ALEX KROLL, SCARLET KNIGHT SUPREME
As Rutgers football approaches preparation for the International Bowl to be played on January 5, 2008, even casual college football fans have noticed that this Big East Conference team has become a staple on the national football landscape. For the first time in its long history, one that dates to the first officially contested college football game that was played in 1869 against Princeton University, Rutgers will be playing in its third consecutive bowl game. However, its not as if the Scarlet Knights have not previously enjoyed sterling seasons. Under head coach John Steigman, the 1958 squad went 8-1 with only a 13-12 loss to the Quantico Marine base blemishing the record. In 1960, new coach John Bateman took the reins and other than a 14-12 stumble against Villanova, would have had an undefeated season in his inaugural campaign. The '61 squad finally achieved what is considered to be the pinnacle of Rutgers football, an undefeated 9-0 year in which All American center and linebacker Alex Kroll served as the inspiration for this special team.
Kroll had great maturity. He grew up in western Pennsylvania steel country and was an outstanding player at Leechburg High School. He eschewed a number of football scholarships to instead seek an Ivy League education at Yale so that he could fully develop his intellectual talents while continuing his football career. Among the hardest and most dedicated of workers, Kroll received All Ivy mention as a sophomore on Yale's 1956 conference championship team. Choosing to leave Yale, Kroll entered the U.S. Army and served in the Military Police for two years. After his service experience he reentered college at Rutgers, providing tremendous maturity and leadership for his teammates. As described by Pierce Frauenheim, an outstanding back on this talented squad, "Alex Kroll had charisma. He was a more mature person who was a smart offensive player." Coach John Bateman marked 1960 by dumping the Single Wing offense and instead, used a Multiple Wing-T. Linked with the aggressive defense of coordinator Dewey King who would later be the head coach at San Jose State, the Scarlet Knights went 8-1. Kroll was All East and an Honorable Mention All American. In 1961, he was everyone's All American, a consensus choice at center and the 6'2", 228 pounder earned it as he overcame the prejudice of many towards Rutgers' "low level schedule." As a fine academic institution, the "low level" squad would not get its opportunity to display its wares in a nationally televised bowl game as officials declined any discussion, fearing that a bowl appearance "might cut into the exam schedule". Thus the undefeated Rutgers Scarlet Knights of 1961 would have to be satisfied with creating an indelible piece of history.
Kroll became a second round
draft choice of the New York Titans and continued his aggressive and inspiring
brand of play. In the off-season, he worked at the esteemed advertising firm
of Young & Rubicam in New York and by the time he was in his early thirties,
he was the creative director, eventually becoming President, then Chairman and
CEO of this worldwide company. Retiring in the mid-1990's much time and effort
was spent in community affairs and Alex Kroll founded the Play It Smart
program, utilizing athletics as a means to improve the academic performance of
young student-athletes. Kroll has achieved greatness as a member of The
College Football Hall Of Fame, the Advertising Hall Of Fame, and has been the
recipient of numerous humanitarian awards. Truly he remains one of the greats,
on and off the field, for Rutgers.