Thursday, July 16, 2020

John DeWitt, Silver Medalist

So TigerBlog yesterday wrote about the 1903 Princeton-Yale football game, one that the Tigers won 11-6 to finish the year unbeaten and national champion.

As an aside, Princeton has played only three games in its history where the score was 11-6. The first was that 1903 game against Yale. The second was five years later, when Princeton lost to Yale 11-6 to finish the 1908 season at 5-2-3.

The third wasn't until 1985, when Princeton defeated Harvard 11-6. TB, quite coincidentally, wrote about that game a few weeks ago, when he talked about how the sequel for "Top Gun" is coming out. That 1985 game, by the way, saw all of its points scored on special teams.

If you're wondering, there have been almost as many 11-6 men's hockey games in Princeton history as football games. Princeton lost to Michigan 11-6 in 1950 and defeated Williams 11-6 in 1984 in men's hockey; there has never been an 11-6 women's hockey game.

There have been five women's lacrosse games that ended 11-6, and Princeton is 2-3 on those games. In fact, Princeton has as many 11-6 seasons in women's lacrosse and it does wins in games that ended 11-6.

There have been 14 men's lacrosse games in history that ended 11-6, and Princeton is 11-3 in those games. Princeton went 3-0 in 11-6 men's lacrosse games in 1950, with three games by that score in a four-game stretch to end the season (against Navy, Rutgers and Army).

And that's probably enough about 11-6.

As for the 1903 game, TB mentioned yesterday that John DeWitt, the Princeton captain, was responsible for all 11 points in the game. He scored on a touchdown (five points), a PAT (one point) and a field goal (five points). The scoring system obviously has evolved since then.

DeWitt was a two-time All-American as a kicker and a guard. That's not a combination that's too common these days.

In fact, DeWitt was not only small by a today's standards for an offensive guard, as he stood 6-1 and weighed 198 pounds, but that also makes him smaller than last year's Princeton placekicker Tavish Rice (6-2, 225) and essentially the same size as last year's punter (Will Powers, 6-2, 195).

So how did DeWitt, a guard, score a touchdown in the Yale game in 1903? He picked up a blocked field goal attempt (a drop kick actually) and ran 70 yards to the end zone.

If you're wondering what a drop kick is, it's when the ball is snapped directly to the kicker, who drops it on the ground and kicks it sort of in one motion as it starts to bounce off the field.

The last player to successfully execute a drop kick, if TB recalls correctly, was Doug Flutie, who did so in 2006 for the New England Patriots. HERE is what it looked like:

As near as TB can figure, it was a 1934 rule that made the shape of the football more of the oval shape that you know it as these days that led to the rise of placekickers, as opposed to drop kickers. Also, as you probably know, kickers used to kick the ball with a straight toe until the Gogolak brothers, including Princeton's Charlie Gogolak, became the first of what was originally called "soccer style" kickers.

Meanwhile, back at John DeWitt, he was more than just a football player.

What TB didn't include yesterday is that John DeWitt was a silver medalist in the hammer throw in the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis.

There were six hammer throwers at those Summer Games, and all six were Americans. DeWitt's throw for silver was 50.26 meters, which left him nearly five meters ahead of the third place throw and one meter behind the world record throw of John Flanagan.

TB isn't sure if the hammer today is the same weight as it was back then, but the world record now is 86.74 meters. For that matter, Julia Ratcliffe's Princeton women's record is 70.28 meters.

DeWitt is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He came to Princeton from Lawrenceville Prep, and he sadly passed away early, at the age of 48.

TB couldn't find an obit for him.

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