Bloomberg News: Harvard Lineman's Drive to `Punish' Lures NFL Scouts Scouring Ivy League

Bloomberg News: Harvard Lineman's Drive to `Punish' Lures NFL Scouts Scouring Ivy League

-by Curtis Eichelberger, Blomoberg News

Harvard University football player Brent Osborne says his dream jobs are playing professional football and running a technology start-up company. He may do both.

When the Crimson begins its 2010 Ivy League football season Sept. 18 at home against Holy Cross, National Football League scouts and college football analysts will be tracking the progress of Harvard’s 6-foot-5, 295-pound right guard.

“I know I have a shot,” says the 21-year-old senior. “I have to take it.”

Osborne is one of a handful of Ivy League players who may attract the attention of scouts this season, said Ross Tucker, 31, a former Princeton University offensive lineman who played seven seasons in the NFL. Osborne can overcome predispositions against players from a league better known for producing presidents than linemen.

“Normally the way is to have a very physical, violent temperament on the field,” said Tucker, who works as an analyst on Ivy League telecasts on Comcast Corp.’s Versus network. “He has that.”

Another player who might attract the NFL’s attention is Yale University senior defensive tackle Tom McCarthy, who had 21 solo tackles and three quarterback sacks last year. McCarthy will lead the Bulldogs against Georgetown University Saturday in New Haven, Connecticut. Tucker says he would probably be converted to a defensive end or outside linebacker at the pro level.

NFL Lineup

The eight Ivy League schools play in college sports’ second-largest football division, don’t offer athletic scholarships and won’t usually face the nation’s top teams or players. To get the NFL’s attention, players have to have spectacular seasons, scouts said.

Three of the past five presidents have undergraduate degrees from Ivy League schools. Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York and George W. and George H.W. Bush from Yale.

There were five former Ivy League players on NFL rosters at the start of this season: center Matt Birk (Harvard, Baltimore Ravens), defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (Harvard, Oakland Raiders), quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard, Buffalo Bills), linebacker Zak DeOssie (Brown University, New York Giants) and guard Kevin Boothe (Cornell University, New York Giants), who is on the physically unable to perform list with a torn pectoral muscle.

Size and Speed

Osborne has the attitude for success, said Harvard coach Tim Murphy.

“You have some linemen in college who block people, but it’s an entirely different type of kid who tries to punish people,” Murphy said. “He’s that type of player. He has that type of physicality. He has the potential to be that kind of player.”

The first thing a scout asks himself is whether a prospect has NFL size and speed, said Joe Hortiz, the Ravens’ director of college scouting. Both Osborne and McCarthy will probably have to add weight, he said. Then it is more about execution and consistency, rather than doing something flashy, like knocking an opponent down.

“We know the difference between what looks great and what is real and solid and consistent,” Hortiz said. “You can’t fool us.”

Osborne’s dreams of starting his own technology company have begun to take shape. The computer science major from Draper, Virginia, has teamed with linebacker Anthony Rotio, of Hope, New Jersey, and classmate William Marks, a junior from Hollywood, Florida, to form, a nutritional website which the trio hopes to launch shortly.

Computers and Weights

The technology will allow users to match dietary needs with cuisine at local restaurants, Osborne said in an interview. The key is the algorithm the trio developed to match the users’ needs with restaurants’ food offerings, he said.

Osborne said he split his time this summer between writing computer code for the website and working in the weight room to add muscle. His bench press is 375 pounds and his squat is 500 pounds, he said. Hortiz said 500-pound squats are good even by NFL standards, though the benchmark for bench presses is about 400 pounds.

He said he’ll lean on his partners to get the company off the ground if he’s in an NFL training camp next summer.

“You have to be the most dominant lineman on the field at all times,” Osborne said. “That’s the main thing. Nothing else is acceptable. I know that.”

Ivy Look

Yale’s McCarthy, a 6-foot-6, 243-pounder from Chester, New Jersey, has the right size and speed to play defensive end in the pros, Yale coach Tom Williams said in an interview.

He is “very agile for a big man, and can change direction and accelerate” well, Williams said. He’s also a great ball- catcher who would have been a “can’t-miss NFL guy if he was a tight end from Day 1.”

Hortiz said the Ravens scout all the big schools in the spring, and hit smaller schools with “known” prospects in the fall. That’s when they’ll probably look at Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Yale and other Ivy League schools. The Ravens will be watching Osborne and McCarthy, he said.

“You don’t always need ‘Wow’ plays to be noticed by an NFL scout,” Hortiz said. “We need consistency, good attitudes, hard workers, guys with room to improve. If a guy’s got that, it will show itself this fall when the video is running.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Curtis Eichelberger in Washington at [email protected]