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Alumni Update: Harvard's Presence in the NFL

Anthony Firkser '17 battles through a group of Princeton defenders after making a catch. The former tight end is one of nine Harvard players currently on NFL rosters.
Anthony Firkser '17 battles through a group of Princeton defenders after making a catch. The former tight end is one of nine Harvard players currently on NFL rosters. By Matthew W DeShaw
By William C. Boggs, Contributing Writer

In the midst of perhaps the best stretch of his football career, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 has been lighting up the NFL. In the first three games of the season, he put up 1,230 yards, 13 touchdown passes, and only four interceptions. (In week four, his hot streak wore off as he only completed 50 percent of his passes and threw an interception, leading the Bucs to sub in Jameis Winston for the second half.) Even though Fitzpatrick has been carrying the Harvard football mantle, there are eight more Harvard players currently on NFL rosters or practice squads, making Harvard the FCS school with the most active NFL players (Delaware, Illinois State, James Madison, and North Dakota State tie for second in this category with six players apiece). Playing alongside Fitzpatrick is Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate ’14.  Brate struggled in the first two games of the season but came out strong in week three, connecting with Ryan Fitzpatrick for an all-Harvard touchdown.

Outside of Tampa, Harvard tight ends have also found NFL homes.  Ben Braunecker ’16 earned a roster spot with the Chicago Bears, marking his third season with the team, and Anthony Firkser ’17 will be playing for the Tennessee Titans. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk ’13 of the San Francisco 49ers and long snapper Tyler Ott ’14 of the Seattle Seahawks also played tight end at Harvard but have since converted to different positions in the NFL, although Ott also appeared as a long snapper with the Crimson. In the last two seasons, Juszczyk has made a name for himself with consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. To start off the 2018 campaign, he continued his dynamic play with a 56-yard reception to complement his blocking prowess.

The last three active Crimson NFL players, Nick Easton ’15, Adam Redmond ’16, and Cole Toner ’16, play on the offensive line for the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively. Easton had established himself as a starter for the Vikings but unfortunately suffered a neck injury before the start of the season, landing him on injured reserve. Interestingly, no Harvard alumni play defense, and outside of Fitzpatrick at quarterback, the other eight players occupy blocking-heavy positions.

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