12 Sports Stars From the Ivy League

Jeremy Lin is but the latest sports star to get his start in the Ivy League. The Daily Beast looks at the roster.

Jeremy Lin is only the latest sports phenom to get his start in the Ivy League. From Hughie Jennings to Lou Gehrig to Chuck Bednarik, the Daily Beast runs down the roster.

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Jeremy Lin

“Linsanity” has swept the nation since Jeremy Lin, an unheralded point guard out of Harvard, got a spot in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks. He has led the Knicks to victory in all six games he has started. While Lin has drawn a significant amount of attention for his academic pedigree (not to mention his self-consciously nerdy handshake with teammate and Stanford grad Landry Fields, he is far from the only jock to have gone from the Ivy League to big leagues.

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Chuck Bednarik

There have been a lot of tough guys in the history of the NFL but none as tough as Chuck Bednarik. He was the last two-way starter in the history of pro football, playing both center and linebacker at an All-Pro level during his 13 year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. But while this NFL Hall of Famer was famous for the bruising hits he inflicted, he spent his collegiate career as a Quaker, attending the University of Pennsylvania.

Nati Harnik / AP Photo

Matt Birk

Another All-Pro NFL center from the Ivy League is Harvard grad Matt Birk. Although Birk, unlike Bednarik, is merely a one-way player in today’s more specialized game, he has still excelled, making six Pro Bowl teams with both the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. Birk has also made his mark off the field and was just named the NFL’s 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charitable work.

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Bill Bradley

While Bill Bradley certainly made his mark off the basketball court as a three-term Democratic senator from New Jersey and as a presidential candidate, he had quite the athletic career as well. The Princeton grad (and Rhodes Scholar) excelled as a starting small forward for the New York Knicks, helping to lead them to their two NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. After he retired, Bradley was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

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Ron Darling

Another New York team in a championship drought relied on an Ivy Leaguer the last time it won. Ron Darling was the #2 starter for the Mets behind Dwight Gooden in 1986 when they came back to win the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Since retiring with 136 career wins, the Yale grad has gone on to become the color commentator on broadcasts of Mets games.

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Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden was one of the all-time greats in NHL history, winning the Vezina Trophy five times in his eight-year career for being the best goaltender in the league. He also led his team, the Montreal Canadiens, to success as well, as the Habs won a staggering six Stanley Cups with him between the pipes. But the Cornell graduate went on to a successful second career, serving as a member of the Canadian Parliament where, during the Martin government, he sat on the frontbench as minister of social development.

J. Pat Carter / AP Photo

Jay Fiedler

As quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, Dartmouth grad Jay Fiedler led the team to four winning seasons, two playoff berths and one AFC East title in the early 2000s. Although Fiedler never made a Pro Bowl, let alone the Super Bowl, he proved a solid and capable replacement to Dan Marino. However, Fiedler was inducted to the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

Stephan Savoia / AP Photo

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Another NFL starting quarterback with an Ivy League pedigree is Ryan Fitzpatrick. This Harvard grad captured the headlines early in the 2011 season when he led the also-ran Buffalo Bills to a 3-0 start, culminating in an impressive come from behind win against the New England Patriots, a team they hadn’t defeated in almost a decade. Although the Bills faded down the stretch, Fitzpatrick signed a lucrative contract extension and started all 16 games for the team.

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Lou Gehrig

While “Larrupin’ Lou” became an all-time great playing first base in the Bronx for the New York Yankees, he first gained renown on the other bank of the Harlem River as a two-sport athlete at Columbia. Although Gehrig was a standout fullback on the gridiron, his collegiate career was cut short when the Yankees signed him in 1923. Gehrig never got his degree but he did start 2,130 consecutive games and hit 493 home runs in pinstripes before he tragically died young of ALS in 1941.

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Hughie Jennings

Gehrig isn’t the only Ivy League dropout in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hughie Jennings dropped out of Cornell Law before finishing his degree once he had accumulated enough classes to pass the bar. The bantam-sized shortstop distinguished himself for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s as a tough and scrappy player. In fact, he still holds the career record for most times hit by pitch. After his playing days, he went to manage the Detroit Tigers over 15 years, including three consecutive American League pennants.

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Red Rolfe

In the late 1930s, the New York Yankees became the first team to win four consecutive World Series. They did so with both corners of the infield manned by Ivy Leaguers. While Gehrig played first, Dartmouth grad Red Rolfe manned the hot corner for the Bronx Bombers. In his ten-year career, Rolfe made the all-star team four times and accumulated five World Series rings. He continued to stay active in sports after retiring, managing the Detroit Tigers for four years and then returning his alma mater in Hanover to serve as Dartmouth’s athletic director.

Tony Gutierrez / AP Photo

Marcellus Wiley

The most heralded Ivy League athlete to enter the pros in recent years was Columbia defensive end Marcellus Wiley, who was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 1997 NFL draft.  In his ten-year career, Wiley had two seasons where he accumulated at least ten sacks, including a Pro Bowl season with the San Diego Chargers in 2001. Since hanging up his pads, he hasn't totally abandoned the sporting world and now serves as an analyst for ESPN.