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Ryan Fitzpatrick: From Harvard to Buffalo

Ryan Fitzpatrick_332.jpg

by Nathan Rush

Make room, Jim Kelly and Jack Kemp, there’s another quarterback who has the Buffalo Bills charging in the win column.

Ryan Fitzpatrick rallied Buffalo from a 21–0 deficit to a thrilling come-from-behind 34–31 win over AFC East rival New England — snapping a 15-game losing streak that dated back to 2004 against the Pats.

More important, the Week 3 win improves the Bills’ record to 3–0 overall and 1–0 within the division, thanks in large part to their bearded signal-caller with the Ivy League pedigree but an everyman’s approach.

The seventh-year veteran out of Harvard has completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 841 yards, nine TDs and three INTs for a 103.5 passer rating this season. And although No. 14 jerseys are flying off the racks now, the 28-year-old’s path to NFL stardom has been a circuitous one.

Raised in Gilbert, Ariz., Fitzpatrick was an economics major at Harvard — where he led the Crimson to a 10–0 record in 2004 en route to being named Ivy League MVP.

“His intangibles were probably the best I’ve ever seen out of any college football player at any position in my 25 years as a head coach,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy told USA Today.

From there, the 6'2", 225-pounder became a minor celebrity in NFL Draft circles when it was reported that he recorded a perfect score on the famed Wonderlic test. Those reports were false, however, as Fitzpatrick admitted to leaving one answer blank and settling for a 48 out of a possible score of 50.

To date, fellow Harvard alum Pat McInally holds the only perfect score on record in Wonderlic history.

Despite his on-field success, obvious intelligence and prerequisite size and arm, Fitzpatrick fell to the seventh round as the 250th overall pick — the sixth-to-last overall selection — of the St. Louis Rams. Fitzpatrick was the 14th and final quarterback taken, behind Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell, Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, David Greene, Kyle Orton, Stefan LeFors, Dan Orlovsky, Adrian McPherson, Derek Anderson, James Kilian and Matt Cassel (a career backup who had started zero games at USC).

Fitzpatrick played two season with the Rams before being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played two seasons. In 2009, Fitzpatrick signed with the Bills.

After throwing for 3,000 yards and 23 TDs last year, Fitzpatrick entered this season under the radar. No more. The low-key leader who wears his wedding ring on the field has taken on tall tale status in Buffalo.

Even if he wasn’t around for the prior 15 losses to the mighty Patriots, Fitzpatrick knows how rewarding it is to take down a rival.

“I never lost to Yale, so I don’t even know what that feels like,” he said. “This one was probably sweeter.”