Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 43
 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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THEIR NUMBER’S UP: Legendary Princeton University football player Dick Kazmaier, right, and Tiger basketball great Bill Bradley will be back in town this Friday for a special ceremony in which their shared No. 42 will be permanently retired by the school. Pulitzer Prize-winning author John McPhee ’53 will introduce both honorees in the public portion of the event at Jadwin Gym.

Princeton Athletics to Retire No. 42 Forever, but Exploits of Kazmaier, Bradley Will Live On

Bill Alden

Dick Kazmaier has 42 in his e-mail address and it is part of his cell phone number.

Some 57 years ago, Kazmaier made the No. 42 an icon in Princeton University athletic history as he culminated the greatest football career in program history.

The quintessential tailback in the single wing, Kazmaier ran and passed Princeton to its second straight undefeated season and the No. 6 ranking in the final national poll.

The native of Maumee, Ohio earned the sport’s ultimate accolade, winning the Heisman Trophy in a landslide as received 506 first-place votes with runner-up Hank Lauricella of Tennessee tallying 45.

Another Princeton athlete, legendary basketball star Bill Bradley ’65, brought the No. 42 to national prominence just over 10 years later as he scored 2,503 career points and led the Tigers to the 1965 NCAA Final Four.

This Friday, Kazmaier and Bradley will be back in Princeton at Jadwin Gym to be honored in a ceremony which will culminate in the official retirement of the No. 42 at Princeton University.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author John McPhee ’53 will introduce both honorees in the public portion of the event.

Kazmaier, who has residences in the Boston area and the Florida Keys, is happy to make the trek back to Princeton for this latest accolade.

“I have respected 42 for a long time,” said Kazmaier with a slight chuckle.

“This is very nice; it is valuable for football and Princeton athletics in general. It is a reminder that good things can happen and significant accomplishments can happen.”

As a 155-pound freshman buried on the Princeton depth chart in the fall of 1948, Kazmaier wasn’t sure that he was going to accomplish much in his college football career.

“I was hoping I could get to play some and get on the first team,” recalled Kazmaier. “I had a very good spring practice as a freshman; that was one of the good things about having that option.”

In 1949, Kazmaier got on the field, breaking into the lineup and helping the Tigers end the season with three straight wins as they went 6-3.

A year later, Kazmaier burst on to the national scene, earning All-American honors in leading Princeton to a 9-0 season and a share of the national title.

In reflecting on the 1950 season, Kazmaier downplayed his contribution.

“The team did really well the last three games of 1949, we beat Yale and Harvard and that set a tone for the 1950 season,” said Kazmaier. “The Class of 1951 was a great class; they had so many good athletes.”

But in the fall of 1951, Kazmaier established himself as an athlete for the ages, leading the nation in total offense and pass completion percentages as Princeton rolled to a second straight 9-0 campaign.

In Kazmaier’s view, the success of 1950 helped take the pressure off as he and his classmates entered their senior year.

“It was an advantage that nobody expected us to do as well,” said Kazmaier.

“We lost a lot of good players. Our senior class was skinny, we only had 12 letterman. We were still determined to be successful; the Class of ’53 supplemented what we lost from ’51.”

Coming into that fall, Kazmaier was hardly determined to win the Heisman Trophy.

“It wasn’t a goal, the No. 1 thing was the success of the team,” said Kazmaier, who rushed for 861 yards and completed 123 passes for 960 yards and 13 touchdowns that season.

“We were all focused on the same thing — to be ready to play the game that Saturday and it repeated itself nine times that fall.”

The understated Kazmaier almost sounds bemused when he reflects on the fame that now results from winning the award.

“The Heisman has worn well in terms of awards; it has gained more stature and worn better than the Maxwell Award which was equivalent at the time,” said Kazmaier, who also won the Maxwell Award in 1951.

“When I won the Heisman, no one knew what I looked like. Even when I was on the cover of Time, I had my helmet on. With my helmet off, nobody would know who I was. Today, Tim Tebow [the 2007 Heisman winner] is interviewed after the game and everybody knows who he is.”

After finishing his Princeton career, Kazmaier knew that he didn’t want to go to the NFL. Instead, he headed to Harvard Business School and eventually founded Kazmaier Associates, a marketing and financial services business with investments in the sports and leisure industries.

Kazamier doesn’t regret that decision one bit. “It was the right decision; the pro game didn’t work to my advantage,” said Kazmaier, who ended his Princeton career with 1,950 yards rushing and 2,404 yards passing.

“The NFL was already more focused on the quarterback and the running back. My advantage was the ability to run and pass. I announced before the start of my senior year that I was going to business school. That was right for my career, business, and personal goals.”

While he eschewed pro football, Kazmaier still applied the lessons he learned on the football field in his business pursuits.

“I learned how you could achieve success with discipline and hard work,” said Kazmaier.

“You also realize that you have to play and work as a team and that other people are important. Being a disciplined, hard working athlete helps you when you go into other fields.”

Kazmaier is proud that no Princeton athlete [other than current Princeton senior men’s lacrosse player Greg Seaman] will ever wear No. 42 on any field.

“I think it’s very nice, I am going to be 78 within a month of the event,” said Kazmaier.

“It is something I am pleased to be identified with, the number is a symbol that achievement is worth working for and success can happen.”

Being identified with Bradley makes the honor even more meaningful for Kazmaier.

“It is great to be linked with Bradley, he was a great athlete and a great human being,” added Kazmaier.

“He has accomplished so much in his life. I was very aware that he had No. 42 when he played at Princeton. I think Eddie Zanfrini assigned that to him on purpose; he was a master psychologist. It was good for me and it was good for Bill.”

In his remarks at the ceremony on Friday, Kazmaier plans to focus on how good his Princeton experience was for him.

“I am going to talk about teammates and the Princeton approach to things,” said Kazmaier.

“Bill’s team and my team are examples of what can be accomplished. I believe the fundamentals are necessary. In some sports, the individual can dominate but in football, you can’t do anything unless everybody is doing the right thing at the right time. I happened to have the ball the most and I did some things with it and that’s what people see.”

And while nobody will ever see a Princeton athlete wear the No. 42 after this school year, the memories of what Kazmaier and Bradley accomplished while wearing that number will live on forever.

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