Dec. 8, 2011: DICK KAZMAIER REFLECTS ON HIS PRINCETON CAREER
TigerBlog On The Passing Of Dick Kazmaier
Dick Kazmaier ’52, a legendary name in both Princeton and college football lore, passed away Thursday, Aug. 1, at the age of 82.
Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner and a 1966 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, has been the face of Princeton Football since his days as an undergraduate, when he led Princeton to the 1950 national championship. He is Princeton’s only Heisman Trophy winner, and the most recent of three in Ivy League history to win the sport’s most prestigious honor.
“Today Princeton University, the Tiger Athletic Program and Tiger Nation are mourning the loss of Dick Kazmaier ’52, one of our most accomplished student-athlete icons of the 20th Century,” said Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67. “In addition to having won the Heisman, #42’s most enduring trait for me was that he also was a dignified ‘Wise Man.’
“Notwithstanding all of the achievements in his athletic, business and philanthropic endeavors, Dick remained one of the most self-effacing individuals I have ever met. He never sought the spotlight and always led in a thoughtful and ethical manner.
“Indeed, Dick was also the father of six daughters and he became a major force behind the scenes as he helped to implement the Title IX Legislation that was passed in 1972 in order to provide equal competitive opportunities for women in college.
“As is the case with many of his Princeton friends, Dick was a personal mentor and advisor for me in my role as Athletic Director; and I will miss him dearly as a friend.”
From the small town of Maumee, Ohio, Kazmaier spent his first year at Princeton fifth on the depth chart. Within two years, he became the ultimate double threat in the single-wing offense of Hall of Fame head coach Charlie Caldwell; by his graduation, he was Princeton’s all-time leader in rushing (1,950 career yards) and ranked second in passing (2,404 career yards). His 59.5 career completion percentage still ranks third all-time at Princeton.
While his numbers tell some of the story of his brilliant career, his greatest mark on the program could be found in team accomplishments. Princeton went 18-0 over his final two years, and it won the 1950 national championships based on both the Boand and Poling final polls.
The 1951 season saw Princeton earn another Top 10 national ranking, but Kazmaier’s individual heroics had more than captivated the nation. Featured on the cover of Time Magazine that year, Kazmaier went on to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide. He earned 1,777 points in the 1951 vote, which at the time was a record by more than 460 points. Kazmaier received 506 first-place votes that season; Tennessee's Hank Lauricella, who placed second in the voting, received 45 first-place votes.
Kazmaier led the nation in both total offense and passing accuracy that season; arguably his greatest performance came in a 53-15 win over then-unbeaten Cornell. He completed 15 of his 17 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 124 yards and two more scores.
He had the opportunity to play at the professional level — the Chicago Bears drafted him — but he had made up his mind to attend Harvard Business School. Following a three-year stint in the Navy, he returned to the business world and was another remarkable success. He eventually founded Kazmaier Associates, Inc., a Concord, Massachusetts firm that has invested in, managed and consulted for sports marketing and sports product manufacturing and marketing businesses since its founding in 1975.
Kazmaier served his country as an ensign in the United States Navy. He also served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
A friend to both the University and the football program throughout his life, Kazmaier spent time as a University trustee, as well as a member of the Princeton Varsity Club Board of Directors. He sent three of his six daughters to Princeton, and he had visited with the team as recently as prior to the 2011 Harvard game, as well as following the 2010 victory over Lafayette, the first victory for current head coach Bob Surace.
“My admiration for Dick Kazmaier goes well beyond the respect earned by his being the greatest football player in the unmatched history of our Princeton program,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “Whenever I talk to our team about Dick Kazmaier, it is not about the Heisman, the undefeated seasons, statues or awards. It is about the traits that Dick shared with me in every communication we had, the qualities that make up the ideal Princeton man — character, dignity, strength, intelligence, humility, unselfishness, commitment and passion to be exceptional in every area of life.
“I will cherish the friendship, support and mentorship that I am fortunate to have with Dick Kazmaier and will pass these values along to our future Tigers,” Surace added.
His legacy remains with the University, which retired the number ‘42’ during the fall of 2008; that number was shared by two of its most historic alumni, Kazmaier and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley ’65.
"It's certainly an honor to have worn the same number as him. He was somebody that I admired [when] playing football in high school and in the sandlot when I was a kid," Bradley said in a 2006 piece for the Daily Princetonian. "He had won the Heisman Trophy, and he went to Princeton, and I wanted to be him."
A statue of the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner rests outside of Jadwin Gym, just south of Princeton Stadium.
“His strongest characteristic was loyalty and his greatest talent was friendship,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former classmate John McPhee ’53.
Kazmaier, a psychology major at Princeton, and wife Patricia had six daughters: Kathy L. Donnelly, Kristen Kazmaier Fisher, Michele S. Kazmaier, Patricia J. Kazmaier-Sandt ’86, Susan M. Kazmaier ’81 and Kimberly Picard ’77. Three daughters were Princeton graduates, including former women’s ice hockey standout Patricia (Patty) Kazmaier, a four-year varsity ice hockey letterwinner who anchored the Princeton defense and led the Tigers to the Ivy League championship in three consecutive seasons (1981-82 through 1983-84), while earning multiple league honors.
Patty Kazmaier died of a rare blood disease in 1990; in her honor, Dick Kazmaier, in association with the USA Hockey Foundation, created the Patty Kazmaier Award. First given in 1998, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Other selection criteria include outstanding individual and team skills, sportsmanship, performance in the clutch, personal character, competitiveness and a love of hockey. Consideration is also given to academic achievement and civic involvement.
Below is the text from John McPhee’s speech on Dick Kazmaier when the No. 42 was retired at Princeton:
Video of John McPhee's speech at the 42 Retirement Celebration
Video of Dick Kazmaier's speech at the 42 Retirement Celebration
Forty-two is not just any old number to Dick Kazmaier. Princeton may be retiring it, but he is not about to. It's his lucky number, and he is enduringly superstitious. When he went down the tunnel into Palmer Stadium for football games, he was always the last player. It had been so augured. Somewhere. He told George Stevens, the quarterback, never to let him touch the ball on Princeton's first play. In the old single wing, the tailback and the fullback always lined up where either one could take the snap -- Dick Kazmaier or Russ McNeil. After other teams somehow became aware of Dick's superstition, Russ McNeil, on the first play, went down like General Custer.
Dick's Massachusetts license plate is KA42. His email address is RWK42@earthlink.net. When he is in a restaurant, if the check comes to x dollars and forty-two cents he is made happier than he could ever be by the sum contents of ten thousand fortune cookies. Seat number 42 in any kind of theater or arena is a good-luck seat. The number "6" shimmers in his thoughts. Bob Ruxin, his general counsel, mentioning some of these things, added wistfully, "I've never been with him in a casino." (Bob, who was in the Princeton Class of 1975, was in my writing class in the same year.) Wikipedia says that the number worn by Dick Kazmaier playing football at Princeton was 21. This confirms what professional fact-checkers have long been telling me -- that Wikipedia is generally about half right.
Ours was an era when there were freshman teams. Dick says that he had a better season in freshman basketball than in freshman football. As a sophomore in varsity basketball, however, he was busted to a lower echelon -- who knows why -- by Coach Cappy Cappon, but I'm wickedly glad Cappy did that, because that's how I came to know Dick. In his sophomore year, I was a freshman basketball player on a low level in every sense of the term. At practices, the varsity first five scrimmaged against the freshman first five, then second five versus second five, etcetera. If you weren't playing, you were sitting on the bench talking, and Dick and I, being at comparable depths on the varsity and the freshman squads, spent a lot of time sitting on the bench talking.
In his fourth year, my third, we roomed with eight others -- seniors and juniors -- in a suite in 1903 Hall that had a common living room. Dick shared a bedroom with John McGillicuddy, who, like both our honorees tonight, has been on Princeton's Board of Trustees. We supplied our own furniture in those days. McGillicuddy had an old Navy bunk bed and kept his trunk under it to prevent it from collapsing. Kazmaier had a bed that would not have disappointed Louis XIV. Kaz was on the cover of Time magazine, November 19, 1951, and the article said, "His desk is neat as a pin, the bed made tight, his clothes hung up. His roommate is messy." This did not pass unnoticed by McGillicuddy.
There was a sign on our living room wall rhetorically asking what it might have been like to be a college roommate of Red Grange. We knew what it was like to live with Dick. He had better things to do than play gin rummy. George Stevens, the quarterback, was another roommate. Alluding to Dick's trim figure and other unprepossessing dimensions, he said recently, "Punctilious to a fault, finicky in a game -- and preparing for a game -- Kaz, in appearance and demeanor, was the most unjocky jock that I ever encountered. Other teams thought the same, until he went by them..."
Dick drew a tight circle around his teammates, roommates, and other friends. He said then and says now that what mattered to him most at Princeton was, in his words, "what I was part of: I was like every other student." Today, he alludes to the Heisman Trophy and all that went with it as -- quote -- "an unusual external part of the picture."
Dick was drafted by the Chicago Bears, turned them down, went to the Harvard Business School and before long into business for himself. Kazmaier Associates, on Elm Street, in Concord, Massachusetts, seemed to have a tentacle in every aspect of most known sports, from the international licensing of basketball broadcasts to the manufacture and sale of baseball uniforms and football helmets. Dick's parking space at Kazmaier Associates is No. 42. There are thirty-six spaces in the parking lot.