A mecca for the highly motivated student-athlete, Dartmouth College is the nation’s ninth oldest university and a member of the Ivy League. Featuring a comprehensive athletic menu, Dartmouth offers 35 varsity sports, with its teams sporting the nickname Big Green. The private, four-year institution is known for excellence in liberal arts, but the school has produced talent on the football field as well.
The academically prestigious institution may seem a long way from the bone-jarring world of professional contact sports, but more than 40 Dartmouth football players have reached the next level over the years. From Reggie Williams to Dennis Durkin, Dartmouth College has had players shine from the playing fields to the game of life.
From Big Green to Bigger Stages
No discussion of Dartmouth pigskin can even begin without a shout-out to Reggie Williams. From 1973 to 1975, the skilled linebacker from Flint, Michigan, was an All-Ivy first team selection three times, and he was named to the All-East and All-New England teams for two consecutive years. He also scored a slot on the American Football Coaches Association All-American Team in 1975.
Williams was a shoo-in for the Dartmouth Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. He said, “Being selected for the College Football Hall of Fame is a great honor and a culminating moment for me, for Dartmouth College, and for the Ivy League.”
The accolades didn’t stop after Williams received his degree. He was a third-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, with whom he went to two Super Bowls and set a franchise record with 16 interceptions and 23 fumble recoveries over a 14-year career.
He was selected for the NFL All-Rookie Team in 1976, was the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1986, and Sports Illustrated’s Co-Sportsman of the Year in ’87. And in 1990, his alma mater honored him once again, bestowing upon him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
A Giant Winner
Coincidence? Defensive end Niko Lalos made his NFL debut playing for the New York Giants — against Reggie Williams’ old team, the Bengals. A class of 2020 grad, Lalos is Dartmouth’s most recent NFL player, signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent and activated for the 11th game of the 2020 season, a match rife with Dartmouth connections. Lalos made a big impression in his NFL debut, first by getting well-wishes on Twitter from LeBron James, then by snaring an interception that led to a field goal in a 19-17 victory over the Bengals, owned by Mike Brown ’57. The following week, he recovered a fumble by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, son of Dartmouth’s own Harry Wilson ’77, in a 17-12 upset win over the Seahawks.
One of Dartmouth’s All-Time Receiving Leaders
The Big Green’s most recent NFL draftee is Casey Cramer ’04, the All-America and All-Ivy tight end who became one of Dartmouth’s all-time receiving leaders from 2000-03. Cramer was taken in the seventh round of the 2004 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a tight end-fullback. He played with the Carolina Panthers in 2004-05 and joined the Tennessee Titans in 2006.
Playing the Fiedler
Jay Fiedler, class of ’94, was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1992 and still holds several Dartmouth passing records. He had big cleats to fill when he succeeded the legendary Dan Marino in 2000 as the Miami Dolphins quarterback and helped the ’Fins reach the NFL playoffs. During five seasons with Miami, Fiedler had a 36-23 record as a starter, passing for 11,040 yards and 66 touchdowns. He played for the New York Jets in 2005, a season punctuated by injuries that continued to plague him with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and prompted his retirement in 2006. Over 11 seasons, Fiedler had a career win-loss record of 37-23 with 11,844 yards passing and 69 touchdowns.
College Football Hall of Famers
Alongside All-American linebacker Reggie Williams, seven other Dartmouth College players are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Clarence “Fat” Spears was an All-American guard in 1914-1915 and Dartmouth’s head coach from 1917-1920. Edward Healey was a tackle at Dartmouth before and after World War I. He was the first player in pro football history to be sold, when he became a Chicago Bear in 1922. He’s also a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Andrew Oberlander played halfback and quarterback and led Dartmouth to the national championship in 1925. Myles Lane is Dartmouth’s all-time scoring leader and in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. William Morton was an All-American quarterback in 1931 and a two-time hockey All-American. Bob MacLeod was an All-American halfback in 1938.
A Sportsman and a Scholar
All-American defensive back Murray Bowden’s election to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 recognized his individual achievements on the gridiron, but he called it a tribute to the team and an honor for the Ivy League.
Bowden was co-captain of Dartmouth’s 1970 team that was the undefeated Ivy League champion, shutting out six of nine opponents. Dartmouth won the Lambert Trophy as the East’s outstanding team. With Bowden in the lineup in 1969 and 1970, Dartmouth won 17 of 18 games.
A psychology major from Snyder, Texas, Bowden graduated cum laude and earned a law degree from the University of Texas. In 1984 he co-founded The Hanover Company, a private real estate development company in Houston.
All-American and dependable Dennis Durkin
When you look at the makeup of football locker rooms, kickers often are an afterthought. Nobody talks about them when things are going well but once one kick is missed, it can have a huge impact on the momentum of a game or season.
Dennis Durkin played his position to near perfection. He delivered several of the school’s best kicking years, including his senior year in the 1992 season when he went 13 for 13 on field goals and was named First Team All Ivy and First Team AP All American. He holds many season and career records, including being the third all-time leading scorer in school history. His dependable kicking was a key component of the 1990-1991-1992 back to back to back Ivy League Championship wins for the Big Green.
Durkin went on to have a very successful business career as well, helping grow and scale global digital entertainment businesses at Microsoft and Activision Blizzard, in addition to a board position at On Running. Prior to starting his business career he received an MBA from Harvard.
Dartmouth’s focus is on undergraduate education, but the small university produced some top talent on the football field who went on to have successful professional careers — a big win-win for Big Green.