Boasting Ivy League intellect and Baltimore brawn, he has become one of the NFL's best players at his position. Charm City, meet Kyle Juszczyk.
What You Might Know
- Juszczyk attended Harvard University, where he earned an economics degree and served as a captain for the football team. Coming out of high school, the Ohio native garnered sparse attention from the bigger "football schools," only receiving scholarship offers to play at Ivy League institutions and Miami (OH).
"In terms of making it to where I am, I think Harvard was the best path I could have taken," Juszczyk states. "I was able to play right away when I arrived, so I had four years of good experience. I also had a head coach [Tim Murphy] who loved using tight ends and featured me for three years. I probably wouldn't have had that anywhere else."
- In an NFL era where the traditional, rugged and bulldozing fullback has become a rare breed, Juszczyk believes there are now several styles of a position that has evolved significantly.
"There are three kinds of fullbacks: There's the sledgehammer, your Vonta Leach-type players," he explained. "There are the fullbacks/running backs, guys like Mike Tolbert (Carolina) and Marcel Reece (Oakland). Then, there's the fullback/tight end, which is the category I fall into. In order to play those last two versions of the fullback, you have to be athletic enough to block in space, but you also have to be strong enough to take on linebackers who are coming downhill on you."
- A natural tight end/H-back who excels in the passing game, Juszczyk has honed his blocking skills as the lead plow for Baltimore's rushing attack. However, he has also continued to thrive as a member of the Ravens' air assault. This is evidenced by his 34 receptions, which rank as the most by an NFL fullback this season. Additionally, he has posted career highs in receiving yards (248, second among fullbacks) and receiving touchdowns (three, tied for most among fullbacks).
What You Don't Know
- One of Juszczyk's heroes is Marcus Luttrell, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who was awarded the Navy Cross Purple Heart for his actions of bravery. Luttrell, whose story has become a best-selling book and movie titled "Lone Survivor," was a guest of the Ravens earlier this season and spoke to the team before a game.
"I read his book a couple summers back, and I couldn't put it down," Juszczyk said. "His story is unbelievable, and I especially enjoyed seeing how selfless he was and how much he cared about the guys around him. It was so admirable. What those guys do is absolutely phenomenal – putting everyone else above themselves and their families."
- The person who has made the biggest impact on Juszczyk's football career is his former middle school and high school coach, Dave Ward.
"He took me on my college visits and has been my mentor and supporter all the way through," Juszczyk affirms. "In high school as a sophomore, he gave me a wristband that reads: 'Pursue victory with honor.' I've worn it every day since, because it reminds me to do things the honorable way. Don't cut corners. Do things that when people aren't looking, if they were to see you, they'd still respect what's going on."
- Though he graduated with a Harvard economics degree, Juszczyk actually sees himself following in Ward's footsteps.
"I'd like to coach high school football someday," he said. "That's the level you can make the greatest impact – personally – on the kids. Much like Dave did for me, I could see myself doing that for younger kids."
What You Need To Know
- With aspirations to be a high school coach, Juszczyk has gleaned knowledge from Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and his servant leadership approach.
"One thing I really like about Coach Harbaugh is that he really instills an idea of brotherhood among us," stated Juszczyk. "In the NFL, it can be easy to come in, punch your time and then go; you don't have to be really close with anybody. But John does a really good job of bringing the group together and getting us to believe in one another."
- When "Juice" watches film to help prepare for an upcoming opponent, he typically zeroes in on inside linebackers and safeties. After all, these are the primary players he'll battle most of gameday.
"A linebacker's particular style will change my approach," he said. "Downhill guys, I might try to slow them and cut them a couple times, or maybe I need to cheat up in my stance so I can hit them on their side of the line of scrimmage. Whereas, guys who try to make me miss, I need to have more control. I can't just put my shoulder in them; I have to use my hands and great technique."
- Steelers Week – nothing more needs to be said. In his third season experiencing the colossal clashes, "Juice" has grown to truly appreciate the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry.
"Physical – that's what it is. It's different than anything else. Everyone has an extra edge and attitude. But there is also a lot of respect there, because I don't see animosity carry over after the game. I can't wait!"