When Johns Hopkins running back Spencer Uggla changed his jersey number from No. 30 to No. 3, he didn’t just shed a numeral. He clothed himself in a legacy.

Uggla is the second player to be voted by his teammates to wear the No. 3 jersey worn by the late Jim Margraff. Margraff, a record-setting quarterback who later became the winningest coach in Blue Jays football history at 221-89-3 in 29 seasons, died Jan. 2, 2019, of a sudden heart attack at the age of 58.


The number is intended to go to a player who embodies Margraff’s values of humility, leadership and passion. That Uggla’s teammates chose him as this year’s recipient is not lost on the 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior.

“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. It’s more an honor to wear it,” said Uggla, who inherited the number from former free safety Ross Andersson. “I remember getting a text from him after I got voted, and he said, ‘You’re wearing it for a reason. Just keep being you. Don’t change a thing because you got it for a reason.’ So that’s kind of always how I’ve tried to live in life, and ever since I got here to Hopkins, I’ve just tried to give my all in football and this program to be the best teammate possible.”


On Saturday at noon, Uggla and Johns Hopkins (12-0) will meet visiting Randolph-Macon (12-0) at Homewood Field for the right to advance to the NCAA Division III semifinals. A win would send the program to only its second Final Four.

The first time? That would be 2018, Margraff’s last season as coach. The possible return trajectory is one that Alice Margraff, Jim’s wife of 26 years, is rooting for.

“It’s amazing,” said the former Alice Collins, who played field hockey, squash and lacrosse at Johns Hopkins and was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October 2000. “When there was a game during the week of Thanksgiving, that was the best thing because it meant they had made it to that second round. So to make it to the quarterfinals where they’ve only been a couple of times, it’s incredible. And to have a home game this week, that’s also amazing.”

Since Margraff’s sudden passing, Blue Jays coach Greg Chimera had been seeking a way to pay tribute to the man who coached him as a fullback from 2006 to 2009 and then hired him as an assistant coach from 2009 to 2018. He considered retiring his mentor’s number to join the No. 81 worn by Bill Stromberg, who was Margraff’s teammate and one of his favorite targets.

“So I called Bill Stromberg, and I said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about retiring Coach’s number. I want to know what you think about that. It would be pretty cool for you guys to be retired together as teammates,’” Chimera said. “He said, ‘You know what you should do? You should unretire my number. Then we’ll be back together.’ And that’s just how the two of them are. They don’t want the spotlight.”

One of Margraff’s favorite phrases was “Pride and Poise,” which the Blue Jays have adopted as their slogan. Chimera decided that the No. 3 jersey should be worn by the player who exemplifies those two characteristics.

Alice Margraff, director of college counseling at McDonogh, said her husband was given the No. 3 almost as an afterthought because of his small stature (5-10). She said retiring the number would have contradicted her husband’s philosophy.

“He liked seeing it on the field,” she said. “When he was coaching, No. 3 was a number he gave to a special player. So different kids wore the No. 3 over the years, and they were kids who tended to be good players, but were also committed to working hard, to being good citizens, to upholding the values that he believed.”


Uggla said he didn’t give much thought to wearing the jersey and in fact voted for junior quarterback Hugh “Bay” Harvey when the team made its selection. But senior cornerback Luca Lutzel said Uggla was a popular choice.

“Everyone sees how much he cares about this team and how much he cares about Hopkins football,” Lutzel said. “The way he treats everybody and the way he approaches football and the way he plays because he’s the best player on the field, these are all the things that Coach Margraff left behind and all the values that Coach Margraff instilled in this program. Spencer is just the embodiment of those.”

Chimera, who said coaches refrain from voting or trying to influence the vote, also agreed with the vote for Uggla.

“He would probably be my vote as well,” he said. “He’s a captain. He’s a guy that does all the little things right. He’s great on the field, he’s great off the field, he’s a voice for the team, he’s a steady guy, he plays with ‘Pride and Poise.’ He just does all the things that you’re looking for in a player.”

Uggla and Lutzel are members of the first class that never played for Margraff. Despite the lack of overlap, they said the connection to Margraff remains strong because of the presence of many of his former players who continue to educate the current roster about Margraff.

“I unfortunately never got a chance to meet him or play for him, but hearing Coach Chimera and [defensive coordinator] Dan Wodicka and Ross Andersson and some of the older guys talk about him, they just tell me he was the best guy in the room at all times and would put his foot down when stuff needed to get done or when stuff wasn’t right,” Uggla said. “They said he was a humble, well-respected leader, and people listened to him — for good reason.”


There’s a similarly good reason the Blue Jays have reached this stage of the postseason. As the starting running back, Uggla leads the offense in rushing yards (738) and ranks second in touchdown runs (seven). He also has caught 15 passes for 109 yards.

Uggla is quick to deflect credit to his teammates, especially sophomore running back Geoff Schroeder and junior running back Andrew Rich. He said Saturday’s game is another item on their checklist for the season.

“We’re right where we want to be, but we’ll never be satisfied,” he said. “We want to keep pushing and keep winning. But this means the world. The first 12-0 season in Hopkins history is pretty cool. We’re all pumped and just focused on getting the job done.”

NCAA Division III quarterfinals

Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins

Saturday, noon


Stream: centennialconference.tv

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