Jack Riordan

One-time Defensive Back Takes Reserve QB Option

Harvard had just beaten UMass, 31-14, on the strength of Donnie Allard's 358 passing yards, and Crimson Coach Joe Restic was discussing his quarterback's performance.

Alluding to Allard's record-breaking day as a fill-in for the injured Ron Cuccia, Restic concluded, "That just goes to show you that you need two fact, you need three, four quarterbacks."

The coach's comment seemed an irrelevant truism at the time. Allard had proved himself a winner, and Cuccia was reportedly on the mend from his rib injury.

But at least one member of the Harvard football team has based his career on the notion that you can never have too many quarterbacks.

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Senior Jack Riordan was one of several players who arrived at Harvard three years ago with thoughts of becoming the Crimson's future signal-caller. He alternated with classmate Allard at QB during a creditable, if not spectacular, freshman season, and the coaches invited him to return to camp the following fall.

But there was a catch: The coaches wanted Riordap allright, but they wanted him at defensive back.

The 1980 Harvard football team already had enough quarterbacks: senior Brian Buckley, later drafted by the New England Patriots; sophomore Cuccia, back from a year off and stationed temporarily at split end; junior Mike Buchanan; and Allard among them.

The defensive backfield, on the other hand, needed more bodies, and defensive coordinator Leo Fanning was convinced that Riordan's athletic ability would make him one of the top six candidates for the available positions. Because playing defense seemed the surest route to the varsity roster and, according to the coaches, the best way for him to contribute to the program, Riordan agreed to the switch.

New Position

Although he had some reservations about his new job, Riordan devoted his sophomore year to knocking down passes instead of throwing them. Like most second-year players, he put in little varsity time, but his performance on the JV established him as one of the leading contenders for a future starting position in the backfield.

And that's probably where Riordan would be now, were it not for a major decision he made at the end of his sophomore year.

During the season, Riordan had watched a succession of injuries claim quarterback after quarterback, sometimes forcing Restic to go to the end of his depth chart for a signal-caller.

And so when the year ended, Riordan went to Restic and asked to be switched back to quarterback.

"I wasn't having that much fun playing defense, and I felt that I could help the team more at quarterback," Riordan remembers. "The coaches thought I could help the team more on defense. But as it turned out, four guys got hurt at quarterback."