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Ex-football player Kivlehan eyes OD spot

Infielder made Rutgers baseball team in senior year to change athletic career path
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers infielder Patrick Kivlehan saw "Concussion" a few weeks before coming to camp, and the movie's message hit home.

"It was scary and insightful at the same time," Kivlehan said.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers infielder Patrick Kivlehan saw "Concussion" a few weeks before coming to camp, and the movie's message hit home.

"It was scary and insightful at the same time," Kivlehan said.

Kivlehan was interested because there was a time when he probably would have preferred to be in an NFL training camp as a defensive back instead of Spring Training. But fate intervened during his senior year at Rutgers University, and hopefully he won't have to worry about the long-term effects of playing football.

He can concentrate on trying to win a job on the Rangers' Opening Day roster.

"I think I only had two concussions playing football," Kivlehan said. "I stayed pretty healthy. I wasn't a big thumper who got my bell rung a lot. I would play the ball."

Kivlehan played both baseball and football at St. Joseph's (Montvale, N.J.) Regional High School. But when it came time to go to college, Kivlehan wanted to play football, and Rutgers was the only Division 1 school to offer him a scholarship.

"All the other schools were Division 2A," Kivlehan said. "I just loved football a lot more than baseball. I really wanted to play football."

Video: COL@SEA: Kivlehan makes diving flip to get out at 1st

Kivlehan, having given up on baseball, spent four years as a backup defensive back at Rutgers. He was used mainly on special teams, and most of his playing time on defense came against either Army or Navy because Kivlehan had a unique ability to help defend against the triple option attack.

His athletic career should have ended once his football eligibility was up, but Kivlehan had one more idea. He asked the Rutgers baseball coaches if he could try out for the team in his senior year. They said yes, but with no guarantees. Ironically, his last football game for Rutgers came in a baseball stadium as the Scarlet Knights beat Iowa State, 27-13, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

"I just wanted to be a part of the team," Kivlehan said. "I didn't think there would be any professional prospects. But I made the team, got hot and the scouts started showing up. Suddenly it became a reality that I might get drafted."

Kivlehan hit .392 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs for Rutgers, and he was named Big East Player of the Year and drafted by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He was traded to the Rangers this offseason.

"If I had tried to pursue football, I'd be working 9-5 right now," Kivlehan said. "But I enjoyed playing football. It made me the person I am today. I learned a lot, met great people, it was a great experience. Playing in a college environment like that, I wouldn't change anything."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Texas Rangers, Patrick Kivlehan