Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hall Of Fame Ballot

TigerBlog was looking at the names on the ballot for the next class for the College Football Hall of Fame, and there were three names that really jumped out at him.

The first two were Tony Gonzalez and Julius Peppers.

Perhaps you know them best from their long NFL careers. Gonzalez played 17 seasons in the NFL, and he has more receptions than any other tight end ever. In fact, he trails only Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald all-time in NFL receptions by any player.

Peppers, like Gonzalez, played 17 NFL seasons himself. That's an extraordinary record of longevity in a sport that isn't know for it.

In fact, out of their combined 34 seasons, the two had 23 Pro Bowl appearances between them.

Peppers played in one Super Bowl, with the Carolina Panthers, falling to New England 32-29 on a late field goal.

Gonzalez is already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Peppers is a lock when he becomes eligible.

For TigerBlog, though, he will never look at either of those guys without thinking about their time as college basketball players. More specifically, he thinks about their time as college basketball players who helped knock Princeton out of the NCAA tournament.


For Gonzalez, it came in 1997, when he played for California against Princeton in Winston-Salem, N.C. Princeton had gone 24-3 in the regular season and 14-0 in the Ivy League under first-year head coach Bill Carmody, and the Tigers earned a No. 12 seed, matching them with fifth-seeded Cal.

The game was also Thursday at noon. Cal would win 55-52, as Gonzalez went for 13 points and five rebounds in the game. By 2:15 or so, Princeton had been eliminated, before the energy of the tournament really began.

TB remembers the empty feeling he had standing in Princeton's locker room after that game because the tournament had come and gone in a blink for the Tigers.

TB also went to the NCAA games in Charlotte the next day and back in Winston-Salem that Saturday before watching Princeton-North Carolina men's lacrosse that Sunday.

Princeton's leading scorer against Cal by the way, was Mitch Henderson, who scored 15 points on 7 for 9 shooting. He also had five assists in 38 minutes.

Then there was Peppers. That was in 2001, in John Thompson III's first season as head coach.

Princeton was 15 seed that year, matched with No. 2 North Carolina in New Orleans. This time the game wasn't all that close, as UNC built a 20-point halftime lead and then won 70-48. Peppers had 12 points, five rebounds and three steals in that one.

Those were two of the names from the ballot that jumped out at TB. The third was Keith Elias.

It's great to see a Princeton player on the ballot, especially Elias. If you never got to see Elias play, he was as exciting as it gets.

Elias is Princeton's all-time leading rusher with 4,208 yards and all-time leader with 49 rushing touchdowns, and his 299 yards rushing against Lehigh are also the school record. He was also a two-time first-team All-American who had a six-year NFL career of his own.

There wasn't one time when Elias touched the ball where TB didn't think he was going the distance. There are just some athletes who have that electric quality about them, and Elias most certainly was one of those.

Beyond that, he's also one of those people who just take over the room simply by walking in. He had it in college, and he still has it now.

Elias is one of the two best players TB has seen play at Princeton, along with John Lovett. They dominated in different ways, but they were always the focus of everyone in the stadium at all times they were on the field.

It's good to see Elias on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. There are a lot of names on the ballot form all divisions, and may of them are really familiar ones to college football fans, as you would expect.

Hopefully though whoever is in charge of choosing the ones who get in will understand the impact that Elias had on Ivy League football and how deserving he is of being included.

He certainly gets TB's vote.

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