Chris Steuber: What's it like playing football at Harvard?
Chris Pizzotti: It's been a great experience. I'm playing with kids who are playing on scholarship, love football and just love to play. It's been surprising how many good athletes Harvard recruits every year. Coach [Tim] Murphy has done an unbelievable job recruiting, coaching, and he's got our program at a level right now where every season we think we can win an Ivy League championship.
CS: During the recruiting process, was attending and playing at Harvard your goal, or did you want to play Division I football?
Pizzotti: I wanted to go to an I-A school, but Harvard was the only Ivy League school I looked at. I was looking at schools like BC [Boston College], UConn, Syracuse and Duke. But when BC told me they weren't going to offer me a scholarship, I decided that if I wasn't going to go to BC, I was going to Harvard. I had a lot of offers from I-AA schools like Northeastern and UMass, as well as other schools in that conference. But it was either BC or Harvard.
CS: When you were being recruited by Boston College, Matt Ryan was already there. Do you think they passed on you because they had Ryan in the fold?
Pizzotti: At that point, he wasn't even playing; he was only a freshman. Personally, I didn't know much about him. I don't know if that played much into the decision at all.
The decision-making and physical attributes that Pizzotti possesses have made him a legitimate pro prospect.
CS: After watching you play for the last couple of seasons, the best attribute you possess is your decision-making. You play with great poise and have an understanding of how to beat a defense. Is that something you take pride in?
Pizzotti: Definitely, Coach Murphy preaches ball security and making good decisions every day in practice. Every mistake we make in practice, we have to run. I think it all starts with the way we practice, making good decisions there, and it carries over to the game. Our goal every game is to have zero turnovers. Our offense is good enough to take what the defense gives us, and we'll be all right and move the football. Coach Murphy just preaches that the quarterback doesn't have to do much, just get the ball in the right spots and everything will fall into place.
CS: During the early portion of your career at Harvard, you suffered a herniated disk in your back. How have you bounced back from that adversity, and how strong is your back now?
Pizzotti: Great, I think missing my sophomore year was the best thing that ever happened to me, because I was able to work out a lot, get my back healthy, and since then I only missed one game in four years. It's felt really good being able to get stronger, and I'm much better now in my fifth year than I would have been during my sophomore season. It worked out well, and luckily I didn't have to get surgery on my back, it was just something I had to rehab. Once I rehabbed it, it felt great and I've been able to do everything I needed to do; it feels great.
CS: Looking at your measurables and the efficiency you present on the field, I'm sure there are plenty of scouts that salivate at the prospect of developing you into a future starter at the next level. But how hard do you think it is for a scout to project you since you play in the Ivy League?
Pizzotti: I think that's a part of it. When you see a guy like Joe Flacco last year or any I-AA player, there's always going to be a knock because they didn't play top competition every week. Obviously, the athletes in the Ivy League aren't as fast and are not as strong as the Division I level. But, I think the way scouting is today it's so extensive, and if you're good enough, they will find you. If they think you are good enough to play in the NFL, they will give you a shot to prove it. Right now, it's definitely going to be a knock on me coming out of a small I-AA school. It's something I have to deal with. I don't regret coming to Harvard; I wouldn't change anything, because I've had a great experience here.
CS: Does Joe Flacco's ascension last season give you hope of possibly rising up the draft charts during the process leading up to next April?
Pizzotti: Yeah, I think that's what happened last year with Flacco and in the last few years. It's just great for college football, because now you have guys who may not have gotten a look in years past that are now receiving a longer look just to make sure they don't get overlooked. It really gives you a lot of motivation; not saying that you need the motivation, because playing college football is motivation enough. But, there is a little more incentive if you put the time in, you will get the looks, and anything is possible.
CS: I get some emails from fans wanting to know if I've ever heard of you, and of course I have, but they want to know what kind of player you really are. In the next few months, there will be plenty of NFL teams wanting the same answers. If you had 20 seconds to describe yourself and your game to a scout, what would you say?
Pizzotti: [Laughs]… I'm a prototypical passer, a drop back passer. I can move around well enough to make plays on the run; I'm not going to kill a team with my speed. I'm mobile enough to make plays outside the pocket. I think I make really good decisions in and out of the pocket. I think one of the biggest things the coaches like about me is my leadership with the team, whether it's bringing the young kids along or being a leader of the seniors, I really just try to be there for the guys and do whatever I can to help the team win.
CS: Obviously you know what you do well and what limitations you have, but have you given any thought as to what offense at the NFL level suits your skills?
Pizzotti: At this point, you just want to get a shot. That's all I can ask for is to have an opportunity to go out there and show the coaches what you can do. I watch NFL games every Sunday and there are offenses that are pretty much the same, with some having different variations based off the quarterback's arm strength and characteristics. I don't see myself in one particular offense; I just try to adapt myself to whatever the offense is that we run. In high school, it was all drop back stuff; it never was really in the shotgun. When I got to Harvard, we did a lot more zone read options where you have to be more athletic. It all starts with a shot, fitting in with a team and hopefully fitting into an offense.
CS: When did you start noticing the NFL attention, the scouts coming to the games and actually believing that you had a future to play on Sundays?
Pizzotti: I think towards the end of last year a little bit. Some of the coaches mentioned that NFL scouts were coming to see the players and they were wondering if I was coming back for my fifth year. I also think this offseason, I was getting a lot of calls from different people looking for interviews or I was just hearing from my coaches as to where I was ranked during the preseason by the scouting agencies. The first couple of practices [this season], I was just really surprised at the scouts that were coming to take a look at me and the other guys on the team. Then more and more scouts started to show up at the games. It's something you try not to focus on, but you see them there, and if anything, it helps you focus more on the little things they're looking to see. It makes you better.
CS: Getting back to Flacco for a minute, his rise happened when Brian Brohm and Matt Ryan decided to drop out of the Senior Bowl, which opened the opportunity for him to be in the spotlight. Is being invited to the Senior Bowl or a top-level all-star game a goal of yours?
Pizzotti: I'd love the opportunity to play in an all-star game. I know there are only a certain amount of invitations they send out. But whether it's the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game; any of the all-star games, whatever opportunity I have I'm going to make the most of it.
Pizzotti enjoys every game that he plays in, but when he lines up against Yale it reaches another level.
CS: Even though the Ivy League doesn't possess a national powerhouse, there are still some great matchups and rivalries. Is there one team that you get more excited to play against than any other team that you face?
Pizzotti: [Laughs]… Well, I tell the guys every week it doesn't matter who we play. But there are games, for personal reasons, you get excited for, and for us it's when we play Yale. Yale is a big rivalry; all of the alumni come back, and all they care about is if you beat Yale. That's always our biggest crowd; last year I think we had 57,000 people there. It's on national television; you want to have a good game as a team, because it's how your legacy is defined as a senior. After Yale, I'd say my favorite game is against Brown, because Brown is one of the most physical teams that we play. It's one of those smash mouth games, and you have to make plays. They play a lot of man coverage; it's a fun game to play in.
CS: What was it like defeating Yale last year for the championship?
Pizzotti: It was awesome. We were both going in undefeated in the league, there was a lot of hype over it and I think everyone knew that week that there was no way we weren't going to win that game. We had a great game plan, executed it very well and won the game.
CS: You said the Yale game defines the way you're viewed as a senior and you being a fifth-year senior, I'm sure it's even more special for you. However, when January comes you will enter a process that will feel like your sixth-year, as you prepare for the NFL Draft. Looking ahead, do you have a full understanding of what that time is going to be like?
Pizzotti: I'm really excited to finish this season on a strong note, and this offseason I'm really excited to workout for three months straight towards the biggest opportunity of my life. You only get one shot at this, and you have to work on everything. My accuracy and vision is good, but I want to make it better. My athleticism is not as good as other people, but I want to get to a point where I can show people how mobile I am. I want to put on some more weight; get stronger. I want to get more strength in my legs to make my arm stronger. I don't think I will be satisfied; I'm always looking for things to improve on. It's going to be a really exciting time.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber's features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: email@example.com.