It’s Not Only Horsted with Whom Lovett Shares His Second Bushnell
BY JAY GREENBERG
NEW YORK—Since neither John Lovett nor Jesper Horsted were as good without the other, it didn’t seem sporting that one would walk out of the Mercury Ballroom at the New York Hilton on Monday as runner-up for Ivy League offensive player of the year.
Then again, what they did to defenses this year was not fair, so neither was going to begrudge each other honors; actually celebrate that they were the first finalists for the Asa S. Bushnell Cup from the same school since the honor was divided into offensive and defensive awards in 2011.
Once the top two nominees were confirmed last week it was a win-win for Princeton, and no, that’s not a reference to Lovett, who thanks to a medical redshirt in addition to 18 passing and 13 rushing touchdowns for a 10-0 team became just the fifth ever two-time Bushnell winner since the award was instituted in 1970.
“We’re teammates, brothers,” said Lovett. And to go 10-0 is bigger than any individual award could ever be.”
Easy enough for a winner to say. But also not hard for the bridesmaid. “We talked about it a lot,” said Horsted. “We were on the same page.
“It was incredible just to be up for this. You can’t lose when either you win or your good friend does. It was because of what we both did together that we even were up for this. It is so intertwined that I couldn’t be happier that John won. It’s fantastic.”
Reminded that the quarterback always gets the girl, even over a guy who caught 28 touchdown passes at Princeton, Horsted laughed. “I’ve seen that story many times; I know how it goes.”
Every good plot has a twist, though. “You know what’s pretty cool?” said Coach Bob Surace. “There have been five guys who won it twice but he’s only one who did it at two positions. In 2016 John played everywhere.
“A lot of people go into this, but the credit goes first to John. He wasn’t supposed to be an every down quarterback but he improved not only accuracy but his decisions; making a read and making it quickly enough, not just relying on his natural ability.
“One of the things that got overlooked when we scored all those points was that we only turned the ball over six times. He threw just three interceptions and only one at a point of game (against Dartmouth) that it mattered. That’s decision making”
It led to rushing touchdowns in an Ivy record 20 straight games in which he participated, 1,833 yards in the air, and 894 on the ground in 2018, even though there were six routs in which he barely played in the second half and one game he missed completely due to broken left wrist that put him into a cast for the final five contests. That restriction bothered him maybe one percent than did the shoulder surgery that cost him 2017. But Lovett used the time productively to turn into Chad Kanoff’s and the Tigers’ greatest cheerleader.
“I would put John ahead of any of the teammates I’ve had here in terms of what one person can do for the success of an organization and a team,” said Horsted. “At all times John is full on, leading people, motivating people in any way he can. There is no way he can turn it off.
“He is incredible on the field but will be remembered by me first as the ultimate teammate and competitor.”
Both players–as does also receiver Stephen Carlson–entertain NFL hopes, Horsted having all prototype prerequisites of a draftee, Lovett needing to convince a team that his athleticism demands a role. Presuming Lovett gets to a camp, he will be hardest cut a coaching staff will ever have to make, because Lovett, in addition to being a magnet for the eyes, also is one to teammates and coaches.
Don’t try to tell him that he is not the classic, pocket passer that the NFL craves, because Lovett was once too slight for Power Five schools to even give him a look. And look at all 240 pounds of him now, a two-time player of the year of a league that now has 22 players on NFL rosters.
“A lot of his teammates (at DeMatha High School) dreamed of the big football schools but when the Ivies offered–when Princeton offered, it was a chance to play football at one of the best schools in the country,” said John Lovett Sr. “He came back from the Princeton visit saying ‘this is the one’ because of the coaches, because of the way he felt about the guys he met in the program.
“We really do think God steered him in the right direction.”
The kid took it from there to become the sixth Princeton Bushnell winner (Mike Catapano, Mike Zeuli, Quinn Epperly, Chad Kanoff) in the nine-year-old Bob Surace era. Three more Tigers–Trey Peacock, Kurt Holuba and Caraun Reid–have been finalists. While the defensive winner, cornerback Isiah Swann of Dartmouth (runner up was Stone Hart of Harvard) gave the Big Green an all-time haul of seven Bushnell Cups, Lovett made Princeton a 12-time recipient of the honor.
The previous two-time winners were Ed Marinaro of Cornell, John Pagliaro of Yale and Carl Morris and Zach Hodges of Harvard. The Bushnell post-dates the careers of Dick Kazmaier, Cosmo Iacavazzi, but Dave Patterson and Keith Elias, recognized as probably the most dominant Princeton players since the institution of the honor, only did it once. .
“Twice is a tremendous honor,” said Lovett. “Once is a tremendous honor.
“But while the (previous) one was a good season too (8-2 and an Ivy title share); you always keep striving towards perfection. To go 10-0 with these guys is the best honor of all.”