By Bill Coats
Saturday, Dec. 30 2006

An NFL first will be achieved this weekend in Minnesota, no matter the outcome
between the Rams and Vikings. Color this milestone Crimson.

As in Harvard Crimson.

Although 24 players from Harvard have played in the NFL, never has one game
included three products of the esteemed academic institution situated in
Cambridge, Mass. That will change Sunday, when Rams linebacker Isaiah
Kacyvenski and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick meet up at the Metrodome with
Vikings center Matt Birk.

Joining the reunion will be Tim Murphy, Harvard's head coach for 13 years, and
his wife, Martha. Murphy plans to collect fond memories, as well as a new photo
for his office wall.

"It's exciting," Murphy said. "I have very few opportunities because of
recruiting to even watch pro games, never mind attend them. This is a great
opportunity to kind of pay tribute to those kids. Obviously, I'm really, really
proud of them. ...

"Anybody who knows Matt Birk, Isaiah Kacyvenski and Ryan Fitzpatrick knows that
these are three of greatest human beings you've ever met. They're generous,
loyal, humble and great character kids."

Birk, class of 1998, is the oldest (30) and most decorated of the three. A
sixth-round draft pick of the Vikings, he recently was selected for his fifth
Pro Bowl.

Kacyvenski, class of 2000, joined the Rams in October after being released by
the Seattle Seahawks. Until then, 82 years had passed since an NFL roster had
included two Harvard grads. Kacyvenski, a fourth-round draft choice by the
Seahawks, has been used exclusively on special teams here.

Fitzpatrick, class of 2005, has seen no regular-season action this year as the
Rams' No. 3 quarterback. A seventh-round draftee, he played in four games, with
three starts, last year as a rookie and was named the NFC offensive player of
the week after engineering a comeback win at Houston.

Harvard competes in the eight-school Ivy League, which grants no athletic
scholarships. Its football teams play a 10-game schedule and don't participate
in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.

"When you get to play with a guy on your (NFL) team or against somebody from
the Ivy League ... it just doesn't happen that often," Fitzpatrick said. "For
three guys from Harvard to be on the field at the same time, we take a
tremendous amount of pride in that."

Having Murphy in attendance adds to the excitement, Kacyvenski emphasized.
"This is the first time Coach Murphy's been at a game of mine, so it'll be
really cool," he said. "He's a great guy. He really made an impact on my life."

When one of Murphy's players reaches the NFL, it validates the level of the
Harvard program and the competition in the Ivy League. Plus, it sends an
important message, Murphy stressed.

"That getting a great education and reaching goals at the very highest level
athletically are not mutually exclusive goals," he said. All three players
completed their degrees Birk and Fitzpatrick in economics, Kacyvenski in
pre-med in four years despite the rigors of the classroom.

Kacyvenski said the group was hoping to carve out time for dinner tonight; it
would be the players' treat. "I imagine that they could afford that," Murphy
said, laughing.