(Check back tonight for video footage of Mike Catapano's acceptance speech, as well as comments from head coach Bob Surace)
Senior Mike Catapano entered his senior season hoping for more than just an All-Ivy League performance. Both he and his classmates were hoping to change the direction of Princeton football. Catapano did that and more, and his performance in 2012 earned him the Asa S. Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Football Defensive Player of the Year.
Catapano, a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection, topped fellow finalist A.J. Cruz of Brown to earn the award, it was announced today during the Ivy League Asa S. Bushnell Cup Presentation, held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Harvard’s Colton Chapple was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.
"What means the most to me is that this is really a team award," Catapano said afterwards. "What we did this year, as part of this senior class, is flip the culture here. I'm part of a senior class that can say that the best is still to come. We really worked hard, and I'm so proud to bring this home to those guys, the coaches and te University. It's a team award, and I share it with those guys."
Catapano completed a dominant season on the Princeton defensive line, earning unanimous selection to the All-Ivy first team. He led the Ivy League with 12 sacks and ended the regular season ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision with 1.2 sacks per game. He ranked second in the Ivy League in tackles for loss with 15.5, which was only a half tackle off the League lead, and ranked ninth nationally in that category. The two-year co-captain ended the season with 41 tackles, and he had five games with at least two tackles for loss, as well as five games with at least five tackles.
"I'm thrilled for Mike and for our program," said head coach Bob Surace, a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award as the National Head Coach of the Year. "Even more than his play on the field, which was dominant, Mike's biggest impact on the program was the leadership he brought every day. His work ethic was a model for our locker room, and his impact on our team will be felt for years to come.
Catapano was at his best in Ivy League competition, when he led Princeton to its biggest turnaround in more than two decades. He had multiple sacks in four of the seven Ivy games and had at least half a sack in six games. He added five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles during the season. After the Tigers were the seventh-ranked defense in the Ivy League in 2011, Catapano helped Princeton improve to the third-best scoring defense in 2012. Princeton produced its first winning season in Ivy League play since 2006 and remained in the championship hunt until the final Saturday.
His 12 sacks were the most for a single season at Princeton since David Ferrara '00 recorded 12.5 during the 1998 season.
Catapano is the seventh Princeton player to be bestowed with the Bushnell Cup, following Walt Snickenberger (1974), Jason Garrett (1988), Judd Garrett (1989), Keith Elias (1993), Dave Patterson (1995) and Jeff Terrell (2006). He is first Tiger from the defensive side to receive the Bushnell Cup since Patterson in 1995 and is just the second-ever Defensive Player of the Year as the award was established prior to the 2011 season.