For most students, the summer after graduation provides the chance to relax and reflect, possibly celebrating the fact that the days of papers and problem sets are over.
But for Harvard football’s Brent Osborne and Collin Zych, the real work is only just beginning.
After both players went undrafted in April, the duo waited 87 long days for the chance to begin pursuing their football dreams, and with the lifting of the NFL lockout on Tuesday, both acted quickly in taking a giant step towards the next level.
On the first day NFL teams were allowed to sign undrafted free agents, the former Crimson stand-outs were snatched up quickly, with Osborne, an offensive lineman, signing with the Seattle Seahawks and Zych, a safety, catching on with his hometown Dallas Cowboys.
Osborne becomes the second Harvard o-lineman in the past two years to sign with an NFL team after going undrafted, following James Williams '10, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before last season. Williams was cut by the Bucs two months after signing and is currently on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad—displaying the difficulty of making it as an undrafted rookie.
And Osborne’s journey the pros may be even more arduous than his former teammate’s. Williams, a three-time All-American selection and three-time all-Ivy standout, was considered a better prospect coming out of college than Osborne, a second-team All-Ivy performer in 2011 who started 19 of 20 games the last two seasons for the Crimson.
That’s not to say making it as a UDFA not been done before; defensive lineman Desmond Bryant '09 remains on the Oakland Raiders roster after signing with the squad out of Harvard two years ago and making the team in camp. Osborne’s chances of achieving that type of success might be helped by the fact that of the 20 undrafted free agents signed by the Seahawks, only one, UConn’s Zach Hurd, was an offensive lineman.
After completing one of the most decorated careers by a defensive back in Harvard history, Zych has an uphill battle to the NFL as well. During his senior season, the three-time All-Ivy honoree tied for the Crimson lead with 79 tackles and paced the squad in passes defended (12) and interceptions (three) while serving as captain.
The Plano, Texas native will now get a shot at the next level with his hometown Cowboys, whose head coach, Jason Garrett, played football at Princeton. Zych had visited with Dallas in April, and with a myriad of young, unproven safeties on the Cowboys roster, Zych could have a chance to make the team with an impressive training camp performance.
Both Osborne and Zych are considered too small for their positions to play at the next level by many scouts. But if either can make it, they would join a respectable group of Crimson alumni on NFL rosters, including Williams, Bryant, Buffalo Bills starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick '05 and Baltimore Ravens six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk '98.
If neither can catch on in the NFL, there could be other options for the pair; their former teammate, WR Marco Ianuzzi ’11, was the sixth overall choice in this year’s CFL Draft and currently plays for the BC Lions.
Other former Ivy Leaguers to sign UDFA contracts this week were Princeton tight end Harry Flaherty '11 (New York Giants) and Yale long snapper Tom McCarthy '11 (Atlanta Falcons). The Bulldogs also had the only Ancient Eight player to be drafted in 2011 when fullback Shane Bannon '11 went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round.