December 5, 2001: From the Editor

Caption: Top, the East and Big Three champion team of 1951 celebrates after its undefeated season. Kazmaier, who was honored at this year’s Yale game, above, is #42 in the back row of the team photo. (Photos: team by Alan w. Richards, Kazmaier by Frank Wojciechowski)

Fifty years ago this fall, things looked bleak for the Tiger football team. Though Princeton had been undefeated the previous year, 21 seniors graduated, including 10 of the 11 members of the starting offense. In his preview for PAW, Donald C. Stuart ’35 wrote: “We are certainly not going much farther before our current victory string of 13 is snapped. But we may upset a better-manned team along the way, we are at least an even bet to win our fifth straight Big Three title, and once the initial shock of the first defeat since October 1949 is absorbed, the balance sheet for the season should still make very satisfying reading.”

As it turned out, Stuart didn’t have to worry about the shock of defeat, because the 11th man on that offensive line was named Dick Kazmaier ’52.

Kazmaier turned in a legendary season. He led the nation in total yards and won both the Heisman and the Maxwell awards for best player in the country. His individual totals surpassed the combined totals of Princeton’s nine opponents in every offensive category: rushing, passing, and punting. The Yale band spelled out his name at halftime. The Tigers earned the Lambert Trophy as best in the East, were ranked fifth in the nation, and were unbeaten again, running their winning streak to 22 straight.

Despite Kazmaier’s weekly heroics, though, what stands out in PAW’s accounts of the season is an overall emphasis on teamwork. The Tigers are respectfully called Captain Dave Hickok ’52’s team. The defense gets first mention in the season summary. In Stuart’s description of the Cornell game — a battle between two of the nation’s top-ranked teams that Princeton was favored to win by a single point — in which Kazmaier completed 15 of 17 passes for 236 yards, rushed for 124 more, and led the Tigers to a 53—15 rout, Stuart pays tribute to the offensive line, the receiving corps, the play-calling by quarterback George Stevens ’52 (Kazmaier was a tailback), the running game of Russ McNeil ’52, and the defensive line, all cited by name. Finally, an essay written by Coach Charlie Caldwell at season’s end celebrates the “truly magnificent squad spirit” as well as “the contributions of the men whom the press would call Princeton’s ‘unsung heroes,’ ” both of which made what he calls a “team of character.”

The Tigers have had other undefeated seasons before and since. But there was something especially magical about those nine autumn games 50 years ago when Captain Dave Hickok’s team ran the table of the Ivy League.


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