Mr. Kazmaier played in an age of relative athletic innocence as a 5-foot-11, 171-pound triple-threat tailback in Princeton’s single-wing offense. In his high-top football cleats, he dashed across the gridiron with a graceful deceptiveness and threw the football with uncanny precision.
“His running has no pounding power, no blinding speed,” a November 1951 cover story in Time magazine said. “But a trail of sprawling, frustrated tacklers attests to a swivel-hipped shiftiness, a ball-bearing glide that enable him to change pace or direction without losing stride.”
Mr. Kazmaier was a two-time all-American who led Princeton to 22 straight victories under coach Charlie Caldwell, including perfect 9-0 records in 1950 and 1951. In his senior season, Mr. Kazmaier led the nation in total offense, with 1,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and a .626 passing percentage. He was also his team’s top punter — and, for good measure, was a standout basketball player.
He won the Heisman Trophy and the two other top national collegiate football honors, the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards. He was named the 1951 Associated Press athlete of the year. Second place went to golfer Ben Hogan, who won the Masters and U.S. Open tournaments that year.
And then, as one of the most famous athletes in America, Mr. Kazmaier stepped away from the sport for good. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but was never tempted to sign a contract.
“Pro football — that’s definitely out,” he said after his memorable 1951 season. “I don’t see anything I could gain by it.”
Instead, he graduated cum laude from Princeton in 1952, with a degree in psychology, and enrolled in the Harvard Business School.
“Money doesn’t interest me at all right now. I probably could sign a pro contract and make a lot of quick cash. That’s not for me. I don’t want to live a fast life. I want a quiet, normal life.”
He received a master’s degree in business administration in 1954, served in the Navy and then became an executive, largely with businesses related to sports manufacturing and management. In 1975, he formed Kazmaier Associates, a company that consulted on sports marketing and manufacturing. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1966 and spent 10 years as the president of the National Football Foundation.
Still, perhaps because they were so fleeting, Mr. Kazmaier’s exploits on the football field continue to linger in sepia-tinted memory.
“The little fellow had to be seen to be believed,” New York Times columnist Arthur Daley wrote in 1951, “and even then he strained credulity.”
When Princeton beat Yale, 27-0, a headline in The Washington Post read, “Yale Beaten by Kazmaier.”
Observers debated which of Mr. Kazmaier’s performances were more breathtaking. Throughout the 1951 season, he led Princeton to victory over Harvard, 54-15; Lafayette, 60-7; New York University, 54-20; and Dartmouth, 13-0.
On a snowy field in a match against Brown on Nov. 3, 1951, Mr. Kazmaier gained 262 all-purpose yards and scored the game’s only touchdowns, on 13- and 61-yard runs. Princeton won, 12-0.
Against Cornell on Oct. 27, 1951, he gained 124 yards on 18 carries and completed 15 of 17 passes for 236 yards. He ran for two touchdowns and passed for three more as Princeton beat a previously undefeated Cornell team, 53-15.
New York Times reporter Allison Danzig called his performance “one of the greatest passing exhibitions ever seen on any gridiron since the introduction of the pass in 1906.”
Cornell’s coach, Lefty James, said afterward: “Kazmaier is the greatest back I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching football.”
Richard William Kazmaier Jr. was born Nov. 23, 1930, in Maumee, Ohio. In high school, he earned 17 letters in football, basketball, baseball, track and golf.
He received an academic scholarship to Princeton and held jobs as a waiter and truck driver to help pay his way through school. One of his college roommates was John McPhee, the well-known nonfiction writer for the New Yorker.
In addition to his career in business, Mr. Kazmaier was chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He served on the boards of Princeton University, the American Red Cross and several sports groups.
In 1990, one of his six daughters, Patty Kazmaier, a star ice hockey player at Princeton, died of a blood disorder at age 28. Mr. Kazmaier helped create the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given each year to the country’s top women’s college hockey player.
Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Patricia Hoffmann Kazmaier of Concord, Mass., and five daughters.
In 2008, Mr. Kazmaier’s No. 42 was permanently retired by Princeton. The same number was worn in the 1960s by Princeton basketball star and future senator Bill Bradley, who said Mr. Kazmaier was his boyhood sports hero.
“He had won the Heisman Trophy, and he went to Princeton,” Bradley told the Daily Princetonian in 2006, “and I wanted to be him.”