QB's smarts work for Martz
By Ron Borges | September 11, 2005
A Harvard man in the NFL faces many biases. Perhaps the most difficult does not come on the field. It comes in the locker room, where the expectation is that he can answer any question, settle any dispute, do any mathematical calculation, and aid in the completion of any crossword puzzle.
Former Crimson quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been learning that firsthand this summer after being drafted on the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. Fitzpatrick played well enough when his limited opportunities came that coach Mike Martz casually announced one day well before the final cutdown, ''Ryan made the team about two weeks ago." That was news to Fitzpatrick, but it was easier to answer questions about that than to address some of the questions his teammates throw at him.
''I'm supposed to know all the answers to every obscure question," Fitzpatrick said with a laugh. ''Last week they asked me to settle an argument. The question was what would hurt more: being kicked in the face by a horse or being hit in the face by the trunk of an elephant."
Having never experienced either and having majored in economics, not veterinary science, Fitzpatrick was stumped. But that didn't mean he didn't have an answer.
''I said the horse," Fitzpatrick said. ''He's got a metal shoe on, doesn't he?"
That's pretty much the way it's gone all summer. Fitzpatrick has had a lot of answers, especially to the questions Martz had for him. At least those questions were about football.
''I tried not to think about the whole idea of making an NFL team," Fitzpatrick said. ''I took a day-by-day approach. I knew I'd get limited reps and I had to do my best when they came.
''It's been pretty exciting, but the adjustment wasn't as crazy as I thought. The people around me are so much bigger and faster that it helps you. And Harvard did prepare me. We ran a pretty complex offense."
Certainly not as complex as Martz's ''Greatest Show on Turf" passing game, but the complexity of the Rams' offense was less surprising to Fitzpatrick than the nuances of playing quarterback in the NFL. From the moment he arrived at rookie camp, his game was dissected and then rebuilt. That, more than anything else, came as a surprise.
''My first year in college, it felt like I didn't know anything about football, but you reach a certain point where you feel you've mastered the position," Fitzpatrick said. ''Then you get to the pros and it's like you know nothing.
''I'd been a quarterback all my life, and I'd done things a certain way all my life. Then I started watching Marc [Bulger's] technique and seeing how easy he does things and I realized I had a lot to learn. One thing I've learned under Coach Martz is the NFL is such a thinking game."
It was not until after his junior year that Fitzpatrick thought he'd be on his football toes much longer. His take on the NFL was that it would be a good thing to watch on weekends after graduating.
''The NFL thing was something I thought I'd love to do but looking at it realistically, it was not in my plans," Fitzpatrick said. ''Growing up you see these guys on TV and the NFL seems like such an exaggerated dream. Then I started to get calls from agents and I started to see things I could measure myself with and it felt like something I could do. Now I know I have the talent to become a successful quarterback in this league."
Some might say that had Fitzpatrick gone to a school where he might have a chance to win the Heisman Trophy rather than the Asa S. Bushnell Cup (as Ivy League MVP), his chances of success as an NFL rookie would be better. But he doesn't believe that's true. ''I wouldn't trade going to Harvard for anything in the world," he said. ''I got drafted and I got a Harvard degree. Kids don't realize, if you're good enough, you'll be found."
Those Ivy League years gave Fitzpatrick the answers he was looking for about a lot of things. Not as many things as his teammates may think, but to the most important ones.
''It's been exciting to come here and make the team," Fitzpatrick said, ''but Harvard was the greatest four years of my life."
Re: QB's smarts work for Martz
Was'nt Pat Haden from Harvard? I do remember they called him "Scholar" in the locker room but, that may have just been because he was so well educated, he had several degree's,