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Fitzpatrick, Balestracci Honored at Football Awards Ceremony

Fitzpatrick Named 131st Captain, Balestracci MVP

By Timothy J. Mcginn, Crimson Staff Writer

The torch has officially been passed.

The Harvard football team elected junior quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to be its 131st captain in elections held yesterday, Crimson coach Tim Murphy announced last night at the team’s year-end banquet at the Harvard Club of Boston. Fitzpatrick will replace outgoing captain and linebacker, Dante Balestracci.

Fitzpatrick, looked to as a leader on both the offense and the team at large throughout the past two seasons, will be Harvard’s second quarterback captain in three years. Neil Rose ’02-’03 was the Crimson’s 129th captain.

Fitzpatrick’s dedication to the team and his desire to contribute on the field escaped no one’s notice, least of all his coach’s.

“He’s one of those kids who won’t take no for an answer,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy following Fitzpatrick’s performance against Yale on Saturday. “I’m not sure the doctors are real fired up about him playing, but he’s just one of those guys. He’s just going to do his thing. He’s just incredibly tough, a competitor.”

Playing despite a torn meniscus in his left leg that made the rest of his knee vulnerable to injury, a badly sprained ankle and a still-injured broken hand, Fitzpatrick proved himself to be the rare athlete who can perform under intense pain and pressure.

Fitzpatrick’s predecessor, Balestracci, was tabbed by his teammates to be the recipient of the Frederick Greeley Crocker Award as the team’s most valuable player.

A starter at linebacker since his freshman year, Balestracci will likely soon be named to the Ivy League’s First Team for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season. He will become the only player in Ancient Eight history to earn First Team honors for four straight years.

Balestracci tallied 96 tackles during his senior season to lead the team while recording 9.5 sacks, also a team-high.

His 343 career tackles are second most in Crimson history. Only current NFL star Isaiah Kacyvenski has more, who holds the team record with 395. Balestracci and Kacyvenski are the only players in team history to record more than 300 tackles.

“He was the top linebacker in the league his freshman year,” said junior linebacker Bobby Everett prior to Balestracci’s final game. “But he has constantly worked to get better and contribute more to the team. He wasn’t satisfied with success, and that’s the type of attitude good teams and good leaders need to have.”

Senior offensive tackle Joe Mujalli received the Henry H. Lamar award, presented for dedication to the program, while fellow lineman offensive guard Joe Traverso was honored with the Joseph E. Wolf award as the squad’s top interior lineman.

The pair helped hold together a patchwork offensive line continually torn apart by injuries as the season progressed.

Senior Collin Blackburn received the William Paine LaCroix trophy for his unwavering loyalty, sportsmanship and enthusiasm. Initially a tight end, the fifth-year fullback was converted to fill a team need and better utilize his blocking skills.

The Robert F. Kennedy award for desire and determination was presented to senior strong safety Mante Dzakuma. Despite being just 5’9, Dzakuma provided a consistently solid presence in the defensive backfield throughout Harvard’s 2003 campaign.

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at mcginn@fas.harvard.edu.

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