despite missing two contests this season. One of those picks came on Gedeon’s day of double-duty and halted a Lions drive deep in Crimson territory.