Two Rams Ready for Harvard Reunion
Thursday, December 28, 2006

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

When the Rams signed Isaiah Kacyvenski just before the week 5 meeting against Green Bay, they became the first team since 1924 to have two players from Harvard on the same team in the same season.

Kacyvenski, of course, joined quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as former Crimson on the Rams’ roster. If that bit of history wasn’t enough, things will go a step further this weekend when the Rams travel to Minnesota for the regular season finale.

The Vikings’ offensive line has long been anchored by center Matt Birk, also a Harvard graduate. According to Elias Sports Bureau, when Birk, Fitzpatrick and Kacyvenski suit up on Sunday, it will be the first time in league history three Harvard players have been on the same field.

“The Ivy League obviously isn’t known for its football so there is a lot of pride not only just for Harvard guys but Ivy League in general,” Fitzpatrick said. “It just doesn’t happen that often so for three guys from Harvard to be on the field at the same time we take a tremendous amount of pride in it.”

That trio won’t be the only Harvard representatives in the building, either. Harvard coach Tim Murphy will also be in the Hubert H. Humphrey Dome and in Minneapolis for the weekend as a guest of the players.

Fitzpatrick said he spoke with Murphy, who asked him to arrange tickets. But Fitzpatrick deferred to four-time Pro Bowler Birk on the ticket front and he arranged for Murphy and his wife to have tickets and pre-game field passes.

That means there will be a prime opportunity for a Kodak moment.

“We’ll probably all get together on Saturday night and go out to eat,” Kacyvenski said. “I still talk to Coach Murphy about once a month anyway and he was in my wedding. He’s had an impact on my life. He’s one of the real positive people in my life.”

The relationship among the three players has developed based on their ties to Harvard, but has only grown since. Fitzpatrick fist met Birk last year when the Rams traveled to Minnesota late in the season.

“He seems like a great guy,” Fitzpatrick said. “I know Kaz has a pretty good relationship with him. He’s very supportive and a good dude.”

While Fitzpatrick’s time at Harvard came much later than Birk and Kacyvenski’s, the relationship between the later two has been a mainstay. Birk and Kacyvenski played together for two years at Harvard and continue to have a strong relationship.

Kacyvenski recalls fondly the prankster nature of Birk when he was a youngster at Harvard.

“My locker was right next to him when I was a freshman,” Kacyvenski said. “He’s a pretty funny guy.”

Kacyvenski remembers peppering Birk with questions on a regular basis. It got so bad that Birk eventually enforced a limit on the number of queries he was allowed.

“After the second day of all the questions, he was like, ‘Hold on a minute. I’m going to put up a sheet in my locker and write down a mark every time you ask a question. You only get 10 a week,’” Kacyvenski said. “Sure enough, he put it up in his locker and put a notch on it every time I asked a question. It was pretty funny.”

After this weekend, Birk, Kacyvenski and Fitzpatrick will be the answer to a trivia question of their own as they carve their own little piece of NFL and Harvard history.

START ME UP: While the Rams offense has begun to click in recent weeks behind the power running of Steven Jackson, it has still not yet been able to get going early in games.

That’s one area the team would like to improve this weekend so it can give the defense a cushion and enable offensive coordinator Greg Olson the freedom to do a variety of things.

“It would certainly help,” coach Scott Linehan said. “Our plan is to play faster and start faster, but it certainly hasn’t happened. That was a big focus of what we were trying to get done this week. I haven’t seen the results of that emphasis yet, but I think our guys are coming out with a little too much ‘wait and see’ instead of taking the game to our opponent or trying to take it that way early in the game. We just keep looking for solutions and finding things we can do or ways we can mix it up. Someone’s got to make a play early too. I think we relax and get more comfortable, and as the game goes on we figure out what people are doing. I think it would certainly help us to get off to a fast start and take the lead early in a game for once.”

The Rams have not scored in the first quarter in six of the past seven games and have been outscored in that quarter on a regular basis.

INJURY REPORT: Receiver Torry Holt, who has been dealing with knee and leg issues, was held back again in part of Thursday’s practice to rest. Holt will work more Friday and Linehan said he is fine. Holt is not listed on the injury report.

Safety Jerome Carter’s ankle felt better and he went through practice again Thursday. He is also not listed on the injury report and will likely play against Minnesota.

DE Victor Adeyanju (forearm), DT La'Roi Glover (ribs), DE Leonard Little (neck) and LB Will Witherspoon (knee) are all probable and practiced.

Fullback Paul Smith is still battling a neck injury and is doubtful this week.