David M. Nelson

Last updated
David M. Nelson
David M. Nelson.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1920-04-19)April 19, 1920
Detroit, Michigan
DiedNovember 30, 1991(1991-11-30) (aged 71)
Newark, Delaware
Playing career
1939–1941 Michigan
Position(s) Halfback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1946–1947 Hillsdale
1948 Harvard (backfield)
1949–1950 Maine
1951–1965 Delaware
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1951–1984 Delaware
1989–1991 Yankee Conf. (commissioner)
Head coaching record
Overall105–48–6
Bowls1–0
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
1 NCAA College Division National (1963)
2 MIAA (1946–1947)
1 Yankee (1949)
3 Middle Atlantic (1959, 1962–1963)
Awards
NFF Distinguished American Award (1984)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1989)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1987 (profile)

David Moir Nelson (April 29, 1920 – November 30, 1991) was an American football player, coach, college athletics administrator, author, and authority on college football playing rules. He served as the head football coach at Hillsdale College (1946–1947), the University of Maine (1949–1950), and the University of Delaware (1951–1965), compiling a career record of 105–48–6. During his 15 years as the head coach at Delaware, he tallied a mark of 84–42–2 and gained fame as the father of the Wing T offensive formation. From 1951 to 1984, he served as Delaware's athletic director. [1] In 1957, Nelson was named to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Rules Committee and in 1962 became its Secretary-Editor, a position he held for 29 years until his death, the longest tenure in Rules Committee history. [2] In this role, he edited the official college football rulebook and provided interpretations on how the playing rules were to be applied to game situations. Nelson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1987.

Contents

Early years and college

Nelson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Upon graduation from Northwestern High School in 1938, Nelson enrolled at the University of Michigan. As a 5'7", 155-pound halfback, Nelson played football for Fritz Crisler in the same backfield with fellow Northwestern High alumnus Forest Evashevski, All-American fullback Bob Westfall, and 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon. All four members of this famed backfield have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as either a player or as a coach. In 1941, Nelson led the Wolverines in rushing, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

Nelson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1942 before serving as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Air Corps during World War II. He was awarded three battle stars for his service. After the war, Nelson returned to Michigan as assistant baseball coach, earning a Master of Science degree in 1946. [2]

Coaching career

Nelson was head football coach at Hillsdale College in Michigan from 1946 to 1947, assistant football coach at Harvard University in 1948, and head football coach at the University of Maine from 1949 to 1950. While at Maine, Nelson began to develop the Wing-T formation. [3]

When he took over at Delaware in 1951, Nelson continued to develop the Wing-T along with his assistant coach, Mike Lude, and eventual successor, Tubby Raymond, who joined the Delaware staff the fourth year of the Wing-T offense. Delaware's success included winning the Lambert Cup, awarded to the top small-college team in the East, in 1959, 1962 and 1963. The 1963 team also finished the season as the top small college team in the nation in the United Press International poll. When Nelson retired from coaching after the 1965 season, his career record was 105–48–6. [1]

Nelson's Wing-T formation was adopted by a number of other teams, including Evashevski's Iowa Hawkeyes, who won the Rose Bowl in 1957 and 1959 using the formation. Others who used the Wing-T with success included Paul Dietzel with LSU, Frank Broyles with Arkansas, Ara Parseghian with Notre Dame, Jim Owens with Washington, and Eddie Robinson of Grambling State.

Nelson also brought a unique football helmet design to Delaware. In the 1930s, Nelson's future college coach, Crisler, was the coach at Princeton University and was looking for a way to allow his quarterback to easily locate pass receivers running downfield. At the time, there were no rules requiring schools to wear jerseys of contrasting colors, and helmets were dark leather, so distinguishing teammates from opponents at a glance was difficult. Crisler hit upon the idea of a helmet with a winged pattern on it and had the leather dyed in Princeton's black and orange colors. When Crisler moved to Michigan in 1938—the same year Nelson arrived—he used the same design with Michigan's school colors. Nelson brought the same design, in the appropriate school colors, to Hillsdale, Maine, and Delaware. Delaware continues to use the "Michigan" helmet design to this day. [4] [5]

While at the University of Delaware, Nelson held numerous academic and administrative roles in addition to coaching. These positions include Associate Professor and Professor of Physical Education (1951-1990), Professor Emeritus (1990-1991), Director (1951-1984) and Dean (1981-1990) of Physical Education and Athletics and Recreation, as well as Special Assistant to the President (1989-1990). [2]

Books and awards

Nelson authored a number of books on football, including Scoring Power with the Winged-T Offense (co-authored with Evashevski, 1957), The Modern Winged-T Playbook (with Evashevski, 1961), Football: Principles and Plays (1962), Championship Football by 12 Great Coaches (1962), Dave Nelson Selects 99 Best Plays for High School Football (1966), Dave Nelson Selects the Best of Defensive Football for High Schools (1967), and Illustrated Football Rules (1976). Nelson's final book, The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game, was a year-by-year chronicle of how the collegiate football playing rules evolved from 1876 to 1991. It was published posthumously in 1994. [2]

Nelson's awards include the National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award (1984) and the American Football Coaches Association's Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1989). He was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 1978, the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1986, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987 for his coaching achievements. [3]

A bust of David M. Nelson at Delaware Stadium and plaque commemorating his record as head coach, National Championship, and College Football Hall of Fame induction. David M. Nelson bust.JPG
A bust of David M. Nelson at Delaware Stadium and plaque commemorating his record as head coach, National Championship, and College Football Hall of Fame induction.

Nelson's papers are held in Special Collections at the University of Delaware.

Head coaching record

YearTeamOverallConferenceStandingBowl/playoffs
Hillsdale Dales (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association)(1946–1947)
1946 Hillsdale7–14–1T–1st
1947 Hillsdale7–0–23–0–2T–1st
Hillsdale:14–1–27–1–2
Maine Black Bears (Yankee Conference)(1949–1950)
1949 Maine 2–4–12–0–1T–1st
1950 Maine 5–1–13–12nd
Maine:7–5–25–1–2
Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (NCAA College Division independent)(1951–1957)
1951 Delaware 5–3
1952 Delaware 4–4
1953 Delaware 7–1
1954 Delaware 8–2W Refrigerator
1955 Delaware 8–1
1956 Delaware 5–3–1
1957 Delaware 4–3
Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (Middle Atlantic Conference)(1958–1965)
1958 Delaware 5–32–35th (University)
1959 Delaware 8–15–01st (University)
1960 Delaware 2–6–11–46th (University)
1961 Delaware 4–43–2T–3rd (University)
1962 Delaware 7–25–01st (University)
1963 Delaware 8–04–01st (University)
1964 Delaware 4–53–34th (University)
1965 Delaware 5–43–34th (University)
Delaware:84–42–226–15
Total:105–48–6
      National championship        Conference title        Conference division title or championship game berth

Related Research Articles

Harold R. "Tubby" Raymond was an American football and baseball player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Delaware from 1966 to 2001, compiling a record of 300–119–3. Raymond was also the head baseball coach at the University of Maine from 1952 to 1953 and at Delaware from 1956 to 1964, tallying a career college baseball mark of 164–72–3. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2003.

Fritz Crisler

Herbert Orin "Fritz" Crisler was an American college football coach who is best known as "the father of two-platoon football," an innovation in which separate units of players were used for offense and defense. Crisler developed two-platoon football while serving as head coach at the University of Michigan from 1938 to 1947. He also coached at the University of Minnesota (1930–1931) and Princeton University (1932–1937). Before coaching, he played football at the University of Chicago under Amos Alonzo Stagg, who nicknamed him Fritz after violinist Fritz Kreisler.

Tom Harmon American football player and sportscaster

Thomas Dudley Harmon, sometimes known by the nickname "Old 98", was an American football player, military pilot, actor, and sports broadcaster.

Bump Elliott American athlete, coach, and administrator

Chalmers William "Bump" Elliott was an American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. He played halfback at Purdue University (1943–1944) and the University of Michigan (1946–1947). Elliott grew up in Bloomington, Illinois, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a senior in high school and was assigned to the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Purdue University. He received varsity letters in football, baseball, and basketball at Purdue, before being called into active duty in late 1944, serving with the Marines in China.

Delaware Fightin Blue Hens football Football team in Delaware

The Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens football team represents the University of Delaware in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) college football. The team is currently led by head coach Danny Rocco and plays on Tubby Raymond Field at 22,000-seat Delaware Stadium located in Newark, Delaware. The Fightin' Blue Hens have won six national titles in their 117-year history – 1946, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1979, and 2003. They returned to the FCS National Championship game in 2007 and 2010. The program has produced NFL quarterbacks Rich Gannon, Joe Flacco, Jeff Komlo, and Scott Brunner. The Blue Hens are recognized as a perennial power in FCS football and Delaware was the only FCS program to average more than 20,000 fans per regular-season home game for each season from 1999 to 2010.

Clarence Munn

Clarence Lester "Biggie" Munn was an American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. He was the head football coach at Albright College (1935–1936), Syracuse University (1946), and most notably Michigan State College (1947–1953), where his 1952 squad won a national championship. Munn retired from coaching in 1953 to assume duties as Michigan State's athletic director, a position he held until 1971. Each year, the Michigan State Spartans football team hands out the "Biggie Munn Award" to the team's most motivational player. MSU's Munn Ice Arena, built in 1974, is named in his honor. Munn was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1959, and, in 1961, he became Michigan State's first inductee into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. He authored the coaching textbook Michigan State Multiple Offense in 1953.

Forest Evashevski American football player, coach, and administrator

Forest "Evy" Evashevski was an American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. He played college football at the University of Michigan from 1938 to 1940 and with the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks in 1942.

Winged football helmet Football helmet

The winged football helmet is a helmet bearing a distinctive two-toned painted design that typically has sharp outward curves over the forehead forming a wing. It is worn by many high school and college American football teams, most popularly by the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Alton S. Kircher was an American football, basketball, and baseball player and coach.

The 1940 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1940 Big Ten Conference football season. Under third-year head coach Fritz Crisler, Michigan compiled a 7–1 record and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll. The team outscored opponents 196 to 34. The team's sole setback was a 7–6 loss on the road against a Minnesota team that finished the season No. 1 in the final AP Poll.

George Ceithaml

George Frank Ceithaml was an American football quarterback and coach. He was the starting quarterback for Fritz Crisler's University of Michigan football teams in 1941 and 1942. Crisler later called Ceithaml "the smartest player he ever taught." Ceithaml was selected as the quarterback on the 1942 All-Big Ten Conference team, the captain of the 1942 All-American Blocking Team, and was the 19th player selected in the 1943 NFL Draft. He later served as an assistant football coach at Michigan and the University of Southern California.

Paul Grover White was an American football player and coach. He played college football as a halfback for Fritz Crisler's University of Michigan Wolverines football teams in 1941, 1942, 1943, and 1946 — missing the 1944 and 1945 seasons due to military service. He served as the captain of the 1943 Michigan team that compiled a record of 8–1 and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll. In 1944, he received Michigan's Big Ten Medal of Honor as the who had best demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and athletics. He also played professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1947. He played in 11 games for the Steelers, gaining 240 all-purpose yards and scoring one touchdown. His longest run in the NFL was good for a 52-yard gain. In 1949, he served as the backfield coach at Hillsdale College. In March 1950, he was hired as the backfield coach at the University of Connecticut.

The 1939 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1939 Big Ten Conference football season. Under second-year head coach Fritz Crisler, Michigan compiled a 6–2 record and outscored opponents 219 to 94. The team was ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll after winning its first four games by a combined score of 165 to 27, but lost its fifth and sixth games to Illinois and Minnesota. After winning its final two games, the Wolverines finished the season ranked No. 20 in the final AP Poll. In the post-season rankings by Frank Dickinson, the University of Illinois professor who developed the Dickinson System, Michigan ranked seventh in the country.

The 1938 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1938 Big Ten Conference football season. After the firing of Harry Kipke in December 1937, Fritz Crisler took over as Michigan's head coach in February 1938. In the first year of the Crisler era, the Wolverines compiled a 6–1–1 record and outscored opponents 131 to 40, allowing an average of only five points per game. The team's only setbacks were a 7-6 loss to Minnesota and a scoreless tie with Northwestern. The Wolverines finished the season ranked No. 16 in the final AP Poll. In the post-season rankings compiled by Frank Dickinson, the University of Illinois professor who developed the Dickinson System, Michigan ranked sixth in the country.

Irvin C. "Whiz" Wisniewski was an American football and basketball player and coach. He served as the head football coach at Hillsdale College in 1951, tallying a mark of 2–6. Wisniewski was also the head basketball coach at Hillsdale from 1950 to 1952 and at the University of Delaware from 1954 to 1966, compiling a career college basketball record of 124–179.

History of Michigan Wolverines football in the Crisler years

The History of Michigan Wolverines football in the Crisler years covers the history of the University of Michigan Wolverines football program during the period from the hiring of Fritz Crisler as head coach in 1938 through his retirement as head coach after winning the 1948 Rose Bowl. Michigan was a member of the Big Ten Conference during the Crisler years and played its home games at Michigan Stadium.

History of Michigan Wolverines football in the Oosterbaan years

The History of Michigan Wolverines football in the Oosterbaan years covers the history of the University of Michigan Wolverines football program during the period from the promotion of Bennie Oosterbaan as head coach in 1948 through his firing after the 1958 season. Michigan was a member of the Big Ten Conference during the Oosterbaan years and played its home games at Michigan Stadium.

The 1950 Washington State Cougars football team was an American football team that represented Washington State College during the 1950 college football season. First-year head coach Forest Evashevski led the team to a 2–3–2 mark in the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) and 4–3–2 overall.

The 1950 Maine Black Bears football team was an American football team that represented the University of Maine as a member of the Yankee Conference during the 1950 college football season. In its second and final season under head coach David M. Nelson, the team compiled a 5–1–1 record. The team played its home games at Alumni Field in Orono, Maine. Peter Pocius Jr. was the team captain.

References

  1. 1 2 "1997 Hall of Fame Inductees: DAVID M. NELSON". Athletics Hall of Fame. University of Delaware. Athletics Media Relations. Archived from the original on September 1, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Guide to the David M. Nelson papers, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  3. 1 2 "David "The Admiral" Nelson". College Football Hall of Fame . Football Foundation. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  4. "Michigan's Winged Helmet". The Regents of the University of Michigan . Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  5. Woulfe, Tyler (September 22, 2004). "Using their heads: Story of the Tiger helmet; Current look a throwback to an original '30s design". The Daily Princetonian . Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.