Ivy league players in the NFL
With football season heading into full swing with a full slate of NFL games on Sunday, there’s no time like the present to take a look around the league to see where we have some Ivy league representation. There aren’t many of us in the NFL—in fact there are a grand total of zero from Columbia—but with six on active rosters and four on practice squads, there’s enough to at least mention our representation.
Ivies represented on active NFL rosters are Harvard, Brown and Cornell, with Yale represented on practice squads. Of the 10 total players, Harvard leads the pack with four, and Yale, Brown, and Cornell each have two.
The highest profile player is Harvard graduate, Ryan Fitzpatrick—the current starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. Fitzpatrick finished his collegiate career second on Harvard’s all-time list for touchdowns and yards passing, and won Ivy league MVP honors in his senior season of 2004. After bouncing around the league for the first few years of his career, Fitzpatrick has found a home in Buffalo after throwing for 3000 yards with 23 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions last season.
The only other starter is Matt Birk, center for the Baltimore Ravens. After graduating from Harvard in 1998, where he received All-Ivy league honors, Birk was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, and took over as a starter in 2000. After eight years in Minnesota, Birk signed on with the Ravens as a free agent. Birk is a two-time NFL All-Pro, and has been selected to the Pro-Bowl six times.
Backups around the league include Desmond Bryant of the Oakland Raiders, Zak DeOssie and Kevin Boothe of the New York Giants, and Bryan Walters of the San Diego Chargers. Bryant is about to begin his third season as a defensive tackle with the Raiders, after graduating from Harvard in 2009 with second team All-Ivy league honors. DeOssie has been a backup linebacker and long snapper with the Giants since graduating from Brown in 2007, winning the Super Bowl over the Patriots and being selected to the Pro Bowl as the NFC long snapper in 2008 and 2010. Boothe has also been a backup with the Giants since 2007, but as an offensive guard. He graduated from Cornell in 2006. Walters, a wide receiver, was on the practice squad with the Chargers last season, after graduating from Cornell in 2010, but was signed to a full contract this past offseason.
Practice squad players include James Develin, second year running back for the Cincinnati Bengals out of Brown, Tom McCarthy, a rookie defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars out of Yale, Bannon Shane, a rookie full back for the Kansas City Chiefs out of Yale, and Brent Osbourne, a rookie offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks out of Harvard.
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