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It’s a big time of year for pro sports, with Super Bowl XLVIII just around the corner. The Back Page takes a look at a trio of former Harvard athletes now playing professionally, starting with a product of football coach Tim Murphy’s high-flying offense.
The Improving Draftee: Kyle Juszczyk ‘13
Mouthful of a name aside, Juszczyk had the NFL in his blood even before he was drafted – his great uncle, Dickie Moore, played for the Green Bay Packers. After a long and successful career for the Crimson, it was no surprise when the Baltimore Ravens took the 6’1” Juszczyk in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
Before transitioning to the pros, the tight end broke records and paced Harvard’s offensive attack. He was a two-time All-American and three-time All-Ivy League selection and garnered dozens of third-party honors in his senior year.
By the end of his graduation year, Juszczyk had become the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions for a Crimson tight end. In his final season, the Medina, OH product led Harvard with 52 receptions for 706 yards.
At about this time a year ago, when The Back Page did some research on him, most scouting sources projected Juszczyk as a “borderline draft prospect” at the fullback position. Yahoo Sports projected him to be a seventh round draft pick.
Leading up to the draft, Juszczyk moved up the board considerably, with ESPN draft columnist Mel Kiper Jr. putting Juszczyk in the third round, calling him “the best [fullback] in the draft.”
The Ravens eventually took the Harvard star with the 130th pick, hoping he could produce at the fullback position as a lead blocker. But the Ravens switched up their offense to a spread attack for the 2013 season, and Juszczyk wasn’t used much in the trenches and was on the field for only four offensive snaps the entire year.
Still, Juszczyk managed to make an impact on special teams as one of the three rookies to appear in every game for a disappointing 8-8 Baltimore team. His 245- pound frame was an imposing presence on kickoffs, and he should factor into the Ravens’ future.
"[Juszczyk] was one of our best special-teams players–[he] played like a linebacker on special teams,” head coach John Harbaugh told ESPN.com. “That’s a great thing for a fullback/tight end-type guy, but we’ve got to get him into the mix more. Kyle has got to be a huge part of what we do going forward…. We have high hopes for him.”
Fancy Footed Forward: Andre Akpan ‘10
New York Red Bulls and former Harvard forward Andre Akpan 10’ made some waves for the Ivy League back in 2010, when he was drafted by the Colorado Rapids in the second round of the MLS draft. Since then, the 2006 Ivy League Rookie of the Year has jumped around the league, playing for the Real Maryland Monarchs and FC Tampa Bay for a short time.
After the Rapids traded Akpan to the Red Bulls back in March for a 2015 MLS Supplemental Draft pick, the 2009 Ivy League Player of the Year and three year Hermann Trophy semifinalist finished the MLS season with two assists in seven appearances for the MLS team.
Though his MLS statistics may seem underwhelming after scoring 47 goals for the Crimson in four years, Akpan also started in 10 MLS Reserve League games and led the Red Bulls with 10 of the team’s 24 goals.
Akpan most recently appeared as a short-term substitute in the Red Bulls’ 2-2 tie of the New England Revolution in early October. Though he only played a few minutes in the Red Bulls’ last few games, the team signed the forward to a new contract in mid-December for the 2014 year. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Crimson at Center: Alex Killorn 12’
The Back Page last tracked Killorn almost a year ago, when the 6’2” center scored his first career NHL goal in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 6-5 overtime win over the Florida Panthers. Just three days later, Killorn notched his first game-winner at 2:49 in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs, sliding the puck through the five-hole of Maple Leaf goalie Ben Scrivens.
The 77th pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft scored 38 goals in his junior and senior seasons at Harvard, leading the Crimson both years. After a brief year and a half stint in the developmental American Hockey League, Killorn recorded 19 points in 38 games played for the Lightning in 2013.
The 2011-2012 ECAC Hockey First-Team center has broken out in his sophomore NHL season. Killorn is one of seven Lightning players to have appeared in every game this season and is fifth on the squad with 29 points. The Canadian hailing from Montreal, Que. also has a plus-minus of positive 10 for the season, after posting a negative six in his rookie season.
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