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|Date of birth:October 3, 1977|
|Place of birth: Syracuse, New York|
|High school: Union-Endicott (NY)|
|NFL Draft: 2000 / Round: 4 / Pick: 119|
|Debuted in 2000|
|Last played in 2007|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Isaiah J. Kacyvenski (KAZ-ə-VIN-skee;[needs IPA] born October 3, 1977) is a former American football linebacker of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He played college football at Harvard and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School after he retired.
Isaiah Kacyvenski was the youngest of five children in upstate Endicott, New York. He grew up with his parents; his mother and his alcoholic and sometimes abusive father until their divorce when he was nine. When he was thirteen, his mother left to do missionary work, leaving the care of him and his siblings back with their father.
Kacyvenski attended Union-Endicott High School where he was an honors student and served as captain of the football team. His ultimate goal was to earn a football scholarship to University of Notre Dame to play with the Fighting Irish. His mother was killed by a truck as she walked along the road on the same day of Kacyvenski's biggest high school football game in his senior season. Upon hearing of his mother's death, he fell "to his knees crying." He ended up playing in the game that night, calling it one of the best games of his life.
He received a phone call at the end of his senior year from Harvard Crimson football coach Tim Murphy offering him an academic scholarship. While Kacyvenski was reluctant to go to for fear of not fitting in, his coach convinced him that he would never regret going to Harvard.
While he was a freshman at Harvard, Kacyvenski came across items that belonged to his mother. Among the items he found a picture of his mother wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and her Bible with a passage highlighted: "Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you. I can never forget you! I have written you in the palm of my hands." - Isaiah 49:15. Kacyvenski took these things as signs that he was making the right decision in his life. Coincidentally, 49 was also the jersey number he had been randomly assigned upon arrival at Harvard.
For four years, Kacyvenski started every game at Harvard University. As a freshman, he won the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, and for three years, won All-Ivy League first team honors. As a senior, he had a school single-season record 135 tackles, and for his college career, finished with a school career-record record 395 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, and 8 fumble recoveries. He received the Nils V. "Swede" Nelson Award given to "best, most academically talented" football player in New England, and also the Harvard University Male Athlete of the Year following his senior season. Isaiah was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award that is given to the top 1-AA defensive player in the country, as well as a 1st Team Associated Press All-American.
In 2000, Kacyvenski was selected in the 4th round of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks and became the highest draft pick in Harvard history. He graduated cum laude with a pre-med degree, but elected to miss his commencement ceremony to attend the first days of football training camp. His father attended the ceremony in cap and gown in Kacyvenski's stead and received the Harvard diploma for his son.
Kacyvenski played six-plus seasons with the Seattle Seahawks recording 267 tackles in 90 games and was elected as the Special Teams Captain 3 years in a row. In 2002, Isaiah earned the starting job at Middle Linebacker, after battling for the position with Orlando Huff. In 2005, Kacyvenski was Special Teams Captain of the Seattle Seahawks and helped lead the team to Super Bowl XL, which was played in Detroit, Michigan. He was released by the team on September 30, 2006.
St. Louis Rams
Kacyvenski signed a one-year contract with the St.Louis Rams on October 3, 2006, and played in ten games for them during the remainder of the 2006 season after suffering 2 concussions 3 weeks apart.
An unrestricted free agent in the 2007 offseason, Kacyvenski signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders on July 11. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve on August 7 and released with an injury settlement a week later after undergoing microfracture surgery on his leg.
After being released by the Raiders with an injury settlement, Kacyvenski said he wanted to return for another season in the NFL.
However, in September 2008, it was reported that Kacyvenski had decided to retire. A knee injury kept him out of the 2007 season and it was recommended by Dr. James Andrews that he not continue playing.
Also in September, Kacyvenski, the first of five other former NFL players that soon followed, agreed to donate his brain upon his death to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, a joint program between the Boston University School of Medicine and Sports Legacy Institute in order to have research into the effects of concussions on the human brain performed. Kacyvenski, like many NFL players, suffered a number of concussions over the course of his playing career. At the end of 2008, Isaiah was awarded the PETA Compassionate Action Award after being the first professional athlete to donate his brain to science.
Kacyvenski was elected to the Board of Directors of Sports Legacy Institute in 2008, and has used this as a platform for awareness surrounding head trauma and making contact sports safer to play.
Kacyvenski earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2011.
Kacyvenski now works for cutting-edge conformal electronics technology company MC10, running their Sports Business. He developed the technology behind the CHECKLIGHT, a head impact measurement system, in a partnership with Reebok that launches in June 2013.
During his time at Harvard, Kacyvenski was roommates with Chris Nowinski, who later went on to become WWE Superstar Chris Harvard. After retiring from wrestling due to concussions, Chris has spearheaded the effort to make sports safer in the United States and worldwide.
Kacyvenski can be followed on Twitter @isaiahkaz.
- "Can Super Bowl heal a family's final wound?". USA Today. February 2, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- Colston, Chris (April 16, 2006). "Kacyvenski tackles forgiveness". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "Resilient Spirits: Isaiah Kacyvenski". Oprah. July 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "My Life: Challenges, Choices and Incredible Love by Isaiah Kacyvenski". Incredible People. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "Kacyvenski signs with Rams". The News Tribune. October 3, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "Kacyvenski signs one-year deal with Raiders". Press Connects.com. July 11, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-14.[dead link]
- Kacyvenski yearns for NFL return
- "Athletes agree to donate brains for concussion study". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. September 24, 2008.
- Resilient Spirits: From Poverty to Professional Football