UPDATED: May 2, 2016, at 2:03 a.m.
In popular imagination and in reality, Harvard seniors graduate to positions of power.
Some land on Wall Street or Capitol Hill. Others spread out to top graduate schools across the country. Others still march into the headquarters of high-profile corporations.
But now, in increasing numbers, these graduates are flocking to a somewhat less traditional sector: professional football.
Last Saturday, for the second time in the last four years, a Harvard player heard his name called in the NFL Draft.
In 2013, the man was Kyle Juszczyk, and the team was the Baltimore Ravens. Since then, Juszczyk, who has a stocky tight end for the Crimson, has converted into a fullback and seen significant playing time for the Ravens.
This time, in 2016, the man is Cole Toner, and the team is the Arizona Cardinals. While Toner faces the uncertainty of training camp, he can take solace in the 6’4” form of Matt Birk, a former Crimson center who parlayed college stardom into sustained success with the Ravens.
However, Toner was not the only Harvard player to receive an important phone call over the weekend.
During the fall, tight end Ben Braunecker led the Crimson in virtually every receiving category, and during the winter, he put on an impressive show at the NFL combine, ranking as one of the most athletic tight ends in his class.
Although some analysts had projected the Indiana native as a fourth-round pick, Braunecker had to wait until the draft ended to sign with a team. That’s when the Chicago Bears snatched up the unpicked rookie.
Offensive linemen Anthony Fabiano and Adam Redmond experienced a similar narrative: silence during the draft followed by a speedy phone call. Soon after the final round concluded, Fabiano signed with the Ravens while Redmond joined the Colts—the same team that claimed defensive tackle Zack Hodges last year.
All told, the four Harvard players headed to the NFL is the largest number in the modern era. That scale testifies both to the consistent success of the team and to the track record of graduates such as Juszczyk, Birk, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, all of whom have panned out at the professional level.
Meanwhile, at the level of the offensive line, the signing success of the three seniors indicates just how good that unit was for the Crimson last year.
The mass departure creates an undeniable hole for the Harvard program. But given the growing Crimson-to-NFL pipeline, it seems unlikely that the hole will last for much longer.
—Staff writer Sam Danello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:
CORRECTIONS: MAY 2, 2016
A previous version of this article and its corresponding headline incorrectly indicated that five Harvard players had either been drafted or had agreed to deals with NFL teams. In fact, four have. Additionally, a previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Zack Hodges's name.
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