Dick Kazmaier, a Heisman Winner Who Passed on the N.F.L., Dies at 82
By FRANK LITSKY
Published: August 1, 2013
Dick Kazmaier, a Princeton halfback who won the Heisman Trophy in 1951 as the nation’s outstanding college football player, but who rejected a career in the National Football League, saying he had achieved all he wanted in the sport and could make more money in business, died on Thursday in Boston. He was 82.
The cause was heart and lung disease, said Bob Ruxin, the president of Kazmaier Associates, an investment and financial consulting business with a special interest in sports.
Kazmaier, the last Ivy Leaguer to win the Heisman, an athlete who won varsity letters in five sports in high school and graduated second in his class, went from Princeton to graduate school at Harvard and a rewarding, lucrative career. He was chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and president of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.
But he is best remembered for exploits on the football field that almost surely would have continued in the professional game if he had chosen that path.
At 5 feet 11 inches and 171 pounds, Kazmaier looked too fragile to play high-level college football, especially in a single-wing offense that favored bruising 2-on-1 blocking. Still, he succeeded in the triple-threat role of runner, passer and punter.
As a junior and senior, he led Princeton to undefeated seasons and was named to most all-American teams. As a senior, in separate player-of-the-year polls, he won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Trophy. He was voted the Associated Press athlete of the year in 1951 — ahead of Ben Hogan and Stan Musial.
But football was not the focus of his life. When Princeton’s dean of students told him he had won the Heisman Trophy, he recalled: “I thought it was nice. Then I went back to class.”
Kazmaier was drafted by the Chicago Bears but declined to join the team, or any other one. Player salaries then were often less than $5,000 a year. Instead, with a degree in psychology, he pursued a master’s in business administration at Harvard, receiving the degree in 1954.
After Harvard came three years as a Navy officer. He then started a career in sports marketing and consulting, and in 1975 he founded Kazmaier Associates. He had no regrets about giving up football.
“I knew I could earn more money in business than I could in professional football,” he said, “but there was more to it than that. I had achieved everything I could achieve as an individual and as part of a team. I felt there was nowhere to go but down.”
Richard William Kazmaier Jr. was born on Nov. 23, 1930, in Maumee, Ohio, outside Toledo. He grew up there playing many sports.
“I had good coordination and speed,” he said, “and I practiced. I shot baskets. I threw a football through a rubber tire. I’d field ground balls. It was just a natural part of life. There were no sports camps, no special training.”
Kazmaier won high school letters in football, basketball, baseball, track and golf.
He was recruited by 23 colleges, most offering full scholarships. He chose Princeton, where, like most athletes and nonathletes, he received financial aid, in his case $400 a year. (Tuition was $600.) To cover the rest of his tuition and room and board, he waited on tables, drove laundry trucks and took summer jobs.
He started his football career at Princeton as the fifth-string tailback on the 1948 freshman team.
“I was about 155 pounds,” he said. “I’m not sure they thought I was going to make that big of a difference in my four years there. But we had 120 men at that first meeting freshman year, and only 12 of us would letter as seniors.”
Frank McPhee, a teammate, said Kazmaier “was the most determined kid I ever saw.”
In his three varsity seasons, Kazmaier passed for 2,404 yards and rushed for 1,950. As a senior, he led the nation with 1,027 yards rushing in nine games.
Time magazine called him “a refreshing reminder, in the somewhat fetid atmosphere that has gathered around the pseudo amateurs of U.S. sports, that winning football is not the monopoly of huge hired hands taking snap courses at football foundries.”
His classmates voted him the senior who did the most for Princeton. Years later, The Princeton Athletic News named him Princeton’s football player of the century. In 1966, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Kazmaier is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Patricia Hoffmann; five daughters; and several grandchildren. Another daughter died in 1990. Further information about his survivors was not immediately available.
Despite his success, Kazmaier remained self-effacing.
“It’s been a long time since someone recognized me as a Heisman winner,” he said. “I don’t think of it as something I did. I think of it as something we did as a group. Football is a consummate team sport. Nobody does anything of substance unless they do it with everybody else on the team. You have to have the team. The rest? It’s just hype.”
In 2008, Princeton retired his number, 42, which was also worn by Bill Bradley, the university’s basketball great.
At the time, Bradley said: “When I was 9 years old, playing pickup football in the church yard across from my house in Crystal City, Mo., I imagined that I was Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier, who played for some college I never heard of called Princeton. Other kids wanted to be Hopalong Cassady from Ohio State. I wanted to be Dick Kazmaier.”