16 Questions with the 2016 Season Captains

  • August 31, 2016


The Tigers have exploded in Princeton pre-season, finishing up their first week as they head into two-a-day practices.

The team, picked to finish 5th in the Ivy League by the annual league media poll, has several key features they believe will propel it to the top this year. Among a strong offensive core and defensive depth, three new leaders emerged as part of the Princeton perfect recipe to success.

I sat down with seniors quarterback Chad Kanoff, running back Joe Rhattigan, and defensive back Dorian Williams for an inside look at just who would be leading the charge. Keep reading to see what has set them apart – maybe it’s their unanimous preference for non-fiction books or love of FIFA? – and why their teammates voted them in for the 2016 season.


The three captains (from left to right), Joe Rhattigan, Chad Kanoff, and Dorian Williams, with Coach Surace after they are named as leaders in the last spring ball practice of 2016.

Princeton Football: Let’s start off with a few basics. Where you guys are from?

Dorian Williams: I’m from Streetsboro, Ohio, a small town about 20-25 minutes outside of Cleveland. I’ve been there since I was five.

Joe Rhattigan: I’m from Naperville, Illinois. It’s a pretty big suburb about 30-35 minutes outside the city of Chicago; the city is just a quick train ride away. I’ve been in Naperville since first grade, but I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Chad Kanoff: I’m from Pacific Palisades, California. It’s a suburb about 20 minutes outside of downtown [Los Angeles].

PF: What would you say is one unique or little known thing about your hometowns? What is a must for you all when you go home?

DW: I guess, for me, when I’m home, I just want to lay on the couch and relax. (laughs) I go out with my friends and work out in the mornings, but I get tired of being athletic all the time. So, once I get home, I just relax. I become a vegetable.

JR: Yeah, I do that, too. I also like how flat it is in Illinois, so I do a lot of biking since it’s easier when it’s flat. Oh, and I take time to hit Portillo’s [a restaurant in Chicago]. It’s the best.

DW: Oh, yeah, you have to get the food you miss when you’re home. There’s this place in Streetsboro. It’s a bit like an In-And-Out. It’s this quick, little burger place. It’s so good.

CK: My favorite thing to do is go to the beach. It moves a million miles an hour at Princeton, so you need time to recoup. And I always try to go to In-And-Out. My standard is three by three and fries – normal, not animal style.

PF: So, you all were saying that you like to relax when you get home because it’s such a whirlwind at Princeton. How do you manage the balance between academic work and your responsibilities with the football team?

DW: I’d say it’s just time management. You know that you’re here to learn as well as play football. I don’t make all A’s, but I’d be unhappy with C’s. We are all at Princeton, so obviously grades mean a lot to us. I think everyone has a unique way of getting their work done efficiently.

JR: For me, it’s been figuring out how to work during the day. I always used to start my homework after dinner. That’s just asking yourself for late nights. If you start making time out of your day, spending 30 minutes here and 45 minutes here, that’s a much better way to go about it. I also had to learn how to leave something undone. When I write a paper, I’d rather just sit down and do it all, but I don’t always have the time to do that.

CK: You just have to be on it. There’s not a lot of time to waste. So, when we were talking before, when you go home and relax, that’s wasting time [at Princeton]. When I’m here, I don’t want to sit around for days at a time. I know I need to be working hard.

PF: Since we’re talking about schoolwork, let’s jump back to another basic question. What are your majors?

DW: Sociology.

JR: Psychology.

CK: Woodrow Wilson School with a certificate in computer science.

PF: Were those the majors you intended to study when you arrived at Princeton?

DW: No. (laughs) I came in as an Economics major. I took one introductory economics course and knew it wasn’t for me. I had taken two sociology classes and really enjoyed them. So, I kept taking more and more. I still have an interest in finance, so I’ve tried to pursue internships and parts of sociology that still have some of that focus.

JR: I was Economics coming in, too. I figured it out early on [that I wanted to change my major]. I tried to take different classes and use that as a way to learn what else I was interested in. So, I just kept taking classes in the Psychology Department.

CK: When I was here freshman year, I was just taking a bunch of classes that interested me. I liked Woodrow Wilson School a lot because you can take a wide variety of classes in a lot of different disciplines that still count towards your major. They have such a large elective list, and that was a reason I decided to major in Woodrow Wilson (School).

PF: I know you all still have one year left, but do you think there has been one class that has had a large impact on you or maybe there has been a professor who has influenced you?

CK: I’d say Practical Ethics. I had never taken an ethics course. It was on relevant issues, like the ethics of abortion or animal rights. It’s taught by Peter Singer, who can take controversial stances – and by that I mean perspectives on these issues that people don’t always think about.

JR: I took a seminar course. It was super small and led by a professor, who most days, would stand in the back and let the students talk. It was called Social and Personal Psychology, so we talked a lot about the self. It was very interesting being required to do this high level thinking, which is something I hadn’t really done. My education before that was always read the book and take the test, so this was really different.

DW: I think the one for me was a course I took with Professor Patricia Fernandez-Kelly my sophomore year. It was Poverty and Inequality in Modern America. It was interesting to learn about the type of things that shape groups. She talks a lot on socioeconomics, and it was enlightening to see these issues from that perspective. I think that’s why I wanted to be a sociology major. It’s something that interests me, understanding how some people are forced to live in certain situations. It’s a concept that many people don’t understand unless they take the time to try and relate to the circumstances certain individuals are placed in.

PF: I want to take a step back from your time at Princeton and talk a bit about before you were students here. What do you think, If you had to name one thing, had the most influence on your decision to enroll in Princeton over the other schools you were applying to?

CK: I don’t think it was just one thing. Here, it’s the best of a lot of different worlds. Football-wise, you get to compete at a Division I level. Academically, it’s one of the best schools in the country. And socially, it’s a really fun school to go to.

DW: Before coming here, there was this stigma about the Ivy League. But when I got here on my official visit, I was able to hang out with the team. Then, I realized that people here are guys that I could fit in with.

JR: I would say, when you’re deciding to go to school and you don’t know where you want to go, talking with my parents helps so much. They told me: “you’ll meet some of the greatest people in the world if you go to Princeton.” I came here, and it was comfortable and the unknown at the same time. That was exciting to me.

PF: Now, thinking way back to when you were applying, I know Princeton has some fun short answers on their application. For example, they ask you to list your favorite quote. Do you all remember what you wrote? If you don’t remember, is there something that sticks with you now?

JR: My high school coach gave me a good quote. I don’t remember who it’s by, but he said: ‘you can be on the right track, but if you don’t move, you’re still going to get run over.” I don’t know why I haven’t forgot it, but it’s kind of stuck with me because going to a place like [Princeton] and then going home everyone is like “oh you must be smart.” But when you’re in it, you don’t feel like you’re the smartest person. So, I think about that, and when you’re here, you could be making the right decisions, but you need to keep getting better and improving.

DW: One saying I’ve liked is from my freshman year of high school that our coach used to say. It’s something I’ve liked and kept with me, but it’s “pain is weakness leaving the body.” I think of it with football and classes here. It makes me remember that as much as we struggle, we’re getting better.

CK: I like to quote “this too shall pass.” It’s similar to what Dorian said – that all bad times are temporary. It makes the lowest of lows seem not as low and the highest of highs seem not as high. So, it keeps you more centered.

DW: It’s humbling.

CK: Exactly.

PF: I think the application also talked about the place you felt most comfortable in. Going off of that, what would you say is the best place you’ve traveled to?

CK: I went to Barcelona. I took a class through a Princeton program where you can also receive credit. I think that was the coolest place I’ve been.

DW: I went out to visit [fellow teammate] Alex Ford in L.A. this summer. I really enjoyed that. There was a lot of stuff to do. [The team trip to] Japan was also a good experience. I had never traveled internationally, and it was cool seeing such a different culture when we were over there.

JR: I would say Japan is the most international. Another place I enjoy is Newport, Rhode Island. I went there because I was doing college tours with my dad. It’s a smaller town, but they have big sailboats. It was really cool.

PF: I do want to talk a bit about football and becoming captains is such a big step. How does it feel to be elected by your teammates for captain? What do you want to make of the title this season?

DW: It’s an honor. I think everyone is really, really close. We’ve interacted with the three classes above us and now three classes below us. There’s been an incredible amount of tightness between everyone.

JR: Yeah, it’s really humbling to me because it’s so much different than being elected captain in high school. In high school, it’s always the best player, even if they don’t work hard. Here, it’s by vote. It means a lot more and gives you confidence in the person you are.

CK: It’s a huge honor. Like Joey said, in high school, being a captain basically just means you’re one of if not the best player, but in college I wouldn’t say that’s always true, and that you have to be one of the hardest workers. So, to me, it means a lot more to be a captain of the Princeton Tigers.

DW: What’s funny too, now, is that we’ve become the guy you turn to. So, people will ask us in the locker room ‘where’s our next meeting?’ If you don’t know, they’re like ‘dude, come on, your captain now.’ And you’re like ‘oh, right.’ (laughs) So, we’ve had to step into those roles that a captain entails, as well.

PF: What are some personal goals you have for your position this year?

DW: My goal this season is being able to improve my pass protection and helping my teammates improve, too.

JR: A personal goal of mine is to have more big plays, whether that’s blocking so Chad can throw the ball fifty yards or just doing the right things more often. As a team, we want to win every game.

CK: Well, then again, winning every game is a team goal and it’s also an individual goal. So, how do you win every game? I can do that by being more accurate and things like that.

PF: Who would you say is a player that you look up to, at any level of the game?

DW: I would say Caraun [Reid], actually. Caraun will still text me to let me know what he thinks we did right or how we can improve after a game. I try to keep in touch with him pretty often. He calls me his grand-mentee.

JR: When I played pee-wee football in my hometown, you had to bring your own jersey, and I was #36. So, Jerome Bettis was like my childhood hero growing up. He was such a greater power back – super reliable on the goal line.

CK: Excluding Kobe Bryant, who I’d say is my favorite athlete ever. But, at Princeton, I really looked up to Quinn [Epperly] and Malik Jackson. They were on different ends of the spectrum, since Quinn was the starter and Malik was the signal caller when I was a freshman, but they both just had such great attitudes all the time. I would go to them for advice, and I still talk to them now.

PF: I can’t believe it’s already everyone’s senior year and you all are gearing up to write a thesis and heading toward graduation. How did you spend this past summer to prepare for that?

DW: This summer I was doing corporate banking at PNC. Basically, I was underwriting loan terms for middle market and commercial companies as well as doing a lot of industry analysis and just gaining basic knowledge about the way this side of banking operates. So, I didn’t really do much to prepare for my thesis, per se, but I did use my experience in Philadelphia to help me brainstorm potential interests for my thesis.

JR: I was in the city of Chicago this summer, working for a global investment bank for JP Morgan. I was operating on a project about affordable housing. I actually did that last summer, as well, and since I did it again this year I knew what I was getting into and able to handle more responsibility this summer.

CK: I was at a nonprofit think tank through the Woodrow Wilson School called the Milken Institute in Santa Monica. The Woodrow Wilson School has funding for internships and nonprofit sector work, so it was pretty cool to take advantage of that.

PF: So, what would the dream look like for you guys?

DW: I would love to be in the NFL. Or something in sports.

JR: I would love to stay playing football, if that’s possible. And for a career after, I’m at step zero for that. I’ve been focusing on this last football season of college since the summertime.

CK: The dream is the NFL. I think that’s why it’s hard for us to think beyond that because we’re all focused on this last season and seeing where that gets us.