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Featured Player: Joe Viviano

Joe Viviano has 2,428 passing yards and 16 touchdowns in his career (Gil Talbot).
Joe Viviano has 2,428 passing yards and 16 touchdowns in his career (Gil Talbot).

There is a great lineage of Harvard quarterbacks, from Mike Giardi '94 to Ryan Fitzpatrick '05 to Colton Chapple '13, and senior Joe Viviano is looking to supplant his name in the record books in Cambridge as well.

After the Berwyn, Pennsyvania native only saw action in five games over the course of his first three years on campus, the 6-foot-5 220-pound economics concentrator burst onto the scene last year amassing 2,013 passing yards, which was the eighth-highest singe-season total in Harvard history.

It has been a battle to get to the top for Viviano, but football wasn't his lone sport of choice growing up.

"By the time I was four or five, I was playing three or four sports," said Viviano.  "I was a real big fan of football, basketball and baseball, and soon as I could I joined a flag football team in my town."

It's not a surprise to see that Viviano dabbled in multiple sports, as both of his parents, Joe and Laura, were college athletes at Holy Cross.  Joe played basketball, while Laura ran track for the Crusaders.

"They were pretty supportive with whatever I wanted to do," explained Viviano.  "My parents were able to spend time with me and play sports with me all the time."

While at Conestoga High School, Viviano still competed in basketball and baseball along with football, as he earned three letters in both football and basketball.  Baseball was the sport that eventually got cut from Viviano's lineup.

"My sophomore year I was playing JV quarterback and that was the first year I realized I might have a shot at playing in college," said Viviano.  "I quit baseball that spring and tried to become the starting QB for varsity for my junior year."

When the recruiting process began for Viviano, his parents once again were a big help and influence.

"My dad did a good job of reaching out to coaches," said Viviano.  "You have to e-mail so many different coaches just to get your name out there and see what level you can play at."

One of Viviano's first offers came from Harvard, and was the first offer from an Ivy League school.

"As soon as I got that, I shut it down in the Ivy League," explained Viviano.  "In my head, Harvard is the best of both worlds."

Once Viviano came to Cambridge for his freshman year, he knew it could be a struggle to work his way up the depth chart and earn playing time.

"Coming in my freshman year, I knew that Connor Hempel '15 was the guy for the next two years," said Viviano.  "It was definitely tough to accept but you have to be humble and sit on the bench for a few years."

Viviano also had to wait his turn behind Scott Hosch '16 who was the 2015 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.

"I learned a lot from Scott," stated Viviano.  "There's no one who knows more about football than him.  Seeing how prepared he was and how he went into every day with the same upbeat attitude, it was something I admired in him."

Finally, in 2016, Viviano got his chance to be the Crimson's starting quarterback and he came out with a bang in the opener versus Rhode Island, throwing for 290 yards with three touchdown passes.

"To be honest I should've stepped back and taken a breath," said Viviano about that first start.  "But I'm definitely a guy who feeds off momentum and passion."

Harvard ended up going 7-2 in the nine games that Viviano started in 2016, while he compiled numbers that rivaled many of the great Harvard QBs of the past.

Having grown up 40 minutes away from Philadelphia, Viviano was a natural Eagles fan, and a fan of Donovan McNabb.

"He was kind of my childhood hero," said Viviano.  "Back at the time not many QBs were dual threat, and the way that McNabb played I always thought was awesome.  I wanted to do it like he did."

By his own admission, Viviano was not a big running threat in high school, but it was something that he was able to pick up in his maturation at Harvard.

"I started running out of necessity in my freshman and sophomore years at Harvard as I hadn't mastered the playbook yet," described Viviano.   "Once I became successful with that I really started to watch film to see how and when I could run.

The film study certainly paid off as Viviano checked in with 341 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns last season for the Crimson.

One of the constants through the years of Harvard's great play at the quarterback position has been the influence of Head Coach Tim Murphy, but Viviano is also quick to give credit to the rest of the staff.

"It's more than Coach Murphy, there's Coach [Joel] Lamb, Coach [Scott] Larkee," Viviano pointed out.  "Every year you know who the base coaches are going to be and what they expect." 

Viviano's fight to get to the top of the depth chart has certainly been noticed by his head coach.

"I respect Joe tremendously for his passion for football and his resilience through some challenging times," said Murphy.  "His trials under fire have made him a better quarterback and has set him up to be successful in whatever challenges come next." 

What type of challenge does Viviano want next?

"My goals right now are focused on football, and more than anything in the world, to play at the next level," said Viviano.  "The chances of that aren't always great, but that's where my focus is."

Viviano does have interest in one day becoming a coach, and he also spent the summer of 2016 as an intern at an investment firm in Boston, so his options are certainly open. 

As Viviano travels down the road of his final season in Cambridge with Harvard football, he will hang on to the memories created.

"I'll never forget the guys I've met," said Viviano.  "I'll be a part of five classes of guys, each kid different, but they become your brothers."

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