A quarterback's life: Ryan Fitzpatrick, from fast food to feeding his brain


Most of the attention this week is focused on Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, but let's not forget about the other Ryan -- Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is known as the smart, bearded quarterback who has led the New York Jets to a 5-3 record after replacing Geno Smith in the preseason, but there's more to him than that. Fitzpatrick has had a fascinating career and an interesting life. He grew up in Arizona, attended Harvard and has bounced around the NFL -- six teams in 11 years.

Here are five things you might not know about the Jets' starting quarterback:

1. Fitzpatrick needs only two touchdown passes to become the most prolific former Ivy League passer in the NFL. That distinction belongs to Pro Football Hall of Famer Sid Luckman (Columbia), who threw 137 touchdowns in his legendary career. "Look out, Sid. Here I come," Fitzpatrick joked recently. He has thrown touchdowns to 40 different players, a rather eclectic group that includes Terrell Owens, J.J. Watt and Isaac Bruce. Which player has caught the most? It's not even close -- Stevie Johnson (23), formerly of the Bills.

2. Fitzpatrick graduated Harvard in 2005 with a degree in economics. Football has provided an economic boom for Fitzpatrick, who has made $39 million over the course of his career, according to Spotrac. Not bad for a seventh-round pick, the 250th player selected in the 2006 draft.

3. He has come a long way from the high school kid who lasted only two weeks working at a Wendy's. Rumor has it a customer once complained about receiving a bun with no burger in it. Fitzpatrick acknowledged in a recent interview that, yes, it happened on his watch, but he wouldn't say if he was directly responsible. He had a much cooler job in college, working as an intern for Boston Celtics icon Red Auerbach. He got the unpaid gig through general manager Danny Ainge, whose sons played high school basketball with Fitzpatrick. Basically, he was a go-fer, fetching Red's prescriptions from the drug store. He met him only once.

4. One of Fitzpatrick's fingers has been in the news lately -- his ailing left thumb, which has a torn ligament. This isn't the first time people have been talking about one of his digits. A few years back, during his days as the Bills' starter, he spoke to the New York Times about why he wears his wedding ring during games -- a rarity in the NFL. "I haven't seen a reason to take it off, I guess," he said. "It stands for something." He proposed to his wife, the former Liza Barber, at a McDonald's (sorry, Wendy's). Fitzpatrick said he popped the question between her third and fourth Chicken McNugget. How romantic. Barber, too, attended Harvard. She was a standout soccer player and claims to have been one of the first people to sign up for Facebook. Can't make the Facebook-Harvard connection? Check out "The Social Network" movie.

5. Fitzpatrick is smart. How smart? Before the draft, he scored a 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic intelligence test, reportedly the highest score ever for a quarterback. Fast-forward to last spring. He always wanted to learn how to solve a Rubik's Cube, so he asked a 12-year-old kid from his Houston neighborhood to teach him. Fitzpatrick learned quickly, and now he can solve it in less than two minutes. So can his 8-year-old son, Brady, who made headlines last year at a postgame news conference when he joined his dad at the podium and wowed the assembled media by calculating a long multiplication problem in his head. Brady probably doesn't need a computer, or an ESPN Stats & Information rep, to compute his dad's current Total QBR -- 76.7, third best in the NFL.