Princeton Football’s Best Players of the Ivy League Era: Offense
By Jay Greenberg
Third of Three Parts
We conclude our committee-chosen selections of the program’s best-ever players since 1956 with the offensive honorees. Listed alphabetically.
Ron Beible ’76 – Three-year starter who threw for 3,662 yards (ninth-best all-time at Princeton) and tossed 15 touchdowns in a running-oriented attack starred by all-time great Walt Snickenberger ’75. “Ron was like having another coach on the field,” said Bob Casciola ’58, head coach from 1973-79. “He was an accurate passer with escapability, which was needed, and delivered under pressure for not a very good team.”
Doug Butler ’86 – Remained Princeton’s all-time passing leader by a whopping 2,000 yards for three decades until surpassed by Chad Kanoff ’18 in 2017. Still No. 1 in career touchdown passes with 47. Threw four or more touchdowns in a game three times and has six of the top 15 passing yardage days in program history. “Strongest arm I ever have been around,” said Steve Verbit P05 h54, who has been around as Princeton assistant for 34 years. Butler had two receivers in the highest tier in program history–Derek Graham ’85 and Kevin Guthrie ’84 – but never the benefit of operating out of the shotgun.
Quinn Epperly ’15 – Bushnell Cup winner for the championship Tigers of 2013 who, while used in a runner-passer tandem with Connor Michelsen ’15, nevertheless recorded the sixth-highest single-season total offense performance (2,707 yards) in Princeton history. Option quarterback to start turned into a complete one. “Ran, caught and threw the ball, leading the offense and our team to another level,” said Bob Surace ’90, who became head coach in 2010. “Quinn could beat you with his legs, with what became an incredibly accurate arm, and his mind. Never made a bad decision. If he noticed something in a game, he always proved right when you looked at the film.”
Jason Garrett ’89 – Bushnell Cup winner in 1988. Completed 66.6 per cent of the passes in his career, the highest rate ever for an Ivy quarterback, while having Princeton’s lowest-ever interception rate (1.8). Authored perhaps the most exhilarating two-minute drive in Princeton’s Ivy era–78 yards from the two-yard line in 2:25 to set up Rob Goodwin ’88’s field goal to defeat Lehigh in 1987. “He got people around him to believe they never were out of the game,” said Surace, Garrett’s center. “In an era where the Hall of Fame and Super Bowl quarterbacks were guys with strong arms who made great plays along with throwing some interceptions, Jason was the new breed who picked you apart with accuracy. He could make any throw with precision.”
Bob Holly ’82 – Turned in the best individual game performance by a quarterback in school history, throwing for 501 yards and four touchdowns, plus ran in the game winner, as the 1981 Tigers, a heavy underdog, beat Yale for the first time in 14 years. Pinpoint accuracy and cool under pressure. Tenth all-time in Princeton passing. Drafted by the Redskins.
Chad Kanoff ’18 – Princeton’s all-time leader in passing yards for a career (7,510) and a season (2017), averaging 347 yards per game in that senior year. “The modern-day version of Garrett and four inches taller, ” said Surace. “Same release, accuracy, and poise. Always had the beautiful touch and then he learned how to make great decisions. In the fast tempo we played, nothing was ever too big for Chad. You could put a lot on his plate and it was all natural for him.”
John Lovett ’19 – Sole two-time Bushnell Cup winner in Princeton history and only quarterback on two Ivy titlists. “A touchdown machine,” said Surace. “John is in the Mount Rushmore of all-time players in school history. Throw it, catch it and run with it, there was nothing he couldn’t do. In nine years as a head coach, I’ve had some great weapons, but nobody scared defensive coordinators more than Lovett, who could beat you in so many ways. In three years I think he got stopped only once on a fourth-down run. Though John may not have been natural at quarterback, he worked hard to become an elite thrower and decision maker.”
Scott MacBean ’70 – Emerged from a group of accomplished high school quarterbacks who had been frustrated by Princeton’s use of the single wing to lead the Tigers to an Ivy title the first season (’69) the T formation was utilized. Did it without the benefit of spring practice and despite some cautious play calling by Coach Jake McCandless ’51 early in the transition. “By the end of that year Scott was the best quarterback in the league,” said teammate Hank Bjorklund ’72, an all-time Tiger running back on that team. “He threw beautiful tight spirals with a feather’s touch. Shame he only got one year to do it.”
Jeff Terrell ’07 – The catalyst of the 2006 title team. Without the benefit of a strong offensive line, Terrell threw for 2,445 yards and led a comeback from a 14-point halftime deficit to win title showdown at Yale. Threw for 444 yards in that contest, the fifth best day by a quarterback in school history. “He made everyone around him better,” said Verbit. “Accurate, athletic and able to buy time for a receiver to get open. Jeff was a true magician in getting the ball off.” Fifth all-time at Princeton in passing yardage.
Matt Verbit ’05 – Exceptional arm strength provided him the third-largest total of career passing yards ever at Princeton, behind only Kanoff and Butler. Almost 1,000 yards more than fourth-place Garrett and, while third in passing attempts, Verbit threw fewer interceptions than Butler, Beible, and Terrell (while tied with Kanoff.) Holds the record for the longest completion in program history–99 yards to Clinton Wu ’05 against Brown in 2003.
Cameron Atkinson ’03 – Third all-time at Princeton behind only Keith Elias ’94 and Judd Garrett ’90 in career rushing (2,449 yards). One of only nine Princeton running backs to record 1,000 yards in a season (1022) as was named first-team All-Ivy as a senior. “Track guy (6.87 in the 60-yard dash) who developed into an outstanding running back,” said Verbit. “If he had a step on you, he was gone.”
Hank Bjorklund ’72 – With 2,449 career rushing yards, still fourth all-time at Princeton, 47 years since he played. Two-time first-team All-Ivy selection. First Princeton back ever to run for 1,000 yards in a season. “More a slasher than a cutter, sometimes he would outrun his block like a young colt,” said Ellis Moore ’70, star running back and Captain on the 1969 championship team. “Fast sure, but not blinding, just always in high gear so he didn’t have to be big to sometimes run over people.”
Jordan Culbreath ’11 – Walk-on who became a first-team All-Ivy performer and almost certainly would have been top-three ever in rushing yardage had he not been being diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, an often deadly blood cancer. Returned remarkably from his illness until knee injury ended his senior season. Despite missing virtually an entire year, still totaled ninth at Princeton in all-time rushing yards, and his 276-yard performance against Dartmouth in 2008 remains second best ever in game by a Princeton back. “Tough, physical runner with a change of pace,” said Hughes. “Started late in football and from a small school. We probably got luckier than we deserved, having not recruited him.”
Chuck Dibilio ’15 – “He was our Gale Sayers, with an explosive ability to make guys miss in space and also fight for extra yards.” said Surace. “What Chuck accomplished as a freshman (1,068 rushing yards and first-team All-Ivy) with an inexperienced line was incredible.” Never played again as doctors were unable to determine the cause of a stroke, but made a complete recovery. “Thankfully, he is leading a great life now,” said Surace. “But from a football standpoint it was so tough for Chuck and for us that we didn’t get three more years.”
Keith Elias ’94 – Combination of speed, toughness and instinct puts Elias with John Lovett as the greatest one-man shows of Princeton’s I-AA (now FCS) era. Twenty-six years after he played, his 4,208 rushing yards remains Princeton’s all-time best by a whopping 1,099 yards despite freshman ineligibility during his time. “Keith had a way of taking his body away from the defense, a change of direction on a dime and great strength that along with his balance enabled him to break tackles,” recalls Verbit. “I can’t tell you how many times you would go from ‘Oh no!’ to ‘Omigod! He looked stopped after two and then was 70 yards downfield.” Bushnell Cup winner and rare three-time All-Ivy selection, twice on the first-team. “Phenomenal leg strength and quickness, speed like a race car zero-to-60,” recalls Steve Tosches h83, h88, head coach in the Elias era. “And he had the mindset and work ethic. Weight room, practice, or games, it was all fun for him.”
Ralph Ferraro ’84 – Tremendous acceleration made him a threat to score anytime he got into the open field. Rushing opportunities diminished by Butler’s passing efficiency but still ran for 1,021 yards his senior season. Good returner – 96 yards for a touchdown against Cornell–and excellent receiver too. Butler, a sophomore starting over a senior, was convinced he was about to be benched at halftime of his debut when Ferraro made a fingertip grab to get Tigers on the board. Princeton rallied from 28-0 deficit to Bucknell to a 44-28 victory.
Judd Garrett ’90 – In addition to being second all-time behind Elias in rushing yards (3,109) had more catches (137 including nine touchdowns) than any running back in Princeton history. “Most of them on third downs,” recalls Surace, one of Garrett’s blockers. “As it was unusual at the time to have a running back catch 50 passes in a season, Judd really changed the position. His vision and balance were as good as any back I have been around, pro or college, and he never missed a cut. He was easy to block for because he would make the right decision.”
Cosmo Iacavazzi ’65 – Still the most recognizable name in program history, 55 years after he played. Powerful and punishing two-time All-American, acknowledged with Elias to be Princeton’s most dynamic two running backs of the Ivy era. “He carried with so low a body angle that the only way to tackle him was at his shoulders and that took two people because of his second effort,” said Casciola. “Plus a really good blocker, which was important in our system.” Iacavazzi’s versatility enabled innovations to Coach Dick Colman’s single wing offense at a time Princeton was practically the only team in college football still using the formation. Continued as a star linebacker as a senior, even as two-platoon football was introduced that year–Princeton’s undefeated 1964 season.
Bobby Isom ’78–
Workhorse three-year starter who carried the ball a Princeton record 44 times
in an upset 20-7 victory at undefeated Harvard in 1977, one of Princeton’s
proudest and most unexpected wins in the rivalry. Unfazed and unbeaten by eight defenders
waiting for him in the box, scored seven touchdowns and ran for 918 yards that
senior year for a team that went 3-6. Tough and determined customer. “He could
make a big play and also catch the ball and block,” said Casciola. “Very
Ron Landeck ’66 – Highly-recruited T-formation high school quarterback – Mr. Ohio Football – who brought hybrid passing and running skills to the undefeated single wing team in ’64, and then, following the graduation of Iacavazzi, became the bell cow of the ’65 team that went 8-1. First-team All-Ivy that season. “Best all around athlete I had seen at the time and still in my top 10 ever,” said Ron Grossman ’67, a linebacker on the ’65 team. “Deceptive speed,” recalls Casciola, then an assistant coach. “And he could throw it with great accuracy.”
Ellis Moore ’70 – All-Ivy breadwinner of the ’69 championship team who from the force of his power inevitably also would break some long runs. Averaged four yards per carry over three seasons. Twenty-eight rushing touchdowns, eighth all-time in school history. Eleventh all-time in carries.
Joe Rhattigan ’17 – “In an era we shared the ball a lot, we planned around Joe giving us four, five or six yards every play,” said Surace. “There were very few negative plays in his career, making him one of most efficient backs (4.91 yards per carry, including 15 touchdowns) we have had.” Added 40 career catches. Two-time All-Ivy selection.
Jim Rockenbach ’63 – Dynamic first-team All-Ivy performer with rare acceleration for his day. Speed brought added dimensions of receiving, passing and reverses to Coach Dick Colman’s anything-but-stodgy single wing attack.
Dan Sachs ’60 – Scatback whose ability to get outside made him a threat to score every time he touched the ball. “One of the fastest we’ve ever had here,” said Casciola. In final game showdown against Dartmouth for the 1957 Ivy title, the sophomore Sachs scored three times-on a plunge, an interception return and a punt return-and also threw for a touchdown. First-team All-Ivy that season.
Hugh Scott ’61 – Two-time (first-team as a senior) All-Ivy plow horse who was uncannily dependable and incredibly durable. “Carried our offense,” said Casciola.
Walt Snickenberger ’75 – Bushnell Cup winner, All-American, and a two-time first-team All-Ivy choice despite never playing on a winning team. Ran for 1,041 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. As a junior, had a 194-yard day versus Rutgers. “Deceptively fast, his best asset was his cutting ability and he could break tackles,” said Casciola. Fifth all-time at Princeton in rushing yards. Hockey star, too.
Rob Toresco ’08 – Added 913 career receiving yards to his 1,285 rushing, making him one of Princeton’s most versatile and effective backs of the two-platoon era. Produced clutch yards for the high wire 2006 title team, which won five contests by seven points or fewer. “The closer the game, the more he wanted the ball,” said Roger Hughes, head coach from 2000-09. “Could have played tight end as both a blocker and a receiver. Great hands, good instincts, a leader and one of the toughest players ever at Princeton.”
Larry Van Pelt ’82 – Rare first-team All-Ivy selection as a sophomore. Used almost equally as a receiver his senior year, finished his career with 2,430 yards from scrimmage and another 900 returning kickoffs and punts. “Never had a carry for negative yardage in his career,” said Pete Bastone ’80 who blocked for Van Pelt. Twelfth-all time in rushing at Princeton. Succeeded his brother Paul as captain.
Charlie Volker ’19 – “Track guy who never played like a track guy,” said Surace. “Very few backs weighing 215 had the speed Charlie had. He was excellent at moving the wall in short yardage and goalline situations and then his senior year consistently broke longer runs and made guys miss in space.” Two-time All-Ivy choice (one first-team). He and Iacavazzi are only Princeton backs of the Ivy era to lead team in rushing during two championship seasons. A reflection of his efficiency (5.1 per carry career) for otherwise loaded offenses: Seventh all-time in the program in career rushing yards although only 13th in carries.
Marc Washington ’97 – One of only six Princeton backs to exceed 2,000 yards in his career. Workhorse (fourth all-time in carries, sixth in yardage with 2,005) hardly was a plow horse. “Quick, with outstanding change of direction,” said Verbit. “Exceptional at catching the ball.”
Jeff Baker ’88 – As Garrett’s primary receiver was named first-team All-Ivy in his final year. Upon graduation was 10th all-time in receiving yardage. “Good size, great hands and a precise route runner,” said Surace. “He was a dominant player as a senior.”
Jim Blair ’61– Caught 22 balls his junior season, a load for the day. First-team All-Ivy as a senior. “Our best receiver out of the single wing when we started to open it up a little,” said Casciola. “Agile with good hands.”
Rob Bordley ’70 – Diminutive, confident, and dangerous weapon on the 1969 championship team. “Couldn’t have been more than 5-7, 150 pounds, but agile, coordinated, and athletic,” said Moore. “Great hands, everything you would want in a receiver but height and that never seemed to stop him from where he was going.”
Stephen Carlson ’19 – Combined 122 catches his junior and senior years hardly left Carlson underutilized or under appreciated on two of the best offenses the program has ever produced. It is fair to say, however, that his numbers were diminished by the plethora of weapons, starting with Jesper Horsted ’19, perhaps the most gifted pass catcher in program history. “Stephen’s play was equal to the highest level of receivers ever at Princeton,” said Surace. “He physically dominated the H-back position with his size, body control, hands, and was an exceptional blocker besides. Just a tremendous threat (16 touchdown catches) in the red zone.”
Neil Chamberlin ’76 – Primary Beible target averaged 12 yards per reception over three seasons. Caught 79 passes for 965 yards his senior year. “Excellent hands and disciplined,” said Casciola. “Very tough to cover and good in the clutch.”
Brendan Circle ’08 – Had 12 catches for 178 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns as 2006. Tigers came from two touchdowns down to the lead in a first-place showdown at Yale, then enabled Princeton to run out the clock with a 13-yard reception on a third-and-six. “Very good leader, hard worker, and so special that day at Yale,” said Hughes. As Circle also had the winning 20-yard touchdown catch in a squeaker over Harvard, he was a virtual bonfire that championship year on the way to compiling the eight-largest receiving yardage in Tiger history, despite a physical condition that limited him to just 27 catches his senior season. “Tremendous football knowledge,” said Verbit.” Ran flawless routes, had sticky hands and finished the plays downfield.”
Matt Costello ’15 – Fifth all-time at Princeton with 1,721 yards. Did it a flawless 11.5 at a time. “Never was going to beat anybody with speed, size and strength, so he did it with body control and precise routes,” said Surace. “Never dropped a ball.” Huge contributor in both performance and attitude as the program turned from a 1-9 start his freshman year into Ivy champion two years later.
Cris Crissy ’81 – After running for 1,253 yards his sophomore and junior years, convinced the coaches he could help even more as a receiver. Caught 55 balls his final season to be voted first-team All-Ivy and bring his all-purpose career total to 2,445 yards. “One of the most highly-recruited players ever to come to Princeton who indeed proved a very special player,” said Casciola. “Great speed, moves, timing, and hands.”
Kevin Duffy ’97 – Extremely efficient route runner who made good breaks on the ball and never was outfought for it. “Physical receiver who played like a defensive back,” said Verbit. Thirteen touchdown catches in his career and an All-Ivy performer. “Not the quickest receiver, but body control made up for it,” said Joe Susan, Princeton’s then offensive coordinator. “Outstanding hands.”
Derek Graham ’85 – Remains Princeton’s all-time leader in receiving yards with 2,798, 34 years after he played, Second to Jesper Horsted in touchdown receptions with 19. Deceptively fast, witnessed by a 95-yard catch and run at Penn, but play-in-play-out, was an outstanding route runner with ability to plant and turn on a dime, plus knew all the tricks to win ball fights on intermediate routes. “I can’t remember a pass he dropped,” said Butler. “Incredibly competitive. Took on the challenge of anyone who was supposedly capable of limiting him on a given week and liked to beat him on every single play.”
Kevin Guthrie ’84 – Partnered with Graham for two years and almost matched him in stats in every category. Third all-time in receiving yards with 2,646. “They liked to challenge each other,” said Butler. “Derek was a little faster, but Kevin was the most fearless, going over the middle and putting his body at risk every time. He turned a lot of incompletions into catches; there are pictures that show him making plays way off the ground. But I don’t mean to suggest he was slow. First play against Yale my sophomore year, he ran right by the safety for a touchdown.”
Jesper Horsted ’19 – “For speed, size, tremendous hands, consistency, performance in the clutch, and ability to make the highlight film catch look routine, Jesper is the best to ever play at the position at Princeton,” said Surace. “There are a host of great ones, but I think you can take the term ‘arguably’ out of the discussion. Red zone, third-down, from anywhere on the field, he was unstoppable.” All-American, two-time first-team All-Ivy. Second all-time to Graham in receiving yards and Horsted’s 28 record career touchdown receptions are nine more than Graham.
Connor Kelley ’15 – Precise route-runner, physically dominant receiver and blocker and, until now, unfortunately under-celebrated performer, as Kelley somehow never rose above All-Ivy honorable mention. Among his 129 career catches, eighth all-time at Princeton, most important was a leaping, twisting grab at Brown in 2013 that gave the Tigers, trailing 17-0 and third and 18 from their own four, a first down. They rolled from there to a 39-17 victory and an Ivy title. ”Recruited as a quarterback, Connor gave it up for the sake of the program when we were struggling,” said Surace. “Needed to have his athleticism on the field. He defines the word ‘winner.’
Michael Lerch ’93 – One of the most electrifying performers in program history in a 5-7, 160-pound package. Two-time first-team All-Ivy. His 370 yards in receptions and four touchdown catches again Brown in 1991 remains the greatest ever single-game totals by a Princeton player. Plus, Lerch’s 17.3 yards per reception is second-highest career mark ever. Ran a 4.41 forty and could bench 340 pounds. “Strength, speed, and terrific hands,” said Verbit. When the loss of All-Ivy defensive end Brian Kazan ’94 created a need in 1992 title year, Lerch was spotted as a speed rusher on third downs and recorded four-and-a-half sacks.
Chisom Opara ’03 – Fourth all-time at Princeton in receiving yards and catches. Went up over two defenders for 32-yard end zone reception with 16 seconds remaining to beat Yale in 2000. “Big, strong, quick receiver who created match up problems from the first day he set foot on campus,” said Verbit.
Trey Peacock ’11 – Bushnell runner-up on a team that went 1-9. “We had an injury at quarterback, a very inexperienced O-line and he was double-teamed every play but week after week he would beat it,” said Surace. “Trey was so strong you couldn’t press him at the line of scrimmage. He was as explosive as anybody on this list.”
Marc Ross ’95 – Among the most efficient downfield threats in program history. Averaged 20.2 yards per catch in 1993, highest number ever recorded in a season at Princeton. Had 52 catches in his final two seasons, seven for touchdowns. “Speed to burn,” said Verbit. “A defensive back’s worst nightmare.”
B.J. Szymanski ’05 – Has the highest yards-per-reception (18.9) of any player in program history and is ninth all-time in receiving yards, despite having passed up senior season to sign a baseball contract with Cincinnati. “Quick, fast, could always get out of any attempt to jam him,” said Hughes. Basically, Szymanski was Horsted more than a decade before Horsted. “The first of the long, fast wide receivers at Princeton,” said Verbit. “Throw it up and B.J. would bring it down. He could have played in the NFL.”
Phil Wendler ’00 – Tenth all-time in receiving yards with 1,601. “Great hands and exceptional toughness,” said Verbit. “No fear of catching a ball in traffic.” As a sophomore, caught a late 30-yard touchdown pass to beat Yale.
Roman Wilson ’14 – The scourge of Harvard. Made dramatic catches to beat the Crimson in successive seasons, the first a 36-yarder from Epperly with 13 seconds remaining to cap a rally from a 24-point fourth quarter deficit. Next year, Wilson caught a touchdown from Epperly to end it in overtime after scoring on a double reverse the previous possession to keep Princeton alive. Caught 11 touchdowns towards Tigers’ 2013 championship. “Roman had the best feet,” said Surace. “He and Quinn Epperly had such a trust in each other that Roman was un-coverable on intermediate routes. Everybody knew where the ball was going on third down and we would get it to him anyway.”
Scott Carpenter ’17 – “Dominant blocker despite smallish body (6-2, 230) for the position,” said Surace. “Did it with his hands, feet and leverage, plus averaged (19) catches a year.” Three year starter and was in the goalline package as a freshman as well. First-team All-Ivy as a senior.
Lauson Cashdollar ’66 – Graduated as Princeton’s all-time leading receiver with 35 receptions, 11 of them in a senior victory over Harvard. “Good hands, able to go over the middle, go up and take the ball from defenders,” said Ron Grossman, then a junior linebacker. First-team All-Ivy in 1965. “We didn’t throw it as much as now, but when we did, Lauson was the primary short receiver,” said Casciola. “Extremely durable and dependable.”
Marty Cheatham ’01 – “My first year, Marty’s senior one, we went through four quarterbacks so having a reliable receiver on short throws was huge,” said Hughes. Went 35 yards down the sideline to set up final seconds touchdown in upset of Yale that year, one of 17 catches Cheatham made in the final two games. “When offensive line missed a block, he covered for them,” said Hughes. “Extremely bright, knew what everybody was doing on every play.”
Jon Dekker ’06 – First-team All-Ivy in 2005, when he had 32 catches, four for touchdowns. Caught a 33-yard touchdown pass to open up 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 30-13 victory at Penn, Princeton’s first over the Quakers in seven seasons, as Tigers went to a 7-3 season. Previous year had three catches on a clutch drive that forced overtime in win at Columbia. “Tough, good hands, ran well,” said Verbit. And self-made. “Great kid who worked his butt off,” said Hughes. “Football was so important to that guy.”
Seth DeValve ’16 – 15th all-time in receiving yards – but that doesn’t begin to reflect his role in turning around the program. “Seth was so explosive in his routes, very much like Jesper (Horsted),” said Surace. “His last two years were shortened (by 12 games combined), otherwise statistically he would have done what Horsted did. Games in which Seth played he was dominant. And his versatility-tight end, H-back, or wide out–plus his blocking ability allowed our offense to be that much more dynamic.” Highest Princeton NFL draft pick (fourth round) in 50 years (since kicker Charlie Gogolak ’66).
Pete Masloski ’90 – “A toss to the boundary was our No. 1 play,” said Surace. “It couldn’t have been without a tight end who was a dominant blocker. Judd Garrett rode the wave of Pete, who took out the whole side. He was a good receiver (24 catches as a senior), too, and a special teams terror.”
Scott Oostdyk ’82 – Precise route runner and glue-fingered receiver was Holly’s go-to guy under pressure. All-Ivy with 37 receptions senior season, including one of the most clutch in Princeton history – a scoop on fourth-and-ten to keep alive a two-minute drive towards the epic 1981 comeback upset win over Yale. Quiet leader.
Mark Rockefeller ’89 A skinny walk-on who became a first-team All-Ivy selection. Had 57 catches in 1988, most ever by Princeton tight end in a season. “Not a prototypical weight for that position (225) but had such toughness and speed that he became as good a receiving tight end as we have had here,” said Surace. “He created matchup problems and was a good blocker.”
Cody Smith ’19 – The two scoring drives, plus a third that set up the winner, in the Win of This Century So Far over Dartmouth in 2018, were grueling, grinding and, won by inches through superior technique and toughness at blocking positions. “Fullbacks now line up everywhere–with hands on the ground, or as an H-back in the slot – and on our undefeated team we had all of that in one person,” said Surace. “Cody was a 250-pounder who blocked like a guard, and could catch the ball out of the backfield.” Three-year starter.
Peter Bailey ’94 – “One of the most gifted athletes on our team,” said Elias. “In addition to fullback, he could have played tight end or linebacker. When he got you in his sights you couldn’t run around or through him. He took all the hits so I didn’t have to.” Senior year Bailey ran for 241 yards in 68 attempts and also caught 13 passes, five for touchdowns.
Bob Bedell ’66 – Cleared the way for Iacavazzi and Landeck, plus was Charlie Gogolak’s holder for three years of field-goal success unprecedented in college football. “In addition to being so perfect time after time in the technical parts of holding, he would take me under his wing and tell me how good I was,” recalls Gogolak. “He made me comfortable and I’m told he was the same way in the (offensive) huddle, providing excellent leadership as the blocking back and signal caller.”
C.J. Brucato ’95 – “He would hit the right guy and hit him hard,” said Elias. “The type of guy that every team that everybody wants: solid, consistent. You were always going to get his best and his best was pretty damn good.” Had seven touchdowns and 16 catches as a senior.
Roy Pizzarello ’65 – In the single wing days, the quarterback was a blocking back. “For his size (5-8, 175) amazing how he got in front of people and got the job done,” said Casciola. “Did a helluva job for us in our undefeated season.” As the upfront back in that formation, also was the signal caller and excelled. “He called plays that took advantage of mismatches,” said Iacavazzi. “He improvised in the huddle our backfield setup that led to the two TD runs I made late in the Yale game (to preserve the unbeaten 1964 season). He also was our team leader in pass receptions (15) for the year.”
John Sapoch ’58 – One-platoon leader on both sides of the ball for the 1957 Ivy title team. “To start anywhere as a sophomore in those days was really rare, and this was a guy who had come to us a lineman,” said Casciola. “He picked it up so quickly. Also was a very good linebacker. Built like a brick outhouse at 5-11, 195. Hellacious blocker, tough, consistent, and a leader for our offense.”
Dick Springs ’64 – “Had size and speed to block and the athleticism to be a receiving threat, plus the football brain to call the signals in the single wing,” said Staś Maliszewski ’66, Princeton’s iconic All-American linebacker. “Very crafty; Dick’s play selection took advantage of his team’s abilities and the opponents’ weaknesses.”
Hamin Abdullah ’00 – Thirty game starter at guard and two-time first-team All-Ivy selection. “Big, quick, athletic and a terrific leader,” said Verbit.
Mark Bailey ’81 – Two-time All-Ivy guard and first-team as a senior. “Strong, aggressive player with great technique and accountable and dependable, “said Pete Bastone, Bailey’s linemate. “Endured a bad shoulder most of his career and still excelled.”
Gordon Batcheler ’60 – First-team All-Ivy tackle. “Outstanding in his consistency,” said Casciola, teammate and later Princeton head coach from 1973-79. “And equally adept on the defensive side of the ball.”
Greg Bauman ’79 – Two-time first-team All-Ivy selection at guard. “Only about 190-200 pounds, small even for those days, yet tough as nails,” said Casciola. “He was willing to take your head off and could handle any situation at any time.”
Alonzo Bell ’85 – Intense and powerful All-Ivy tackle, capable of putting defenders on their backs. “Consistently just destroyed people,” said linemate Eric Dreiband ’86.
Bill Brown ’73 –Two-time All-Ivy tackle, first-team his senior year. “Very solid, consistent and hardly ever missed an assignment, if he ever did,” said Bill Cronin ’74, who played on the same side of the line. “Reserved, not a rah-rah guy, but very smart.”
Bob Casciola ’58 – Wise and strong two-time All-Ivy performer. First-team as a senior. In the one-platoon days, also was an impactful player on the defensive line.
Bill Cronin ’74 – “Big for his day (6-3, 235) and quicker than most in his day, too,” said Casciola. Agile and versatile, plugging need at tight end as a junior before going back to guard and becoming first-team All-Ivy as a senior.
Steve Curtis ’73 – Played at only 220, but pound-for-pound one of Princeton’s all-time pounders of defensive lines. “Tough, tough guy,” said linemate Cronin. Two-time first-team All-Ivy selection.
Eric Dreiband ’86 – Big (275 pounds as a senior) and athletic left tackle protector of Doug Butler’s back as the quarterback put up passing marks that lasted until this decade. “The only NFL- quality lineman I ever had,” said Butler. Three year starter, All-Ivy as a senior.
Joe Goss ’14 – Virtually unrecruited skinny center who started from game two as a freshman and missed only two starts out of 40 in career, then culminated in a first-team All-Ivy recognition and Princeton’s first championship in seven seasons. “Really good feet, smart with his calls, and competitive,” said Coach Bob Surace, Goss’s recruiter, coach and, having been an undersized center himself, soul mate. “Truly a guy you could count on.”
Bill Guedel ’64 – Escort for Iacavazzi towards the first of consecutive titles, making first-team All-Ivy. “A real tough kid and a highly-respected captain,” said Casciola.
Mike Guerin ’70 – Selected to the first-team All-Ivy Silver Anniversary squad chosen in 1981 and, therefore, in the top one handful of Princeton offensive linemen in history. “He probably was the toughest person I ever met,” said Moore. “I doubt if he ever played at more than 195-96 pounds, but being compact and low to the ground, could get to anyone and then you couldn’t get him off you. Just ferocious.”
Spenser Huston ’16 – “One of the most athletic tackles I ever have been around, college or pro,” said Surace. “The things he could do at the second level (against linebackers and defensive backs) were really rare. Tremendous feet.” First-team All-Ivy as a junior member of the 2013 title team. Injuries thereafter waylaid a real chance to play in the NFL.
Scott Miller ’94 – Important cog in the Keith Elias rushing machine, the best Princeton ever has operated. First-team All-Ivy. “Excellent one-on-one,” said Joe Susan, the offensive coordinator in those years, “but Scott also was very good in space, enabling us to do a lot of pulling both in the run game and in pass protection.”
John Nied ’96 – “He was able to apply his weight room strength to his football strength,” said Susan. “As a center, John could reach someone who was head up on the guard, not the easiest thing to do. Provided power and athleticism up the middle, where you have to be good. He made the critical calls in pass protection, did everything asked in three years as a starter.” First-team All-Ivy as a senior.
Dennis Norman ’01 – In an elite percentage of the top offensive linemen in league history, as one might guess from his six seasons in the NFL. “Quick, powerful, with great instincts, which is how he played center in the NFL, directing all the pass protections,” said Hughes, who became Princeton head coach in Norman’s senior year. “Intimidated everybody, including the guys he practiced against. Once he got on you, it was like Velcro; you couldn’t get him off.”
Ernie Pascarella ’65 – Tackle was Iacavazzi’s principal road grader in undefeated season, Princeton’s only undefeated team in a 54-season period. “As big a player as we had in those days and a real force, both offensively and defensively, “ said Casciola.
Mark Paski ’10 – Undersized recruit who developed into a superior pass protector and more than held his own as a run blocker. All-Ivy his senior season. “Very instinctive player,” said Hughes.
Erik Ramirez ’18 – Anther virtually unrecruited player who became a two-time All-Ivy selection through hard work and sheer aggression. “One of the best point-of- attack run blockers I have been around,” said Surace. “Explosive leverage, great hands, strong, got underneath and got movement. He was the best guard in the league in his time.”
Jon Schultheis ’83 – “John was real road-grader of an offensive guard,” said teammate Steve Simcox ’83, linemate and now the President of the Princeton Football Association. “Big, with great feet.” First-team All-Ivy and co-captain. Drafted by the Eagles, entered the ministry instead.
Ted Sotir ’80 – First-team All-Ivy in 1979. “Smartest football player I ever played with,” said Bastone. “He lacked prototypical size but made up for it with speed and positioning.”
Andy Stephens ’79 – Two-time All-Ivy selection, first-team as a senior. Started all but two contests during his 30-game eligibility. “As good an offensive lineman as we had in my 15 years, [including time as an assistant] coaching Princeton,” said Casciola. “Good athlete, played close to error free.”
Bob Surace ’90 – Smallish recruit who got himself up to 235 in the weight room and with brains, quickness, technique, and leadership. Centered a line that brought Princeton its first title in 20 years. First-team All-Ivy as a senior. “If you looked at his physical attributes you wondered how he did it,” said Frank Leal, an All-Ivy cornerback on that team. “But that would discount his footwork and superior instincts.”
Frank Szvetecz ’60 – “Center who started as a sophomore in the single wing, which means he had direct-snap responsibilities and tells you how good he was from the start,” said Casciola, who played alongside Szvetecz in the one-platoon days. “Outstandingly consistent.”
Mitchell Sweigart ’18 – “So dominant in every aspect that the only tackle I can compare him to at Princeton would by Chris Theiss ’93,” said Surace. “As Mitch gained experience, he was without flaw in pass protection and run blocking.” Only two-time first-team All-Ivy selection on Princeton’s offensive line since Norman 18 years earlier. Decided against pursuing an NFL career because of an ongoing physical condition. “Game after game a consistent 95-plus grader,” said Surace. “Since I’ve been coaching here nobody else has done that.”
Chal Taylor ’85 – Two-time All-Ivy selection, first-team as a senior. With quickness, strength and attention to detail became one of the best guards in program history, leading the way in the huddle and at the goalline. “He would do a lot of the talking,” said Butler. “And then you would get behind Chal to get in the end zone. He created a big push.”
Carl Teter ’95 – Huge (285 pounds) and hugely effective tackle, one of Princeton’s biggest recruiting catches who fully delivered on his promise with two first-team All-Ivy selections. “Strong, with good athletic ability for his size,” said Tosches, “Dominant run blocker and a quiet leader.”
Chris Theiss ’93 – Nicknamed by Elias “Rolling Thunder,” after a roller coaster at Great Adventure theme park. “Keep your hands and legs inside the car and enjoy the ride,” said Princeton’s all-time leading rusher. Theiss is 1 a) or 1 b) with Sweigart as the most dominant tackles of the Ivy era. “Long arms and really knew how to use his hands,” said Susan, then the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. “Explosive and athletic; could reach defensive ends and push them down the field. Used his arm length well in pass protection, too.”
Ross Tucker ’01 – Used as a defensive lineman as a junior. All-Ivy as a senior. “The nastiest offensive lineman we had, at least in my era,” said Hughes. “Ross never missed an opportunity to get in an extra lick when he could. My first year Penn was much better than us but we were leading when he took a 15-yard penalty. I grabbed him by the facemask and everybody thought I was yelling at him. But I was telling him he was kicking his guy’s ass and to keep doing what he was doing.” Played 42 games in the NFL.
Carter Westfall ’96 – Started every game for three years and first-team All-Ivy his final one, when he anchored the line to the 1995 championship. “Came in undersized, not in height (6-3) but weight and got himself up over 300 pounds as a senior without impacting his ability to move,” said Susan. “Also a leader of a really good group by his performance level both in games and practices.”
Criteria and Methodology
A committee of 18 selectors was chosen to provide knowledge of all players dating from the beginning of the formal Ivy League era in 1956 through 2018. The members were picked primarily because of their intimate knowledge of players of their time–either playing with or coaching them–but ideally the selectors had stayed close enough to the program after leaving Princeton to be of help with comparing performers over many years.
To provide a starting point–and refresh the committee members’ memories–each was given a list of every Princeton first and second-team All-Ivy honorees. Nominations were begun without a specific number of choices at a position as a goal, hoping a fair cutoff between the average and the excellent would become clear as we added. And it did.
Quickly almost everyone on the committee became in agreement that something more inclusive than a list of already-repeatedly-honored All-Americans should be the final product. The greatest of the greats could have been chosen without a committee: the strong consensus was to make 150th anniversary celebration of the program inclusive of the best players of every period.
Hard choices were inevitable and would have been exacerbated by the task of designating first-teams, second-teams, and third-teams. That idea quickly was dropped out of concern for too many bruised feelings by people important to the program. So the lists are alphabetical, the thumbnails making it clear who were the greatest of the greats, just in case anybody doesn’t already know.
After the obvious picks were quickly completed, the committee moved on to the next group, one which composes the majority of names on our lists: Players who excelled in their time. And that’s where the committee did its best work in steadfastly excluding a third level consisting of solid performers, good teammates and lifelong friends. When subsequent challenges developed over names on or off the list, a further vetting process was begun both inside the committee and out –many of the members making extra calls to contemporaries of the players being discussed and soliciting confidential opinions.
The number of players at each position may seem arbitrary. But gradually, our early cutoffs of, for example, 30 offensive linemen became unsustainable and, in the end, counterproductive to producing the most credible lists. At any point in the process, a round number was used more as a cutoff than as a quota. And the farther the committee proceeded, the goal morphed into picking the best players, not a pre-set best 20, 30 or 40 at a position.
If upon further examination, it turned out a tight end didn’t quite measure up, there was no necessity found to replace him just to bring the number back to 10. When some obvious oversights of offensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs came to attention late in the process, the result was an unrounded, better list in our belief.
Throughout, we had to balance what was too many against too few. At first blush, 192 total honorees just since 1956 sounds like everybody is getting a trophy but that number averages just three players per year, inclusive of what was wanted—again, the best players of their times. Throughout, there were healthy cautions against getting carried away and some pressure to pare our lists further. Ultimately there were too many good players too close in abilities to make harsh cuts that would have been unfair and diminished, rather than enhanced, the quality of the lists.
Because there are as many opinions as there are persons in the world, inevitably there will be disagreement over some of the selections. But the effort was to distinguish between picks that might be debatable and ones completely unsustainable following closer scrutiny. In the committee’s opinion, that standard was held. For instance, a defensive back that was left off may been have been a greater contributor to a certain team than a linebacker we selected. But teammates had to keep in mind that we were judging players against others at their positions, not on the same squad.
We had other challenges – like weighing the more dominant position of two-way players from the one-platoon days before 1964, and changing natures of positions over time–like quarterback (a blocker in the single wing days) fullback and tight ends. In avoidance of the pressure to balance lists, we chose not to separate centers, guards and tackles or designate outside linebackers or distinguish between safeties and cornerbacks. Wanted were the best offensive linemen and secondary members period.
For players at the skill positions, their statistical places on Princeton’s all-time lists were, of course, a significant factor. But in that light, an attempt also was made to consider contexts like fewer balls thrown and fewer plays per game in the fifties and sixties. As another example, excellent running backs may have had their numbers suppressed in years Princeton had great throwing and receiving weapons. The committee tried to take all that into account, as it did team success. No disrespect was meant towards the ample excellent players on this list who were born at the wrong time to be a part of glory years. But of course, the better the team one played on, the more opportunity to make big plays. No losers on this list. But playing on winning teams necessarily carried weight.
As a player’s inclusion on an All-Ivy team only was a starting point in our evaluations, not a bottom line, there are scattered first-team selections who did not make our list. Conversely, there were a few players who only achieved honorable mention All-Ivy but with the benefit of time and perspective become almost no brainers for our selectors. Thus, the head coaches who vote for All-Ivy annually were only our grand jury. Superior Court Judge Bob Surace insisted no current player, his work unfinished, be selected, although some excellent current candidates will have appeal in 2069, when the 200thanniversary teams are honored.
The commitment of our committee to the process was even beyond expectations. The members’ willingness to work as a team was fully reflective of what they accomplished on the field and in life. These gentlemen, some who earned places on these lists, showed their love for Princeton and a deep respect for its history. Never did anyone push a good buddy over a better football player. Disagree as you likely will over some names on–or not on–this list, be assured that this was a sincere and painstaking attempt to separate the outstanding from the average. And that is a Princeton thing to do.