BY JAY GREENBERG
You shouldn’t need to go to the safety deposit box, a black-tie dinner, or even a sock drawer to remember going 10-0. All those rings Princeton ran around opponents by halftime last fall hardly needed further attention drawn to them by the jewelry. It certainly required little apology when it arrived too late for a planned celebration.
Things worked out. The graduates-minus four days–who received their rings on Friday needed practically all of their weight room workouts over four years just to be able to lift these rocks. Besides, a perfect 80-degree Reunions Weekend day already called for the use of shaded eyewear. It came in handy to absorb the significant additional glare when the recipients opened their boxes.
Everybody in attendance on Powers Field and Princeton Stadium was blinded, not just by the sentiment but the actual UVs generated by these glittering gold beauties with Undefeated across a black-and-gold-striped P, surrounded by almost as many diamonds as Princeton scored touchdowns in 2018. Ophthalmologists warn the recipients not to look directly at these rings for the rest of their lives. Uncontrollable tearing may occur.
If any of the recipients had a hard time putting their fingers on the precise meaning of being a part of Princeton’s first undefeated team in 54 seasons, all they have to do now is put their finger in it, smile, and let the conversations around them begin. With that understanding, these guys could have found their rings in the bottom of their reunion plastic beer cups and nobody would have been upset just because the original promised April 13 ceremony–on the final day of spring practice–went awry with delivery issues by the manufacturer.
Let the record show that Steve Simcox, President of the Princeton Football Association that paid for the rings, refused to knuckle under, figuring out a better idea to present these monsters, weighty enough to make your knuckles go under.
“Steve came up with a great plan to do this here,” said Coach Bob Surace. “If we had done it [inside Jadwin Gymnasium at a luncheon after the April 13 practice] we would have been celebrating only with the team, coaches and parents, not the alumni.
“The (April) disappointment was that parents had flown in from all over the country, but at least the parents of the seniors are here for graduation on Tuesday. For them and their kids, this is one of happiest weekends of their lives. What we did was a major accomplishment of their time at Princeton and now they can put on a ring for graduation to celebrate it.”
In a corner of the stadium, at a picnic following the annual alumni touch game, Surace reminded everybody how only the record of the 2018 Tigers was perfect. They could have been celebrating 9-1 and a co-title with Dartmouth if not for their ability to roll with the punches.
Trailing 9-7 in the Game of the (so far) Century against Dartmouth, Princeton painstakingly executed a 23-play, 91-yard drive until getting stopped on fourth-and one at the six. The defense forced a three-and-out, got the ball back and this time scored within four plays to go ahead for good with 6:33 to go.
You didn’t have to be wearing a tuxedo to celebrate the grit of John Lovett’s final yard. Shorts and tee shirts–workout clothes–somehow were more appropriate on Friday.
“I turned to Mark (Fossati) and Mike Wagner and said this is the ultimate ring ceremony,” said captain Tom Johnson. “If we couldn’t have the (underclassmen) here, I looked at as if celebrating this as a class made it even more special.”
Rest assured the underclassmen, who have left campus by now, won’t just get their rings thrown at them in anger while coaches are yelling at them at practice this fall. “We will do something really nice for them on a date in September, said Surace. “Maybe it will get some (parents] out for a practice that day.”
No admission will be charged. Players and parents long ago paid their dues. And there won’t need to be perfect weather like the seniors enjoyed Friday to make it a perfect day whenever the 2018 Tigers remember their unique contribution to the program’s history.
“I wasn’t that upset about (the delay),” said senior Alex Parkinson. “Having the alumni here made this even more special.”
A committee of coaches and players has completed its work choosing Princeton’s greatest football performers by position of the Ivy League era. The honorees will be announced July 8 at the annual alumni golf outing at Springdale Golf Club in Princeton and be posted on this website over the following two days.
The announcement will kick off a series of remembrances on this site of 150 years of Princeton football, starting with the story of the first game in 1869 and continuing with fun facts–divided into eras–about the years of national championship contention prior to the formation of the Ivy League in 1956. The stars of the pre-Ivy era will be cited too, with their own all-time teams by position. In addition, lists of the greatest wins, comebacks, individual performances, and heartbreaks of the Ivy era will run weekly through the sesquicentennial season.