Fullback. Blocking back. Just make the holes for the running back and that’s about it. This has always defined the position of fullback for the Harvard football team, the definition of the role player you hope doesn’t end up making any ill-timed mistakes and costing you the game.
Well, junior fullback Kelly Widman could very well rewrite that definition for the Crimson this season.
“Our fullback now is a much more versatile player,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy after last Saturday’s 35-0 drubbing of Holy Cross. “Kelly’s playing a lot of positions for us—tight end, fullback and wide receiver—and he really helped us today with his versatility.”
Widman readily embraces his new position, and knows that he is not limited merely to paving the way for sophomore running back Clifton Dawson.
“I see it being kind of a hybrid position between fullback and tight end,” Widman says, “and even a wide receiver at times if they need me to.”
Murphy also envisions a positive shift in the usefulness of the fullback position for the Crimson. “Colin Blackburn [’03] may have been the best blocking fullback I’ve ever seen, but Kelly can do a lot of things,” Murphy says. “He can go to the fullback position and line up at wideout, or line up at tight end. His versatility creates matchup problems and recognition problems, and those are things we hope to use down the line.”
On Saturday, it appeared that captain quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t want to waste any time in using those things, completing two passes to Widman for 35 yards when there were a number of other available options open. But as eager as he may have been to check out his new target, Fitzpatrick feels that Widman is the real deal for the long run.
“The play where he made that one-handed catch was designed for him, we’d run it in practice,” Fitzpatrick says. “He’s a dependable guy, we know that wherever we put him on the field he can do the job. Even though the weather didn’t let us do much in the air on Saturday, I see him being a big part of our passing offense.”
Prior to Saturday, Widman had caught only one pass in his collegiate career—a touchdown reception from Fitzpatrick in last season’s finale against Yale—and he is modest and frank in his early self-assessment.
“I love catching passes,” Widman admits. “But I know that fullback and tight end are both physical positions, there’s a ton of blocking in both. It’s a good challenge, and I look forward to learning this position. I’m willing to do anything to help the team.”
“I think the biggest thing with Kelly,” Fitzpatrick says, “is that he’s a guy we know can catch the ball. The position will be a lot more involved with him on the field.”
While it may be a bit extreme to pen Kelly Widman down as a mixture of Blackburn and Crimson receiving legend Carl Morris ’03, Saturday’s performance showed that he can’t be labeled as just another blocking back. Widman’s versatile hybrid of fullback, tight end and wide receiver may just end up redefining the role of Harvard fullback.