Believe it or not, there are a couple good reasons to go to Harvard. For instance, you can rub elbows with the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. (Try to avoid the next Ted Kaczynski, though.)
You can date someone who started playing the cello inside the womb or start sentences with, “Well, I considered Yale, but …”
Oh, and you can remind all the Red Sox fans of last year’s ALDS. Remember that?
There are downsides, too. Just ask Louisville senior Tyler Adams, who has spent the last six months with a Crimson target on his back — and that’s just with his own classmates.
“It started last summer when they heard I got the offer: ‘Hey Harvard!’” said Adams, a standout wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner/whatever-else-you-need-him-to-do player for the Leopards. “Once I committed, that just boosted it up even more. When I walk through the hallways, that’s what I’m known as: Harvard. If in practice I run the wrong route or if I mispronounce a word, ‘Oh, you’re going to Harvard?’”
Sure is, something Adams made official on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, where he got to stand next to the Leopards' other college football recruit, Chase Lautzenheiser, a future offensive lineman for Ashland. The two have been close friends since they were 7 and Lautzenheiser’s mother even brought a rock they signed together when they were kids.
“They’re like brothers,” said Adams’ mother, Tina.
Adams got the same vibe during his visit to Cambridge — “Harvard felt like a family,” Tina said — which is a big reason why he chose the Crimson over an offer from, yes, Yale or the chance to be a preferred walk-on at Ohio State, which wanted him as a slot receiver. It didn’t hurt that tuition will only cost him $7,000 a year, a significant discount from the $70,000-per-year sticker price.
“When they first contacted me, I was caught off guard a little bit,” Adams admitted. “It’s something you don’t really think about until it’s presented to you. But my dad always told me when I was younger that if you keep your grades up, you can go anywhere.”
Thing is, his dad was caught off guard, too.
“Academically, he’s always taken care of things and gotten straight As, but Harvard level? We were unsure,” Mark Adams said, laughing.
Adams was athletic enough, his grades (between a 3.9 and a 4.0, depending on the report card) were good enough, but the ACT was a bit of a hurdle. He needed a 26, but fell a few points short the first few times he took the test.
“So he did a little bit of work with someone (on test preparation) and that extra time paid off,” said Mark, an elementary school guidance counselor at Louisville. “Moving up a few points in a college exam, it’s not that easy. You have to put in the time and the work and he did that. He’s always been a hard worker.”
His football coach, John DeMarco, agreed, calling Adams “one of hardest workers he’s ever been around.” Classroom, weight room, practice field, playing field. All of it.
“Everyone talks about how he’s such a gifted athlete but he works extremely hard,” DeMarco said.
Adams caught 58 passes for 1,022 yards and 13 touchdowns for Louisville (7-3), which relied on Adams the way Harvard students rely on coffee during finals week. He had another 120 yards rushing — “One of our offensive sets was called Harvard, which was when Tyler moved to the backfield,” DeMarco said — along with 162 yards in punt returns and 180 yards in kick returns. He finished his career with more than 2,000 receiving yards and more than 3,000 all-purpose yards.
But he did it at a blue-collar school 10 hours away from Boston, which is why his mother, Tina, asked one of the Crimson coaches, “How did you find a kid from Louisville, Ohio?”
“To think that a young man from Louisville, Ohio, would even be considered for an opportunity like that?” she said, shaking her head. “But he attended a lot of camps over the course of the last year and did everything he needed to do to get their attention.”
Adams isn’t the first Stark County football player to go to Harvard, of course. Jackson’s Ben Graeff played there from 2007-10 and the Polar Bears sent a quarterback to the Ivy League last fall when Jake Pallotta went to Dartmouth. Louisville produced a pretty good Dartmouth quarterback back in the 1990s in Jon Aljancic, who still ranks in the school’s top 10 in career passing yards.
Although the Ivy League competes in the FCS (formerly I-AA) in football, it doesn’t compete in the FCS playoffs, making it the only one of Harvard’s 42 Division I sports that doesn’t enter the postseason.
“Ten games a year is plenty,” Adams said. “That’ll definitely give me enough playing time.”
Besides, majoring in economics should keep him plenty busy. Because maybe the only thing harder than getting into Harvard is getting out of Harvard.
“A challenge is always good,” Adams said. “I know when I get there, it’s going to be one of those things where I’m maturing as far as academics and asking for help and time management. But it’s definitely a blessing. It’s a dream to say I’m playing Division I sports, but it’s also a dream to say I’m doing it at one of the top academic schools in the nation.”
Heck, that's one of the biggest benefits of going to Harvard: You can look down on most everyone else.
Especially if they went to Yale.
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