Former Vikings and Stanford University running back Darrin Nelson was part of a 14-player class inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday at the 57th National Football Foundation's Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
Nelson became the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch more than 50 passes in one season (1977). He matched the feat in 1978 and 1981 and finished sixth in Heisman voting after his senior season.
Vikings Personnel Consultant Paul Wiggin, a Stanford alumnus and College Football Hall of Fame member who coached Nelson (1980-81) said Nelson "was probably the most popular player at Stanford in the time I've been around the school."
"He was not only a great player, but had that magnetic personality and was such an impressive guy to be around," Wiggin said. "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."
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 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."
Nelson was selected by Minnesota in the first round (seventh overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft and continued to pose multiple threats to opponents. He led the Vikings in rushing five times (1983, 1985-88) and kickoff returns five times (1983-84, '89, '91-92). Nelson accumulated 4,231 rushing yards for the Vikings, which is the seventh-most in franchise history.
"For 10 seasons, Darrin played an integral role in the Vikings franchise," said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf. "He remains one of the top 10 running backs in team history and a member of the Vikings family. We congratulate him on his induction into the College Hall of Fame."
Click here to read a Q&A Nelson recently did with Jim Gehman for NFLPlayerEngagement.com.