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VOL. 42 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 2, 2018

Firkser's route – Harvard to NFL – is a path rarely taken

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Harvard Crimson’s Anthony Firkser, now a tight end with the Tennessee Titans, grabs a pass against Cornell during his team’s 2016 win at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge. The second-year player is with his third team after being drafted and released by the New York Jets and picked up by the Chiefs in 2017.

-- Sipa Usa Via Ap Images

In the business world, a degree from Harvard is gold, openings doors for professionals in all walks of life and presenting opportunities for success.

Except maybe in the world of football, where playing at Harvard instead means playing far from the spotlight of a being in Power Five conference.

It also means having to work a little bit harder just to get noticed by a team or a scout. And it means having to persevere a little bit longer to prove you belong in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans tight end Anthony Firkser, who spent time with the New York Jets in training camp in 2017 and, after being cut there, resurfaced as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad for about six weeks last season. When the Chiefs released him after the draft this year, he latched on with Titans.

Firkser speaks about the meandering path that he took him from Harvard to the NFL where, believe it or not, nine former Crimson players are either on an active roster or practice squad. Among them is one-time Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, now with Tampa Bay.

Still, Firkser says it can be an uphill battle just to get noticed.

“It doesn’t really stand out in this setting – at all,” he says. “Some guys didn’t really even know that Harvard had a football team.

“We’re trying to build our reputation, now. We have a couple of guys in the league right now, and I’m just trying to keep that going and make a name for Harvard outside the academics.”

Harvard, of course, places more emphasis on “student” when it comes to student-athletes.

“The mornings were all classes,” Firkser recalls. “Everybody was in class from like 8 a.m. till 2 p.m. Then football was across the river. At 3 p.m., we’d have meetings, and then practice from 4 to 6.

“Then you’d pretty much go back to your dorm and do homework. You have football and you have school, and you have to put equal work into both.”

Even after making the Titans’ roster, Firkser has discovered surviving in the NFL still has its ups and downs.

A strong preseason allowed him to make the 53-man roster. He was demoted to the practice squad after two weeks but was elevated to the active roster a couple of weeks ago.

He has caught just two passes this season for 25 yards while playing in an offense that is targeting tight ends less than in years past. Luke Stocker’s seven catches for 74 yards leads the Titans at that position, and is the only tight end on the team with a touchdown reception this year.

Jonnu Smith has five catches for 44 yards, and veteran Delanie Walker caught four for 52 yards in the season opener before being lost for the year to injury.

“I’m excited just to be able to get out there on Sundays,” he says. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work these past two years. I’m excited to finally get to be out there on Sundays.”

Though he hopes to continue in his current vocation for a while longer and perhaps earn a bit more playing time in the process, Firkser already has some idea of what life might hold for him after football.

He has a degree in applied mathematics that will likely come in quite handy somewhere in the world of business.

“I’ll probably end up in some sort of finance job, whether it’s in banking or consulting or something like that. I’ve done a couple of internships in the past in the summers, and that’s probably where I’ll end up,” Firkser says.