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.