After months of training, miles of traveling, and endless speculation, the decisive day has finally arrived for Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Tomorrow or Sunday, the 2004 Ivy League Player of the Year will find out if his brains, athletic talent, and illustrious college career are enough to compel a pro team to pick him in the NFL Draft.
“I’m not really sure what to expect,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a big crap shoot for someone like me, coming from a small school.”
Several Harvard grads are currently on NFL practice squads or in the NFL Europe, including wide receiver Carl Morris ’03 and Jamil Soriano ’03. But no Crimson player has been drafted since linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski ’00 who, as a fourth-round pick, is the highest drafted player in school history.
The last Harvard signal-caller to catch a glimpse of the pros was quarterback Brian Buckley ’81, who was drafted by New England in the 11th round in 1981 and saw preseason playing time before getting cut early in the season.
The current version of the draft has seven rounds, three tomorrow and four on Sunday. The buzz around Fitzpatrick suggests he will be picked on the second day. A mock draft run earlier this week by Scouts, Inc., has the Crimson quarterback taken as the 26th pick in the fifth round—162nd pick overall—to the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the event that Fitzpatrick is not drafted, however, it’s far from the end of his pro chances.
“If nothing happens on that second day, halfway through the seventh round a lot of teams that are interested will start jockeying for position to sign me as a free agent,” Fitzpatrick said. “By the end of the seventh round I should know which team I’m signing with.”
PUTTING HIM OUT THERE
Since the Crimson’s season ended Nov. 20, Fitzpatrick has immersed himself in preparation for the draft. His agent, Kyle Rote Jr., set Fitzpatrick up with a quarterback coach to refine his technical skills for the professional level.
“He was an effective and dangerous runner [at Harvard], but at the NFL level they don’t want you to run at all,” Rote said, adding that instead of working out of the shotgun as he often did with the Crimson, Fitzpatrick worked at taking more snaps under center.
The second part of Fitzpatrick’s preparation was to get the virtually unknown Ivy prospect some national exposure. In January, he participated in both senior all-star bowls—the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl—and the NFL Combine in March.
He also participated in two pro days. Higher-profile prospects usually only attend one, but Rote said that with Fitzpatrick’s lack of television time during the season, it was important to “have as many people who could see him as possible.” In addition, Rote made certain that Fitzpatrick was fully rested before last month’s Combine in order to have plenty of time and energy for interviews.
“The NFL didn’t know him as a personality,” Rote said. “So exposure was an important aspect of our preparation.”
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