Former Vikings RB Darrin Nelson, a first-round draft pick by the club in 1982, was 1 of 14 players to earn induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The entire class will be presented at the 57th National Football Foundation Awards Dinner on December 9 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
Nelson, who holds the Vikings career kickoff returns record with 159, led the team in the category 5 times. He also led the team in rushing 5 times during his career and helped the club advance to the playoffs 5 times.
Nelson, who played under Stanford head coach Paul Wiggin, was the consummate Stanford player of his era. Wiggin went on to coach the Vikings defensive line when Nelson played for the team and is himself a College Hall of Fame honoree for his standout play as a Stanford DE in the 1950s.
“Darrin was probably the most popular player at Stanford in the time I’ve been around the school,” Wiggin said. “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.”
Nelson currently serves as an associate athletics director at UC-Irvine.
“Darrin’s going to have a great time with the events around the College Hall of Fame,” Wiggin said. “They will bring all the inductees to New York and he’s going to see the best banquet I’ve ever been a part of. They really do a first-class job with the event and it’s humbling to be in the company of so many great players you have watched over the years.”
RB Darrin Nelson
A 1st round pick in the 1982 draft, Nelson was a dual threat for the Vikings as a shifty runner and productive receiver out of the backfield. He was also a kick and punt returner and was a part of Vikings teams that made playoff runs in 1987-89.
- Led team in rushing 5 times- 1983, ’85, ’86, ’87, ‘88
- Led team in kickoff returns 5 times- 1983, ’84, ’89, ’91, ‘92
- Had 1,386 scrimmage yards and 7 TDs in 1986
- Franchise’s 7th-leading rusher with 4,231 yards on 981 attempts (4.3 avg.)
Stanford University Halfback, 1977-78, 1980-81 The first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch more than 50 passes in one season, Darrin Nelson would accomplish the feat three times during his standout career at Stanford. He becomes the 18th Cardinal player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. 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 Paul 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 the University of California, 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.