Ivy League players carry stigma to NFL
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Their bond is undeniable and unspoken, a link that will connect them for decades to come.
It's a small fraternity, but the relationships within it are strong, having been forged through similar struggles of trying to prove one's worth.
The road to the pros isn't easy for any college athlete -- but especially for football players from the Ivy League.
"If you're good enough to play and develop into a good player, then you're going to be successful. It just takes the opportunity to be out there," said Dartmouth graduate Jay Fiedler, a former Oceanside star who was an NFL quarterback for eight seasons, including four with Miami and one with the Jets. "And I think for Ryan and myself, the opportunities weren't exactly thrown at us. We had to work for it and take our time and work our way up from backup jobs."
Fiedler -- who played for Dartmouth from 1991-93 and still holds school records for career passing yards (6,684), total offense (7,249) and completion percentage (64.1) -- recalled the stigma associated with Ivy League players.
"I might have had one game, when I played in college, that was even on a TV broadcast," said Fiedler, 39, who lives on Long Island and works for Legends Energy Group, a Buffalo-based company started by former Bills running back Thurman Thomas. "So the number of coaches and personnel people that saw me play were few and far between."
Fiedler was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994.
There were several Ivy League quarterbacks in the NFL in the 1980s and '90s, the most notable being Jeff Kemp (Dartmouth), a backup for the Chargers and Seahawks from 1981-91, and current Cowboys coach Jason Garrett (Princeton), who played for the Giants and Cowboys from 1993-2000.
There are six former Ivy League players on active NFL rosters, but just one quarterback -- Fitzpatrick.
The chances of turning an NFL dream into a reality is slim for any high school athlete. But an Ivy League career shouldn't be a deterrent, Fiedler said. "If you're good enough," he said, "they're going to find you."