Kacyvenski makes history for Harvard

Linebacker selected by Seahawks in 4th round

NFL Draft

April 17, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- What kind of college draft was this?

It was a draft in which Harvard had a player selected before Notre Dame.

When linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski was selected in the fourth round of the second day of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, he became the highest player ever picked from Harvard.

"It feels awesome," the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Kacyvenski said in an NFL online chat. "It's a childhood dream. The whole week it's been hard to sleep."

By contrast, Notre Dame didn't have a player selected until the seventh round when the Denver Broncos took quarterback Jarious Jackson. Kacyvenski wanted to play for the Irish, but they didn't offer him a scholarship.

Harvard tends to have more students drafted by Wall Street than the NFL, but then Kacyvenski isn't your typical Harvard student, with his shaved head and fondness for cutoff T-shirts.

"Only in America could the son of a janitor go to Harvard," his father, David, told the Boston Globe.

Kacyvenski remembers his childhood when his family, with five children, would go months without electricity and hot water. They would take home supermarket leftovers.

His mother was killed in an auto accident in 1995 when he was a senior in high school, but he played in a playoff game two days later. He said football was "something I could hold onto."

He wishes he could share his success with her.

"I'd like to talk to her about it. Life can end at any moment is what I've learned and I just take every day like it's my last," he said.

Kacyvenski has overcome the odds all of his life. For example, Notre Dame only offered him a chance to be a walk-on, but he needed a scholarship to go to college. Harvard doesn't give athletic scholarships, but he qualified for a need scholarship.

Kacyvenski was the first player in school history to start all 40 games of his four-year career. He also finished as the Crimson's all-time leading tackler (395), the single-season record-holder in tackles (135 in 1999), and single-game record-holder for tackles (20 against Colgate and Fordham in 1999).

He did all this while taking pre-med courses toward becoming a doctor.

Because he played in the Ivy League, he wasn't invited to the scouting combine, but he impressed scouts in individual workouts.

"I get up every day and I feel like I'm a little kid. Anything a team wants me to do, I'll do. I realize how lucky I am," he said.

The second day of the seven-round draft tends to be for overachievers such as Kacyvenski and for players who aren't rated as highly as NFL prospects as they were in college.

The Oakland Raiders pulled their usual surprise yesterday. After taking kicker Sebastian Janikowski of Florida State in the first round, they picked punter Shane Lechler of Texas A&M in the fifth round.

Among the name players who slipped to the second day were a pair of quarterbacks. Tennessee's Tee Martin lasted until the fifth round, when Pittsburgh took him, and Joe Hamilton of Georgia Tech went to Tampa Bay in the seventh round.

Martin is considered too inaccurate to be a top-notch NFL prospect while Hamilton, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, is considered too short at 5-foot-10.

However, Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy has a soft spot for short quarterbacks. He remembers when a short University of Minnesota quarterback went undrafted in the NFL in 1977, was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and turned into a defensive back.

His name? Tony Dungy.

He filled in as an emergency quarterback when the top two were injured and still is the last NFL player to throw a pass and intercept one in the same game.

In contrast to last year, when five quarterbacks were selected within the first 12 picks, only three were selected in the first four rounds.

Chad Pennington of Marshall, who went to the New York Jets with the 18th pick, was the only one to go in the first two rounds. He was joined by San Francisco's Giovanni Carmazzi of Hofstra and Baltimore's Chris Redman of Louisville in the third round.

Martin was the only quarterback selected in the fifth round. In the sixth, New Orleans took Marc Bulger of West Virginia, Cleveland took Spergon Wynn of Southwest Texas State, New England selected Tom Brady of Michigan, Washington took Todd Husak of Stanford, and San Diego selected JaJuan Seider of Florida A&M.

In the final round, San Francisco took Louisiana Tech's Tim Rattay, Denver selected Jackson and Tampa Bay took Hamilton.

Stanford's Troy Walters, the Biletnikoff winner as the nation's best receiver, lasted until the Vikings took him in the fifth round because he's 5-6 1/2.

The 16-hour, 25-minute draft came to a close when the Bears selected defensive back Michael Green of Louisiana-Lafayette.

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