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It didn’t take long for the Baltimore Ravens to fill the Harvard void on their roster.
Just months after the most accomplished football player in Crimson history—center Matt Birk ’98—retired from the squad, the reigning Super Bowl champions selected Harvard H-Back Kyle Juszczyk with the 130th overall selection in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
The senior becomes the first Harvard player drafted since Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 and the 20th all-time.
“Couldn’t be happier to be a Baltimore Raven! Dream come true! Now it’s time to work! #PurpleandBlack #NFL,” Juszczyk tweeted.
The selection culminated a steady rise up NFL Draft boards for the former Harvard tight end who gained the attention of scouts at the Senior Bowl but was surprisingly not invited to the NFL Combine. Despite the snub, Juszczyk was considered one of the draft’s biggest risers and came to be rated the best fullback prospect in the draft by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
“I expected Kyle to be drafted in the 4th or 5th round and the 4th was a bonus,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy wrote in an e-mail. “For a lot of reasons I think Baltimore is a great fit for Kyle. Obviously it's a great organization, they have a strong future need at his position and they did a great job analyzing his skill set.”
The senior led the Crimson during the 2012 season with 52 receptions, 706 yards, and eight touchdowns and established program records for tight ends in those three categories. Over the course of his career, he earned a number of accolades, including being named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press last season.
With Baltimore fullback Vonta Leach entering the final year of his contract, Juszczyk met with the Ravens in mid-April as one of his at least 12 visits to NFL teams.
“A lot of the people on the Ravens, [coach John] Harbaugh, who coached with me at the University of Cincinnati, as did Craig Ver Steeg, and their special teams coach and one of their secondary coaches...they’ve called several times—they have a particularly strong interest [in Juszczyk],” Murphy said earlier this week.
The coach was right, and the Ravens made Juszczyk the fourth Murphy alumnus to have his name called in New York City.
“I had a lot of options, I really wasn’t sure where I would end up,” Juszczyk said. “I kind of had a good feeling after leaving Baltimore that that would be a good fit for me.”
The Medina, Ohio native said the Ravens particularly valued his versatility.
“When they spoke to me they mentioned [I would be] kind of a move fullback, someone they can use to line up in a lot of different formations,” Juszczyk said. “I don’t think I’m that traditional old-school kind of fullback who’s going to run isos all day.... I think there are other ways I can be used.”
The senior was chosen just eight selections after the first Ivy Leaguer came off the board—Cornell guard J.C. Tretter, who went to the Green Bay Packers—making 2012 the first draft in 15 years that two Ivy League players were selected in the first four rounds. Princeton defensive lineman Mike Catapano was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs with the first selection of the seventh round, giving the conference three draft picks for the first time since 2001.
“It’s always cool to see the Ivy League get a little respect and [to have] people recognize that we play some serious football up there,” Juszczyk said.
As he moves on to the next stage of his career—Baltimore’s first OTAs begin in less than a month—the H-Back has already earned the support of Ravens fans by expressing a smashmouth attitude on his conference call.
“Physicality has always been one of my strongest traits,” Juszczyk said. “I’m not going to shy away from hitting somebody in the mouth.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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