Thursday, December 3, 2009

Princeton 1, Alabama 0

Paul and the gang at physical therapy do a pretty good job of keeping the magazine choices fresh, which comes in handy during the 20-30 minutes that TigerBlog is now able to ride the bike. Granted, it's a long way from again being able to play squash, which is TB's ultimate goal.

During his three-times-per-week visits to physical therapy, TigerBlog has read a diversified selection that has included U.S. News and World Report, Time, ESPN the Magazine, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic and another magazine whose name TB doesn't remember that had a great story in it about Stonehenge.

Mostly, TB reads Sports Illustrated, a magazine that he had a subscription to from roughly 1974 through 2000. Of late, there was a great story about Joe Paterno, and the NBA preview issue was good.

TigerBlog read the story in last week's issue about Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who has led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season heading into Saturday's SEC championship against Florida. The crux of the story is that Ingram has made a serious run at the Heisman Trophy while his father, who shares his name, sits in jail near Kennedy Airport awaiting sentencing for a bank fraud and money laundering conviction. The elder Ingram had fled rather than report for prison last winter and was captured a short time later.

TB remembers Mark Ingram as a key member of the New York Giants' second Super Bowl-winning team. It was Ingram who made maybe the biggest play in the Super Bowl win over Buffalo when he evaded five tacklers to pick up a first down and keep a touchdown drive alive.

The talk of the younger Ingram as a serious Heisman threat is not new, but there was one fact in the story that TigerBlog found astonishing: Alabama has never produced a Heisman Trophy winner.

With all of the great players who have played football at 'Bama and with all the national championship teams the school has produced, how could it be that nobody has ever won a Heisman?

Once that reality was digested, TB's next thought was this: Princeton leads Alabama 1-0 in Heisman Trophy winners.

It's been 58 years and two days since Dick Kazmaier won the 1951 Heisman Trophy (now on display in the Jadwin Gym lobby) for Princeton, a feat no Ivy League player has matched since. He was the main cog in Charlie Caldwell's single-wing offense, which today is making a comeback under the name "Wildcat."

Equally skilled at passing and running, Kazmaier accounted for 55 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards of total offense. He helped Princeton to undefeated seasons in 1950 and 1951, when Princeton was ranked first in the East and sixth nationally.

He was also named the 1951 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Kazmaier's story is a familiar one to Princeton fans. He grew in Maumee, Ohio, and was an undersized back on the freshman football team. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but passed on the NFL to go to Harvard Business School, and he went on to a long career in business and philanthropy.

The first time TigerBlog met Kazmaier, he had a conversation with him about a deli in Connecticut that both love (Rein's Deli in Vernon, which, though not a sponsor of Princeton, TB can't recommend enough). Through the years since, TB has had a chance to spend some time with Kazmaier on several occasions, and there is no doubt that Kazmaier ranks as one of the gentlest, most unassuming people TB has ever met.

He is soft-spoken and almost apologetic about winning the Heisman, as if that individual honor has detracted from the more important accomplishments of his Princeton teams. His number at Princeton, 42, which was later worn by Bill Bradley in basketball, has been retired across all sports at the University; there is a statue of him in the lobby of Jadwin as well.

The Kazmaier that TigerBlog has met long ago left behind his football days, and so it was with great interest that TB saw the picture of Kazmaier on the cover of Time magazine from Nov. 19, 1951. In the picture, Kazmaier looks serious and athletic and, well, tough. There are only small portions of his face from 1951 that are recognizable in 2009. It's a fascinating portrait.

TigerBlog has long suspected that if you ask Dick Kamzaier to write down on a piece of paper the five best football players in Princeton history, or for that matter the five best players of his era, he would give you back a list that didn't include his name. It's a hunch, just as TB has a hunch that if you introduced him to someone as "Dick Kazmaier, Heisman Trophy winner" that he would get embarassed. These are hunches that speak to the humble nature of the man.

And who's to say? Maybe he isn't the best player in the 140-year history of Princeton football, but that doesn't matter, because his was the career that was stamped with college football's ultimate individual honor.

The Heisman Trophy. Princeton 1, Alabama 0.


Anonymous said...

I've had the honor of meeting Mr. Kazmaier, and he's truly one of the classiest gentlemen ever to come out of Old Nassau, or anywhere.

Anonymous said...

How did Princeton (on display at Jadwin) get the Heisman? Kaz gave it to his high school. Is it on loan?