No. 2: Dick Kazmaier '52
Good athletes are perfectionists who work tirelessly on the details until they become second nature. Great athletes are unassuming leaders who encourage others to succeed while downplaying their own contributions. But true champions must also have another characteristic: nerves of steel during crunch time.
During the 1951 season, with America watching the college football season's marquee matchup, tailback Richard "Dick" Kazmaier '52 showed exactly why he is a true champion. Facing an undefeated Cornell squad, Kazmaier keyed Princeton's 53-15 domination of the Big Red, completing 15 of 17 passes and tallying 360 yards of total offense, including three touchdown passes and two runs into the endzone.
"When the chips were down, Kaz was the one to break it open," quarterback George Stevens '52 said. "[Against Cornell] Kaz just went wild."
The versatile Kazmaier — who can be considered one of greatest ever to don the Orange and Black — was forever immortalized in Tiger lore when he became Princeton's sole member in America's most elite fraternity, by riding his Cornell performance to the 1951 Heisman Trophy in a landslide of unprecedented proportions.
Kazmaier's grandson, Cole Fisher, witnessed the Heisman ceremony for the first time this past weekend. Though the eighth-grade football player said it is sometimes hard to be compared to such a legend, it does come with certain perks: he was the first to grab Troy Smith's autograph after the Ohio State quarterback won the 2006 Heisman on Saturday evening. A day later, he recalled an epiphany that Princeton football fans have long known.
"When I was in third or fourth grade, it started to get to me that my grandpa was one of the best football players ever," said Fisher.
Playing under head coach Charles Caldwell '25's single-wing offense, Kazmaier was allowed the freedom to run and pass his way to Princeton career records of 6.6 yards per play of total offense, tallying 1,827 yards of total offense in his Heisman season.
"He was a very fast runner, a slithery runner, no one could get a real piece of him," Stevens said. "The defensive secondary fell on their noses trying to tackle him."
In the single wing, the quarterback was mostly a blocking back, while Kazmaier would take the snap and engineer yardage by passing, running or handing off the ball. If playing today, he would probably have been a quarterback, but the players around him and the offensive scheme he played under allowed him to excel in unprecedented ways.
"I was neither the greatest passer nor the greatest runner, but in combination it fit very well," Kazmaier said. "The system was sort of right for me. I always say that I was in the right place at the right time and with the right people."
Kazmaier was such a versatile athlete that he also punted for the football team and lettered in basketball. Playing at guard, he was actually the highest scorer on the Princeton freshman basketball team, but his dedication was more focused on football, so his basketball talent never panned out.
"When you win at football there's nothing like it," Kazmaier said of his interest in the sport, despite being a fifth string tailback on the freshman team.
By his junior year, his first of two All-American seasons, Kazmaier was a key part of an undefeated team that was ranked number one in the nation by the Boand and Poling polls and racked up a Princeton record that still stands at 38.8 points per game. In his senior season, the Tigers went undefeated again, a back-to-back accomplishment that Princeton has yet to repeat.
Kazmaier was drafted by the NFL's Chicago Bears, but opted out of professional football for a degree from Harvard Business School, which was followed by a stint in the Navy.
"We had won 22 straight games, I had played with the best men I have known and we were at the top of the world," Kazmaier said of his decision to end his football career.
He eventually started his own company, Kazmaier Associates, Inc., which he still presides over today. His intensity and perfectionism have served him well in the business world, but Stevens also remembers his self-effacing attitude when dealing with the popularity and awe of his fellow classmates.
As current athletic director Gary Walters '67 claims, beyond Kazmaier's accomplishments, he is just "an all-around classy guy."
Walters isn't the only former Princeton ballplayer to respect Kazmaier's accomplishments. Bill Bradley '65, who by coincidence wore Kazmaier's No. 42 jersey, looked up to Kazmaier as a role model when he was growing up.
"It's certainly an honor to have worn the same number as him. He was somebody that I admired [when] playing football in high school and in the sandlot when I was a kid," Bradley said. "He had won the Heisman Trophy, and he went to Princeton, and I wanted to be him."
In yesterday's paper: No. 3: Yasser El Halaby '06 Read the full series.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.