Thursday, September 3, 2020

Football Talk

Were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton's fall sports would have already begun with women's soccer this past weekend, and most of the rest of the fall would have been getting ready to get started with events this weekend.

The football team wouldn't have been playing for two more weeks, when the Tigers had been scheduled to be at VMI.

This means that the team would be well on its way through preseason practices for what figured to be a serious run at a fourth Ivy League championship in eight years. 

A key piece of that run was going to be linebacker Jeremiah Tyler, a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection last year and a finalist for the Bushnell Cup for the league' Defensive Player of the Year. Tyler is an explosive, game-changing player, and his defining characteristics are his intensity, his enthusiasm and his ever-present smile.

Tyler in many ways encompasses exactly what Bob Surace has wanted to build with Princeton football. He has the talent to be a potential NFL player, and he has the team-first mentality to build a winning culture at Princeton.

It's hard to watch Tyler play and not be impressed. He never stops, never slows down. He's in constant pursuit of the ball, and his ability to make big plays is, as TB said, game-changing. 

Plus, he just looks like he's having so much fun doing it. There are players, though not a lot, who combine those two qualities - the ability to dominate the appearance of pure joy while competing.

Tyler's list of honors certainly suggests that TigerBlog is not the only one who has noticed this.

Tyler was named an FCS preseason second-team All-American yesterday. He was one of three Ivy League players named to the preseason teams, and he was the only one of those who plays on the defensive side of the ball.

As TB said, the football team in a normal year would be in practice now. This, being anything but a normal year, means that isn't the case.

Still, it's good to see one of Princeton's best players during this great run the team is on be honored at least.

Princeton football is still represented by five players in NFL camps as opening day for the season approaches. Teams have been carrying 80 players in training camp, instead of the usual 90, and that number needs to be 53 by Saturday at 4.

Practice squads have been expanded from 12 players to 16 for this year, due to the probability of positive COVID tests. There have been no preseason games, which means that players have not had that opportunity to stand out. There have been an increased number of intrasquad scrimmages, which presumably gives a similar chance.

Last year was a big year for Princeton football in the NFL, of course. 

John Lovett, a two-time Bushnell Cup winner as a quarterback who is now something of a fullback/tight end, earned a Super Bowl ring while on injured reserve with the Kansas City Chiefs. He's now in camp with the Green Bay Packers.

Both of Lovett's receivers from the unbeaten 2018 team, Stephen Carlson and Jesper Horsted, started last year on practice squads (Carlson with the Browns, Horsted with the Bears). Both were activated after the midway point of the season (making them both eligible for the practice squad again this year if it comes to that), and both caught their first NFL touchdown passes.

Horsted's came on Thanksgiving Day against Detroit, which gave him a huge national audience.

Horsted was also a big part of a story in the New York Times Magazine, one with the headline "Can Athletic Intelligence Be Measured?" The subheadline was: "Teams in the N.F.L. and other leagues believe performance on a tablet can predict success in a real game."

You can read the story HERE.

The basic premise is whether or not intelligence data can predict success, beyond just the physical presence that players have. Horsted's experience a year ago is used to suggest that the answer is a resounding "yes."

It's a long story, but it's worth reading. Horsted appears in a few places in the story, including the very beginning and the very end. In fact, the very last word of the story is "Horsted."

That certainly has your attention, right? 

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