BY BOB SURACE
Our seniors went 2-6 to 1-9 to 1-9 their first three years and could easily have pointed fingers, saying it wasn’t their fault. Instead getting this program turned around became their only football goal, whether they played a great deal or not at all.
|Stuart Ahlum '13|
I have a lot of sadness whenever seniors leave. But these guys, who stayed loyal through a coaching change, who cheered up Jordan Culbreath, Chuck Dibilio and Khamal Brown through sudden and devastating health problems and who remained positive and dedicated through so much adversity and so many losses over their first three seasons especially left their mark, no matter how visible they were or were not on Saturdays. I cannot watch them move on without thanking them individually.
I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to Coach Roger Hughes and his staff for bringing to Princeton these 23 men who have been so special to me and this football program:
Stuart Ahlum – He has been our scout team quarterback almost every week this year and did a really good job whether he was mimicking a runner-runner thrower like (Harvard’s) Colton Chapple or a drop back passer like (Cornell’s) Jeff Mathews. I’m really proud of the progress and loyalty Stu showed.
Mike Catapano – Since I first became associated with the program as a freshman 26 years ago, I would put Mike’s performance up there next to any Princeton player. And his leadership was exceptional. There are very few two-time All-Ivy players and captains and he is deserving of every bit of recognition he gets. To me, he and Kyle Juszczyk, the slot tight end from Harvard, were the two best players in the league this year, head and shoulders above everybody else.
Joe Cloud – He was one of the best punters in Princeton history, a three-time all-league selection, and I still don’t think people realize his entire impact. He improved so much his senior year in his punts into the red zone, where we had three fumble recoveries that Joe made possible.
|Tim Dondanville '13|
Tim Dondanville – When you list the many unsung persons, Tim is the captain of that group. He signaled the plays from the sideline and helped our young quarterbacks when they came off the field. Just a true student of the game. He is the president of our Uplifting Athletes chapter (raising money for Aplastic Anemia research and treatment). For a guy who did not play, he was one of the best leaders I ever have been around.
Alec Egan – Unfortunately Alec had some injuries early in his career that hurt his development time. He made huge strides this year and pushed the offensive linemen ahead of him on the depth chart all season. His work on the scout team against guys like Catapano and Reid was a big reason we jumped to 31 sacks this year and Alec is a top leader on campus, an officer at his eating club.
Mark Hayes – Mark is one of the favorites players I have coached. In improving every year, he has gone from being a good blocking tight end to being an exceptional blocking tight end who made significant contributions to the passing game as a senior. In my opinion, he was the most valuable player in our offense.
|Hanur Kim '13|
Hanur Kim – It was great to see Hanur come back his senior year and contribute on the field. He was an integral part of one of our best touchdown drives of the year – 86 yards to break a shutout and send us in at halftime leading Lafayette -- and graded extremely high in an alternate role at left guard.
Tim Kingsbury – Tim has been a solid player all three years. But in this one he stepped up into a leadership role that had been filled by Steve Cody and was one of the most productive members of our defense. An ultimate tough guy, he is deserving of his All-Ivy (honorable mention) recognition.
Greg Kohles – Greg was one of our better special teams players. For a senior to play a significant role on units that had success this year, he is a true example of hard work and commitment. The coaches and team were excited to see his continued improvement lead to a valuable role this year.
|Greg Kohles '13|
Matt Landry – Matt is a big, fast, physical player who played his best game of the year against Dartmouth. He made significant contributions earlier in his career on special teams and defense and it was great to see his hard work lead to the success he had on our defensive front this fall.
Charlie Langerhans – Charlie is a guy who didn’t get on the field with the varsity, yet worked his tail off every day and was playing his best football the last few weeks. One of the reasons our offensive line improved as much as it did was having to block Charlie every day in practice. He pushed our guys to be better players and won a game ball the second-to-last week of his career. One of the more touching moments in our (post-season) team meeting was to see our guys give him a two-minute ovation for his contributions.
|Charlie Langerhans '13|
Brad Megay – Brad has excelled in a situational role on defense the last two years. He really improved his pass rush; three sacks were terrific. He always has been a physical run stopper and was a huge factor on a really good defensive front this year.
Kevin Mill – Kevin always is going to be one of my favorite people. He was an elite player who had unfortunate injuries his last couple years that prevented him from being on the field but he came out to every practice, helped our young offensive linemen get better and truly was one of the guys who were the heart and soul of our team.
Tom Moak – There is a reason he is going to be a successful coach. He is as knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the game as anyone and improved his physical skill to where he made big contributions. His poise as the holder throwing the two touchdown passes were highlight plays that kept momentum going in situations that could have been deflating. And for not being a big guy, he was one of the most physical receivers we had.
Kevin Navetta – It was great to see Kevin, who had a major injury his freshman year, come back and play a significant special teams role and get on the field in some defensive packages. He was an extremely hard worker and physical player; pound for pound one of our toughest guys.
|Kevin Navetta '13|
Brian Pourciau – Brian, who has bounced around between different positions, found a home and made great strides at linebacker this year. One of our hardest working guys, he was another who pushed our offensive line and special team units to get better.
Caraun Reid – One of the best interior defensive linemen in the 26 years I have been associated with Princeton Football. And certainly one of the three or four best defensive players in the league in 2012. He was terrific against the run, one of the best pass rushers on the inside, and emerged as one of the better players at his position nationally. At our banquet, so many members of the Princeton football program were able to see why Caraun is possibly the most well-rounded student in the Ivy League. Not only did he kick it off with an outstanding invocation, he closed it by showing everyone his singing talent.
Akil Sharp – Similar to Kevin Mill, Akil put his heart and soul into being the best player he could be. He had an outstanding training camp and then got hit with the injury bug but never stopped working and, both early and late in season, made contributions as a top running back. He also was helpful to our young backs, truly one of the most unselfish players I have been around.
Mandela Sheaffer – We moved Mandela from wide receiver to safety as a sophomore, when we had holes in our defensive backfield, and he learned the position on the run. To see his development as a three-year starter from solid player to force, especially against the run, was terrific. He is a tremendous leader, which was best exhibited when he brought Khamal (Brown) over to the sidelines during practice (the sophomore corner suffered suddenly memory loss that would be diagnosed as a dangerous bleeding AV Malformation) but we saw that type of leadership with him all the time. It was great to see him come up with big plays in key moments, like the pick against Harvard.
|Andrew Starks '13|
Andrew Starks – Andrew has been a fantastic player for three years, a multiple All-Ivy selection who nevertheless improved his game every year. I thought he was as good as any linebacker I saw on video on any team. More important, he was as strong a leader as at any level as I have been around and that would include the NFL.
Luke Taylor – Luke joined our program as a walk-on from sprint football. It’s a shame we didn’t get him earlier because he made terrific strides as a player. Another one of our players whose contributions were only known to the coaching staff and the young DBs that he pushed everyday. He made (Anthony) Gaffney and (Matt) Arends much better players.
Jason Tiemeier – He was a four-year starter who worked as hard as anybody on our team and improved so many things from his conditioning to his leadership of the special teams. He took his position as seriously as anybody and made significant contributions in his four years here. I admire how hard he worked.
Shane Wilkinson – In key moments, he has made some of our most outstanding plays, starting in his junior year when he had his coming out party at Harvard. This year he was so consistent, so reliable, my image of him always will be making diving catches for first downs. The thing people do not see is how improved he was as an all-around player and blocker. He did both the big catches and the little things well.
These were 23 guys who this Thanksgiving gave me reason to be thankful they were in the program when I became the coach.