David M. Nelson

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.

David M. Nelson
David M. Nelson
Biographical details
BornApril 19, 1920
Detroit, Michigan
DiedNovember 30, 1991 (aged 71)
Newark, Delaware
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1948Harvard (backfield)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1989–1991Yankee Conf. (commissioner)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
1 NCAA College Division National (1963)
2 MIAA (1946–1947)
1 Yankee (1949)
3 Middle Atlantic (1959, 1962–1963)
NFF Distinguished American Award (1984)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1989)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1987 (profile)

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]

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]

David M. Nelson bust
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.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Hillsdale Dales (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1946–1947)
1946 Hillsdale 7–1 T–1st
1947 Hillsdale 7–0–2 T–1st
Hillsdale: 14–1–2
Maine Black Bears (Yankee Conference) (1949–1950)
1949 Maine 2–4–1 2–0–1 T–1st
1950 Maine 5–1–1 3–1 2nd
Maine: 7–5–2 5–1–2
Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (NCAA College Division independent) (1951–1957)
1951 Delaware 5–3
1952 Delaware 4–4
1953 Delaware 7–1
1954 Delaware 8–2 W 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 5–3 2–3 5th (University)
1959 Delaware 8–1 5–0 1st (University)
1960 Delaware 2–6–1 1–4 6th (University)
1961 Delaware 4–4 3–2 T–3rd (University)
1962 Delaware 7–2 5–0 1st (University)
1963 Delaware 8–0 4–0 1st (University)
1964 Delaware 4–5 3–3 4th (University)
1965 Delaware 5–4 3–3 4th (University)
Delaware: 84–42–2 26–15
Total: 105–48–6
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ a b c "David M. Nelson Papers". University of Delaware Library Special Collections. January 19, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "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.

External links

1881 Michigan Wolverines football team

The 1881 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1881 college football season. While the University of Michigan had fielded "football" teams in 1879 and 1880, those teams played a game that was more in line with traditional rugby, and many consider the 1881 team to be the first at Michigan to play American football. The team finished with a record of 0–3 after playing the top teams in the country – Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

1883 Princeton Tigers football team

The 1883 Princeton Tigers football team represented the College of New Jersey, then more commonly known as Princeton College, in the 1883 college football season. The team finished with a 7–1 record and outscored opponents 238 to 26, using the new scoring rules introduced by Walter Camp. The Tigers won their first seven games before losing the final game of the season to Yale in New York.Alex Moffat was the team's captain and star player. Moffat played at the halfback position and developed a reputation as "probably the greatest kicker ever seen on a football field." Football historian David M. Nelson credits Moffat with revolutionizing the kicking game in 1883 by developing the "spiral punt," described by Nelson as "a dramatic change from the traditional end-over-end kicks." Moffat has also been credited with inventing the drop kick, and kicked equally well with either foot. In 1883, Moffat kicked 32 goals in 15 games.

1894 Chicago vs. Stanford football game

The 1894 Chicago vs. Stanford football game, played on December 25, 1894 was a college football game between the Chicago Maroons and Stanford. Chicago won 24 to 4. The game was played in San Francisco, California. It was the first postseason intersectional contest, foreshadowing the modern bowl game. Herbert Hoover was Stanford's student financial manager.

1940 Michigan Wolverines football team

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.

The 1940 team featured one of the greatest backfields in Michigan football history with all four principal starters going on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as either a player or coach. Left halfback Tom Harmon was a consensus All-American and the winner of the Heisman Trophy as the best overall player in college football. Harmon became the focus of nationwide media coverage, even appearing on the cover of Life magazine in November 1940. Quarterback Forest Evashevski won the Big Ten Medal as the school's best senior student-athlete and was later referred to by Coach Crisler as "the greatest quarterback I ever had." Fullback Bob Westfall, known as "Bullet Bob," was the country's fourth leading rusher in 1940, gaining 808 yards in eight games. (Harmon had 852 rushing yards.) Westfall went on to become a consensus All-American in 1941 and also won All-Pro honors for the Detroit Lions in 1945. David M. Nelson, who started the most games at right halfback, went on to a 20-year career as a college football coach and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach.

The line playing in front of Michigan's Hall of Fame backfield was also one of the best in school history with four of the seven starters going on to play in the NFL. Left tackle Al Wistert had his jersey retired at Michigan, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and was an eight-time All-Pro selection for the Philadelphia Eagles. Left guard Ralph Fritz was a first-team All-Big Nine player in 1940 and later played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Center Robert Ingalls played for the Green Bay Packers and later served for 12 years as the head football coach at Connecticut. End Ed Frutig, who was Harmon's principal receiver, was selected as a first-team member of the 1940 College Football All-America Team and later played for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

A fifth starter on the 1940 line, Milo Sukup, was the running guard and one of the principal blockers for Harmon and Westfall. Harmon in 1940 publicly praised Sukup and Fritz as "two big reasons for Harmon." Sukup was reportedly on track for selection as an All-American until he suffered a career-ending injury late in the season. In a November 1940 game against Illinois, Sukup suffered a blow to the head while blocking for Harmon. He was knocked unconscious, suffered from temporary amnesia and was later hospitalized for several days after suffering recurring headaches. Sukup was propped up in a bed at University Hospital when the Wolverines left to play Minnesota and listened by radio from his hospital bed as the team suffered its only loss of the season. Sukup missed the last three games of the season due to the concussion and did not compete further as a football player. Robert Kolesar, who replaced Sukup at right guard for the last two games, went on to play for the Cleveland Browns.

1941 Michigan Wolverines football team

The 1941 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1941 Big Ten Conference football season. Under fourth-year head coach Fritz Crisler, Michigan compiled a record of 6–1–1 (3–1–1 Big Ten), outscored opponents 147 to 41 and was ranked #5 in the final AP Poll. The team played three ranked opponents, defeating #5 Northwestern (14–7), playing to a tie with #14 Ohio State (20–20), and losing by a 7–0 score to the 1941 Minnesota team that won the 1941 national championship. With a strong, veteran line, the Wolverines also shut out four of their eight opponents: Pittsburgh (40–0); Columbia (28–0); Illinois (20–0); and Iowa (6–0).Fullback Bob Westfall was selected as a consensus first-team player on both the 1941 College Football All-America Team and the All-Big Ten Conference team. Halfback Tom Kuzma was the team's leading scorer with 48 points, and tackle Reuben Kelto received the team's Most Valuable Player award. Tackle Al Wistert received second-team All-America honors, and center Robert Ingalls was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten honoree.

Alex Moffat (American football)

Alexander Moffat (September 22, 1862 – February 23, 1914) was an American football player, coach and official. He played college football at Princeton University from 1882 to 1884 and was known as one of the greatest kickers in 19th century football. After his playing career ended, he remained active in the development of the game as a coach and founding member of football's rules committee. He was reported to have held a place in Princeton athletic history similar to that held by Walter Camp at Yale. Moffat was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

Delaware Stadium

Delaware Stadium is a 22,000-seat multi-purpose stadium in Newark, Delaware, and is home to the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens football team. The stadium is part of the David M. Nelson Athletic Complex, which includes the Bob Carpenter Center, Fred P. Rullo Stadium, the Fred Rust Ice Arena and the Delaware Field House.

Herbert C. Reed

Herbert C. Reed was an American football coach. He served as the head football coach at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan for five seasons, from 1908 until 1912, compiling a record of 7–9–5.

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.

During the 10 years in which Crisler served as head football coach, Michigan compiled a record of 71–16–3 (.806). Tom Harmon played for the Wolverines from 1938 to 1940 and in 1940 became the first Michigan player to win the Heisman Trophy. 1947 Michigan team, sometimes known as the "Mad Magicians", compiled a perfect 10–0 record, outscored its opponents 394–53, defeated the USC Trojans 49–0 in the 1948 Rose Bowl game, and were selected as the nation's No. 1 team by a 226–119 margin over Notre Dame in an unprecedented AP Poll taken after the bowl games. Bob Chappuis finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1947.

Ten players from the Crisler years have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. They are Chappuis, Bump Elliott, Pete Elliott, Harmon, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, David M. Nelson (inducted as coach), Tubby Raymond (inducted as coach), and Bob Westfall, Albert "Ox" Wistert, and Alvin "Moose" Wistert. Two have also been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame—Hirsch and Len Ford. Three members of the coaching staff have also been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. They are Crisler, Clarence "Biggie" Munn, and Bennie Oosterbaan (inducted as player).

List of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens head football coaches

The Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens college football team represents the University of Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The Fightin' Blue Hens compete as part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Championship Subdivision. The program has had 23 head coaches (and one interim head coach) since it began play during the 1889 season, and Danny Rocco is currently the head coach.The team has played more than 1,159 games over 123 seasons. Harold "Tubby" Raymond is the leader in seasons coached and games won, with 300 victories during his 36 years with the program. William D. Murray has the highest winning percentage, with .747. Ira L. Pierce has the lowest winning percentage, as his team lost all six of their games in 1896.Of the 23 different head coaches who have led the Blue Hens, Murray, David M. Nelson, and Raymond have been inducted as head coaches into the College Football Hall of Fame.

List of Hillsdale Chargers head football coaches

The Hillsdale Chargers football program is a college football team that represents Hillsdale College in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a part of the NCAA Division II. The team has had 28 head coaches (not counting "student coaches") since its first recorded football game in 1891. The current coach is Keith Otterbein who first took the position for the 2002 season.

Maine Black Bears football

For information on all University of Maine sports, see Maine Black Bears.The Maine Black Bears football program is the intercollegiate American football team for the University of Maine located in the U.S. state of Maine. The team competes in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and are members of the Colonial Athletic Association. Maine's first football team was fielded in 1892. The team plays its home games at the 10,000 seat Alfond Stadium in Orono, Maine.

Nate Duffy

Nate Duffy was an American football coach. He served as the head football coach at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan for one season in 1897, compiling a record of 1–1–1.

P. Folsom

P. Folsom was the head coach of the University of Maine's football team in 1895 and compiled a 1–4 record.

Spiral (football)

In American football, a spiral is the continuous lateral rotation of the football following its release from the hand of a passer or foot of a punter.

Tubby Raymond

Harold R. "Tubby" Raymond (November 14, 1926 – December 8, 2017) 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.

William D. Murray

William D. Murray (September 9, 1908 – March 29, 1986) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at University of Delaware from 1940 to 1942 and from 1946 to 1950 and at Duke University from 1951 to 1965, compiling a career college football record of 142–67–11. During his tenure at Delaware, Murray tallied a 49–16–2 mark including three undefeated seasons from 1941, 1942, and 1946; there was no formal team from 1943 to 1945 due to World War II. Murray's career record at Duke was 93–51–9, giving him second most wins in program history behind Wallace Wade. Murray was also the head basketball coach at Delaware for one season in 1944–1945. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1974. In 1983, Murray was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.

In 1965, he retired as Duke's head football coach and ended his active coaching and was named executive secretary of the American Football Coaches Association, where he served for 17 years.

William McAvoy

William James McAvoy (October 16, 1884 – September 17, 1956) was an American football, basketball, and baseball coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Delaware (1908–1916, 1922–1924), Drexel University (1920–1921), and the University of Vermont (1925–1927), compiling a college football record of 52–70–14.

Winged 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.

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