Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner whose decision to pass on the NFL was a vestige of a different time in American sports, has died at the age of 82, the New York Times reports.
Kazmaier was a brilliant all-around player at Princeton who could run, pass, punt and play defense, but when the Bears selected him in the 1952 NFL draft, he politely declined to play pro football and instead got an MBA at Harvard.
“I knew I could earn more money in business than I could in professional football,” Kazmaier 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.”
Kazmaier never played in the NFL, but he could have been a great player — in any era. In fact, Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who’s often credited as one of the most innovative offensive coaches in football today, said this year that he’s not doing anything that Kazmaier didn’t do more than half a century ago.
“I don’t think anybody’s inventing anything new,” Kelly told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a very cyclical game. A lot of things that are being done with the Wildcat formation was the single-wing formation run way back when. Dick Kazmaier won the Heisman Trophy at Princeton running the single-wing offense. He would have been a good zone-read quarterback.”
Instead, Kazmaier decided to be a good businessman.