Author: Hugh Wyatt
Photos courtesy of the Stephan Archives of the Lawrenceville School
Originally Published: March 6, 2006
With the passing of Ken Keuffel, we have lost a major link to our football heritage. Coach Keuffel, for more than 20 years the head football coach at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and for another 6 years the head coach at Wabash College, died last Sunday in Princeton, N.J. at the age of 82.
As coach, clinician and author, Coach Keuffel was a leading bearer of the single wing torch long after the offense had all but disappeared from the game, writing two books on the offense, “Simplified Single Wing Football,” published in 1964, and “Winning Single Wing Football“, published in 2004, that are must-reading for anyone interested in running the offense or just learning more about its inner workings.
Coach Keuffel played at Princeton University for Coach Charlie Caldwell, who like most college coaches at the time ran one form or another of the single wing. (The single wing was last used in the National Football League by Coach Jock Sutherland of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1947, and last used at the major college level – by Princeton – in 1967.)
Although the single wing has disappeared from the colleges, it did hang on at widely -scattered high schools, and thanks largely to the Internet, it has made something of a comeback in high school and youth football. (Evidences of it can also be seen in today’s “modern” shotgun offenses.
Coach Keuffel felt its near-extinction provided him with several advantages. “One of the big ones,” he told the New York Times in 1973, “is that rival teams find it difficult to prepare for us. They aren’t familiar with the single wing.”
A native of Montclair, N.J., he started his college career in 1943 as a Princeton fullback, then left for service in the Army Air Corps. Returning to Princeton after the war, he was a single-wing quarterback (blocking back) and place-kicker.
In 1947, his 29-yard field goal with a minute to play gave Princeton a shocking 17-14 upset victory against Pennsylvania, then ranked third in the nation, and Philadelphia mounted police had to be called on to prevent a near riot that atrted whenwhen Princeton fans among the 72,000 spectators tried to tear down the goal posts, and angry Penn fans opposed them. (My high school coach, Ed Lawless, played quarterback on that Penn team.)
Following graduaton with a degree in English, he coached the Penn freshmen under another legendary Single-Wing coach, George Munger, while earning a doctorate in English literature from Pennsylvania.
In 1954 he became a teacher and an assistant coach at Lawrenceville, and became the head coach at Lawrenceville in 1956. Following the 1960 season, he left to become head coach at Wabash, but in 1967 he returned to Lawrenceville, where he coached until his first retirement in 1982.
Coach Keuffel was coaxed back into coaching a few years later, and stayed on through 2000, when he finally retired at age 76. And always, although he made many alterations along the way, he coached the unbalanced single wing of Princeton and Penn.
Coach Keuffel was generous with his help and advice. He was a highly refined, a gentleman of the old school who saw himself as a teacher first and a coach second.
His ability to write served him well when it came time to publish his books. I once kidded him about devoting an entire chapter in his first book to the subject of stopping the single wing. “Why?” I asked him.
“I wanted to sell more books!” he told me, laughing.
He was very proud of the fact that in most years at Lawrenceville, a prestigious all-boys prep school, roughly half of its enrollment of 600 were playing either varsity, junior varsity or club football.
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