Fitzpatrick finds new home
Former Crimson QB off to St. Louis
Late yesterday afternoon, several NFL teams called Ryan Fitzpatrick at his home in Gilbert, Ariz., making overtures with the Harvard quarterback to sign with them if he wasn't taken in the NFL Draft.
But that all changed in the seventh round with the 250th pick, when the St. Louis Rams made Fitzpatrick the first Crimson signal-caller to be drafted since the Patriots tabbed Brian Buckley in the 11th round in 1981.
"A lot of people tell you it's much better not to be drafted than drafted in the seventh round because you get to pick your team," said the 6-foot-2-inch, 232-pounder. "But it's a great feeling to be drafted. I couldn't ask for a better situation than going to such a grade-A organization."
Fitzpatrick, who planned to return to Cambridge on a red-eye last night, was one of two local quarterbacks taken yesterday. After New England traded picks in the fifth round (145th overall) and sixth round (206th) to Detroit for a fourth-round pick in 2006, the Lions used the 145th pick on 6-5, 225-pound quarterback Dan Orlovsky of UConn. The Saints picked UConn linebacker Alfred Fincher in the third round Saturday, making this the first time two Huskies have been drafted in the same year since 1962.
"It's a big surprise but a pleasant one," said Orlovsky. "I'm just ecstatic about it."
Fitzpatrick was named the 2004 Ivy League Player of the Year after leading the Crimson to a 10-0 record, capping the school's seventh perfect season with a 35-3 win over Yale. Fitzpatrick completed 158 of 276 passes for 1,986 yards, recording 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 448 yards and five touchdowns on 118 carries. Fitzpatrick finished as the Crimson's all-time leader in total offense with 6,721 yards -- 5,234 in the air and 1,487 on the ground.
The economics major, who will attend the Rams' rookie minicamp starting Thursday, was the last of 14 quarterbacks chosen.
"He doesn't fit a need at all, but I think he is such a unique and interesting player," said Rams coach Mike Martz. "The way we grade and rate quarterbacks, he was rated fairly high. He is very accurate, very intelligent, and extremely competitive."
Detroit had pegged Orlovsky as a third-round selection. When the native of Shelton, Conn., was still available in the fifth round, the Lions contacted the Patriots to trade up. Orlovsky is expected to be Detroit's third-string quarterback behind Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia.
"I've been working the phones all day and this was the first thing we had," said Detroit president and CEO Matt Millen. "He was sitting up there and he was the highest guy left on our board at a position where we needed some help, so we went up and got him."
Orlovsky, who had hoped to continue wearing No. 7 in the NFL (Detroit has retired the number, which belonged to Hall of Famer Dutch Clark in the 1930s), chose No. 9, Fincher's number at UConn. David Dunn, Orlovsky's agent, also represents Harrington, and introduced the two several months ago. Greg Olson, Detroit's quarterbacks coach, held the same position at Purdue from 1997-2000 and recruited Orlovsky.
Orlovsky, who will leave for Detroit Wednesday, has experience on the Lions' home turf. On Dec. 27 at Ford Field, he led UConn to its first bowl victory, completing 20 of 41 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns in the Huskies' 39-10 win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl. Orlovsky was named MVP. "They had me ranked pretty high," said Orlovsky. "That they traded up is a great feeling to know that an organization wants you. That's the feeling I got from Coach [Steve Mariucci], listening to his demeanor and the excitement in his voice. He really sounded happy."
Orlovsky had the second-most touchdown passes (84) among active Division 1-A players, trailing only Hawaii's Timmy Chang (117). He set UConn records for most completions (916), attempts (1,567), yards (10,706), touchdown passes (84), and interceptions (51). Orlovsky also set a school record by throwing at least one touchdown in 25 straight games. As a senior, Orlovsky recorded 23 touchdown passes, completing 288 of 457 passes (63 percent) for 3,354 yards.
"The things are there which you can't teach," Millen said. "He's a mobile kid, he's got a good arm, he's got some escapability, and he sees the field well. We're in a situation where he can learn, take some time, and get better. We'll take advantage of that."
Orlovsky said that while he was somewhat disappointed not to be picked on the first day of the draft, he wasn't concerned with his subpar performance at the Senior Bowl, when he was sick. Instead, Orlovsky was thrilled about the possibility of throwing passes to Detroit's cadre of sticky-fingered receivers, including Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, and Marcus Pollard. Detroit also took former Southern California standout Mike Williams with the 10th overall pick Saturday.
"How could you not be successful throwing to those guys?" Orlovsky asked.
Detroit will visit New Orleans Dec. 24. As the host and the Husky with the bigger salary, Fincher is expecting Orlovsky to come calling for dinner plans.
"Looks like I'm paying," Fincher said.