These former NFL players received an Ivy League education


Many NFL players have attended Ivy League schools before beginning their careers as professional players. 

This list of former NFL players who have received an Ivy League education includes Super Bowl champions, Hall of Famers and record holders. 

Here are 13 NFL players who attended Ivy League schools before joining the professional league. 

Chuck Bednarik and Matt Birk were two former NFL players who had an Ivy League education. (Robert Riger/Getty Images; George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

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  1. Zak DeOssie
  2. Chuck Bednarik
  3. Sid Luckman
  4. Steve Jordan
  5. Calvin Hill
  6. Matt Birk
  7. Nick Lowery
  8. Gary Fencik
  9. George Starke
  10. Marcellus Wiley
  11. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  12. Kevin Boothe
  13. Mike Pyle

1. Zak DeOssie

Zak DeOssie is a former NFL long snapper who played for the New York Giants. 

Before joining the NFL, he went to Brown University. In 2022, he entered the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame. 

He had a 13-year career in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls with the team. He was also a member of two Pro Bowl teams. 

zak deossie nfl

Zak DeOssie retired from football in 2020 after 13 years.  ( Al Pereira/Getty Images)

In 2020, he announced his retirement from professional football. 

2. Chuck Bednarik

Chuck Bednarik, nicknamed “Concrete Charlie,” was a two-way player who played football in the 1950s. He was the last player in NFL history to play both ways full time, according to the Maxwell Football Club. 

Before enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania, he served in World War II with the Army Air Corps, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. 

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He was the first overall pick in the 1949 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Bednarik retired from the league in 1962. In 1967, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Beginning in 1995, the Chuck Bendarik Award was presented annually to the best defensive player in college football. 

Bednarik died March 21, 2015, at the age of 89. 

3. Sid Luckman

Sid Luckman went to Columbia University before joining the NFL. 

Luckman was a quarterback for the Chicago Bears, playing in the league 12 seasons. 

During that time, he won four Super Bowls with the team in 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946. In 1940, the Bears defeated the Washington Redskins, now the Washington Commanders, 73-0.

sid luckman

Sid Luckman led his team to four Super Bowl victories while he played for the Chicago Bears.  (Vic Stein /Getty Images)

In his NFL career, he threw 139 touchdown passes, according to the Football Foundation. He was an all-pro four times and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1943, according to the source. 

In 1965, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Luckman died July 5, 1998. 

4. Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan was a tight end in the NFL who played for the Minnesota Vikings 13 seasons. 

Before being picked up by the professional league, he played at Brown University. 

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Even though Jordan no longer plays in the NFL, he is still connected to the league. His son, Cameron Jordan, is a defensive end for the New Orleans Saints. 

5. Calvin Hill

Calvin Hill was a running back in the NFL who attended Yale University. 

He played for the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns. 

calvin hill

Calvin Hill attended Yale before joining the NFL.  (Getty Images )

He was also part of The Hawaiians of the World Football League (WFL). He played for the team for one season. 

6. Matt Birk

Matt Birk went to Harvard University, where he earned a degree in economics, before playing for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL as a center. 

The Super Bowl champ was a six-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. 

In 2011, he earned the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. 

Birk finished his career with the Baltimore Ravens, retiring in 2013. 

7. Nick Lowery

Nick Lowery went to Dartmouth College before he spent time in the NFL. 

In the NFL, he spent his years playing for the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets as a kicker.

Lowery joined the NFL in 1978. He spent the majority of his time in the NFL as a Kansas City Chief, from 1980 until 1993. 

When he retired from the league, he had the most field goals in NFL history, according to the Chiefs’ website. 

In 1996, Lowery founded the Nick Lowery Youth Foundation. The organization “has dedicated itself to helping disadvantaged youth, especially Native Americans, by developing, promoting and sponsoring programs and relationships that foster self-esteem, leadership qualities and skills and encourage youth to be positive assets to their communities,” according to its website. 

8. Gary Fencik

Gary Fencik is a former NFL player who played for the Chicago Bears. He got an Ivy League education at Yale University.

The safety won the Super Bowl with the Bears in 1986. 

gary fencik

Gary Fencik was part of “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” a song released by the Chicago Bears.  (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Fencik was also featured in “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” a rap tune by the 1985 Chicago Bears.

9. George Starke

George Starke played for the Washington Redskins. He attended Columbia University prior to his NFL career, where he was a physics major, according to the former player’s website. 

Even though he played tight end for the Columbia Lions, he was drafted by the Redskins as an offensive tackle, according to the source. 

After 13 years in the league, Starke retired following the 1984 season.

10. Marcellus Wiley

The football defensive end played ten seasons in the NFL. Before that, he attended Columbia University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology, according to Fox Sports. 

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He played for a few different teams in the NFL, beginning with the Buffalo Bills, from 1997 to 2000. He later played for the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars before his retirement. He was nominated three times for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, according to Fox Sports. 

marcellus wiley

Marcellus Wiley played ten seasons in the NFL.  (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

He was inducted into the Columbia University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006, followed by the Ivy League Hall of Fame in 2013, according to his website. 

11. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick was a quarterback in the NFL who played for many different teams in his professional career. 

He was first drafted in 2005 by St. Louis after playing football at Harvard. 

Fitzpatrick also played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins, before joining the Washington Football Team in 2021. 

Fitzpatrick announced his retirement from the NFL in 2022. 

12. Kevin Boothe

Kevin Boothe was an NFL offensive lineman who was drafted out of Cornell University by the Oakland Raiders in 2006. 

After playing for the Raiders, he played for the New York Giants from 2007 to 2013. He returned to the Raiders in 2014 before his retirement. 

During his years with the Giants, he won two Super Bowls, in 2008 and 2012, both against the New England Patriots. 

13. Mike Pyle

Mike Pyle played his entire NFL career with the Chicago Bears. 

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He was selected by the Bears in the 1961 draft after playing for Yale University. While at Yale, he was the captain of the 1960 team that went 9-0. This was the last time Yale had an unbeaten and untied football team, according to The New York Times. 

Pyle died at the age of 76 on July 29, 2015. 



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