Former Stanford All-American football player and 2014 National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame inductee Darrin Nelson will be honored during Saturday's Stanford home game against Oregon State, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m.
Stanford and the NFF & College Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that they will jointly honor Nelson, a 2014 inductee, with an NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute, presented by Fidelity Investments.
"Darrin was probably the most popular player at Stanford in the time I've been around the school," said Paul Wiggin, one of Nelson's head coaches at Stanford and a Hall of Fame player from his days with the Cardinal. "He was not only a great player, but had that magnetic personality and was such an impressive guy to be around.
"As a player, he was exceptional. Passing the ball was much different at that time than it is now and he was able to be such a well-rounded back, running the ball and catching it. He was truly Mr. Stanford at that time. He was loved by the students, faculty, alumni and most of all very well respected by his teammates."
The NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute program is a hallowed tradition that began with the inaugural class in 1951, and to this day the salutes remain the first of numerous activities in each inductee's Hall of Fame experience. During the NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salutes, each inductee returns to his alma mater to accept a Hall of Fame plaque that will remain on permanent display at the institution. The events take place on the field during a home game, and many inductees cite the experience as the ultimate capstone to their careers.
Nelson was the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch more than 50 passes in one season. He wound up accomplishing that feat three times during his standout career at Stanford from 1977-78 and 1980-81.
"A dual threat as a rusher and receiver, Darrin Nelson was one of the most impressive running backs of his era," said NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell. "A model student-athlete, he excelled just as well in the classroom as he did on the field. We are thrilled to honor him in front of the Stanford faithful at Stanford Stadium."
A 1981 First-Team All-American, Nelson ended his career as Stanford's all-time leader in rushing yards (4,033), receptions (214), scoring (242) and touchdowns (40), and he finished his career as the NCAA leader for all-purpose yards, which remains a school record at 6,885. The only four-time First-Team All-Pac-10 selection in Stanford history, he became the first freshman running back in conference history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
A finalist for the 1981 Heisman Trophy, Nelson held nine of the top 12 single-game rushing performances in school history at the end of his career, and he led Stanford to wins in the 1977 Sun Bowl and 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl. Honored for his all-around achievements as an NFF National Scholar-Athlete in 1981, Nelson was also a First-Team Academic All-America and academic all-conference selection.
Selected in the first round of the 1982 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Nelson played 11 seasons with the Vikings and San Diego Chargers. The Los Angeles native finished his professional career with 4,442 rushing yards, 2,559 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns, and he led the league with 4.9 yards per carry in 1987.
A member of the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, Nelson was coached by Bill Walsh and Wiggin (a College Football Hall of Fame player from Stanford), and he played alongside Hall of Famers John Elway and Ken Margerum. Currently serving as a Senior Associate Athletics Director at UC Irvine, he previously worked in the same position at Stanford as well as a community relations liaison between Stanford Athletics and various governmental agencies in the Palo Alto area.
Nelson becomes the 18th Stanford player to be inducted, joining Frankie Albert (1939-41), John Brodie (1954-56), Chris Burford (1957-59), Bill Corbus (1931-33), John Elway (1979-82), Hugh Gallarneau (1938-40), Bobby Grayson (1933-35), Bob Hamilton (1933-35), Ken Margerum (1977-80), Bill McColl (1949-51), James Moscrip (1933-35), Ernie Nevers (1923-25), Jim Plunkett (1968-70), Bob Reynolds (1933-35), Jeff Siemon (1969-71), Chuck Taylor (1940-42) and Paul Wiggin (1954-56).
Six coaches with stops in Stanford are in the Hall: Walter Camp (1892, 1894-95), Andy Kerr (1922-23), John Ralston (1963-71), Clark Shaughnessy (1940-41), Pop Warner (1924-32) and Fielding Yost (1900).