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In the age of passing, quarterbacks dominate statistically in the NFL. Recent seasons have seen astronomical yardage values racked up by the league’s passers, with the leader often on pace for records set in the last decade. Through the first two weeks of the season, The leader has put up a whopping 819 yards in only two contests, leading his team to victory twice. There are many likely candidates: Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers would be educated guesses. They would be wrong. Surprisingly enough, this quarterback has never been named to the Pro Bowl or even played in a playoff game. In fact, he started the season as his team’s backup quarterback. The next guess would then most likely be a young star from a big-name football university such as Oklahoma or Clemson. Again, these would be incorrect. He is a seasoned veteran and he has never competed for an NCAA national championship. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard class of 2005, is leading the NFL in passing yards, and the veteran gunslinger is taking the league by storm.
On his seventh team and in his 14th season, Fitzpatrick does not seem the prime candidate to rise up the depth chart and surprise the NFL. However, Fitzpatrick’s recent ascent to the top of the statistical leaderboards is far from ordinary. In June, the NFL announced that Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Jameis Winston—in only his fourth season—had been suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season. The reins were handed over to Fitzpatrick, the sixth-to-last pick in the 2005 draft. The experienced quarterback was most likely signed by Tampa Bay a year ago not only to serve as Winston’s backup, but to also use his vast knowledge to mentor a young quarterback new to the league. It now seems that the experienced Fitzpatrick may be threatening to take Winston’s job.
Success is not new to Fitzpatrick. While at Harvard, the Dunster resident dazzled in weekly demolitions of the various defenses of the Ivy League. In his last season on campus, Fitzpatrick earned Ivy League MVP honors while leading the Crimson to a perfect 10-0 record, including a 35-3 drubbing of Yale in The Game.
Fitzpatrick is now making NFL defenses look equally silly. Opening the season as 10-point underdogs on the road against the New Orleans Saints, Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions. The veteran passer even added on 12 carries for 36 yards and another score on the ground. This week, he proved the performance was no fluke. Facing the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 33 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Next week, the Buccaneers host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were most recently torched for 42 points and six passing touchdowns from second-year Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Although he is currently causing headaches for opposing defensive coordinators, Fitzpatrick is charming NFL fans with his actions on and off the field. During the victory over the Eagles, the quarterback was seen comically rubbing enormously bushy beards with offensive lineman Evan Smith. After the game, reporters were entertained by Fitzpatrick wearing aviator sunglasses and a slick black jacket unzipped to reveal a gold chain and chest hair that matched his beard. The conference was interrupted when teammate DeSean Jackson entered the room, and Fitzpatrick admitted that he had borrowed Jackson’s personal items for the press conference. When a reporter asked if anything of Fitzpatrick’s was actually his, the quarterback quipped, “The chest hair is mine.” If Fitzpatrick keeps his current trajectory while standing in for Winston, clothing may not be the only thing he steals from a teammate.
—Staff writer Joseph W. Minatel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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