April 25, 2004
New Haven, CT - Nate Lawrie '04 competed in the 2004 Penn Relays discus competition last Friday afternoon, but he could not have been focused on making it travel far enough to get him into the finals because the National Football League Draft was just hours away.
Lawrie, an All-American tight end for the Bulldogs who did not make the Penn Relays final, won't be throwing for the Yale track and field squad again. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday's sixth round of the NFL Draft. The 181st player taken overall will concentrate on exams and making the Bucs' roster.
"This is amazing. It's something I dreamed about since I was a little boy," said Lawrie, who watched the draft on ESPN2 from his home in New Haven and then went out to dinner with his parents to celebrate. "Tampa is a great program with a lot of success. I am excited to be a part of it. I knew they had an interest in me after I flew down there and met with some of the personnel. But I also knew there was no guarantee that I would get drafted."
Lawrie, the only player from a Connecticut school drafted this weekend and just one of four from New England, was the top selection from the Ivy League. Dartmouth's Casey Cramer (7th round, 228), also a tight end picked by Tampa Bay but someone who is likely to switch positions, was the only other player drafted from the Ancient Eight.
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound receiver was the highest Yale NFL pick since wide receiver Curt Grieve was taken in the sixth round of the 1982 draft by Philadelphia. Lawrie, Yale's 35th NFL draftee and first tight end since John Spagnola in 1974, is the second Bulldog to be chosen by the Bucs. Than Merrill '00 was a Tampa choice in the seventh round of 2000.
Only two Elis have played tight end in the NFL. Spagnola, drafted by New England, spent most of his pro days with the Eagles, Packers and Seahawks, while Eric Johnson '00 was a Yale wide receiver before becoming the starting end for the Forty-Niners.
The Bulldog end accomplished a rare feat for an Ivy League athlete by competing in two collegiate football all-star contests last fall, the Blue-Gray and Las Vegas All-American Classics. He was invited to these professional football showcases because he broke the school season (72) and career (116) record for receptions by a tight end and was Yale's top offensive line performer six times in 10 weeks during the 2003 campaign.
Lawrie, who also distinguished himself as a thrower for the track & field team by scoring in all four events against Harvard two years ago, earned spots on the I-AA All-America first teams of the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association and I-AA.org (official site of I-AA football) while also becoming a first-team All-Ivy and All-ECAC pick. He was also featured in Sports Illustrated's On Campus magazine this month.
He went from three catches as a sophomore to 41 as a second team All-Ivy selection in 2002 and then bumped it up another 31 receptions last fall to move into No. 2 on the Yale all-time receiving list. All of this was accomplished while he also served as the team's top punter; he booted 40 balls for a 35-yard average in 2003.
Lawrie, who owns the second most catches in a game for a Yalie with 16 against I-AA runnerup Colgate, was an all-state gridiron performer as well as a track standout at Roncalli High in Indianapolis.
Report filed by Steve Conn, Yale Assistant AD/Sports Publicity Director