John Haldeman remembers the game as if it were yesterday. He was standing on the Legion Field turf as a Duke University freshman in September 1972, waiting to play mighty University of Alabama and hearing 70,000 or so crimson-clad zealots screaming for the Tide. After playing four years of ball in cozier settings at The Haverford School, Haldeman was suitably in awe.
“It was Bear Bryant, man,” he says, laughing. “[Future NFL Hall of Famer] John Hannah was playing tackle for them. It was awesome-—a fantastic experience.”
Haldeman and his Blue Devils weren’t cowed. At least, not early on. They trailed just 13-12 at the half. Things got a little out of hand after intermission, and ’Bama rolled to a 35-12 victory. Haldeman saw time on special teams that day.
He spent two years playing football for Duke and was also a four-year lacrosse standout, earning honorable mention all-America honors as a senior. That came after a career as a running back and defensive back at Haverford, which featured lead roles on the Fords’ back-to-back undefeated grid squads in ’70 and ’71. And then there was his deluxe performance on the lacrosse field.
Those accomplishments stay with Haldeman, who still looks like he could run over a linebacker or two. More important to him, as he navigates his life as a businessman, husband and father, are the lessons he took away from his time at Haverford. “I learned how to compete in the classroom,” he says. “I was tested every day, and it was very helpful to be in that environment.”
It gave him the foundation necessary to thrive later on. “There was nowhere to hide,” he says.