The Princeton football record book reads like a rundown of former Tiger running back Keith Elias '94's stats.
Monday, the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League decided that Elias might still be able to run down into the end zone, signing the Princeton great to a one-year contract. The deal marks Elias' return to the league after a one-season hiatus – he most recently played three years with the New York Giants, but was a victim of personnel changes after the 1996 season.
Elias holds nearly every possible career rushing record for Princeton, leading the books in carries (736), carries per game (24.5), total yards gained (4,208), yards gained per game (140.3), average yards per carry (5.7) and rushing touchdowns (49). In addition, Elias was named first-team All-Ivy League and first-team All-America in 1992 and 1993.
Though a star running back in college, Elias played primarily on special teams while with the Giants. This will also be his role with the Colts, in addition to serving as a third-down back on offense.
There is an opening for a third-string back after Marshall Faulk and Zack Crockett, and Elias will undoubtedly seek to fulfill that role. His first order of business, however, will be making the 48-man roster for the Colts.
While with the Giants, Elias saw limited action, playing in just 26 games, carrying the ball 21 times for 72 yards, while catching 17 passes for 120 yards.
For Tigers head coach Steve Tosches, who coached Elias during his four-year career at Princeton, work ethic is what separates Elias from the pack.
"Keith has a tremendous work ethic and passion to play the game," Tosches said. "He wears that on his sleeve."
According to Tosches, Elias' preparation and intensity are unmatched, and he never paced himself, even in practice. Every little thing that he did had importance in making him a better player, Tosches added.
Elias' one-year break from football fed his desire and enthusiasm to return.
"It was an agonizing, frustrating fall for Keith," Tosches said. Elias kept in touch with football as an assistant coach for his former high school, Lacey Township (N.J.), where his younger brother, Greg, plays.
"He feels confident that he can contribute to a professional team," Tosches added. "But he is also realistic and will seek to fulfill a role." Elias does not expect to jump over Faulk and Crockett into the starting backfield of the Colts, but rather merely return to the game that he loves.
Elias has kept in contact with his alma mater, regularly talking to the coaches and even making appearances for the team. Elias gave a motivational speech to the team two days before it defeated Yale, 9-0, at the Meadowlands Nov. 15.
Princeton's coaches have tremendous respect for Elias and are excited that he has received another opportunity to test his chances in the NFL.
"We are very happy for him to get a second chance," Tosches said. "He will take full advantage of it."