Hall of famer – Nelson Gould
UPLAND, Ind. – The football star married the cheerleader and they’re living happily ever after, right here in our midst. That’s how all-American Nelson Gould is.Not so long ago, Gould, of Eagle, was inducted into Taylor University’s Hall of Fame. The 1962 Taylor grad is the only Trojan whose number, 20, was ever retired.”It’s one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received,” Gould said. “When I got the call, all the grandchildren were all at my house. One of the grandkids made a huge sign. Another one asked, ‘Does this mean grandpa’s famous?'”Gould and wife, Sarah, are the parents of two sons and have four grandchildren.”It’s a great honor and we took the whole family,” he said. “It’s something I had thought about but had given up, thinking it wasn’t going to happen. When I got the call, it was quite a pleasant surprise.”Big back on campusGould played his college ball during the late 50s and early 60s. The Lockhart, N.Y., native had been one of the nation’s most sought-after high school athletes. He took several basketball recruiting trips to Cornell and walked away from a full football scholarship to Division 1 University of Buffalo. Four days before he was to report to the University of Buffalo, he decided he wanted a Christian education, so he bolted to the Midwest and Taylor University in Indiana.
He had three football practices under his belt before that season’s opening game against Bluffton College, the only game of his college career he didn’t start. The coach put him in for the second half, with Taylor trailing 28-7. Gould intercepted two passes and the Trojans won 32-28.He started the next week, and every week after that, until his senior year when a compound leg fracture ended his football career.During the late 1950s, no one kept much in terms of personal statistics. You won, or lost, and did it as a team.”We had a grind-em-out running type of offense,” Gould said. “I remember one game I ran the ball seven or eight straight plays.”At 6-feet-1 and 205 pounds, Gould was a big running back in those days. His college coach, Bob Davenport, knew how a big back should be used – as often as possible.”He carried the ball as many times as we could give it to him,” Davenport said.Run hard, fast and continuouslyDavenport had played on an NCAA national championship team at UCLA, where he also became involved in Campus Crusade for Christ. At 215 pounds, Davenport was the biggest running back in the nation during that championship season.
Davenport’s coaches, Red Sanders and Tommy Prothro, ran him at anything that moved. When he took his place on the sidelines, Coach Davenport’s offensive scheme was just as simple: Gould to the left, Gould to the right, Gould up the middle, move the chains and give it back to Gould.After playing major college ball and in the pros, Davenport had a good eye for what an athlete was.During Gould’s junior year, he was contacted by four NFL teams, requesting his services. Davenport, who had also been wooed by the NFL, opted to play in Canadian Football League because the games weren’t on Sunday. He had arranged for Gould to be courted by some Canadian teams.But Gould broke his leg against Defiance College. He barreled into the line for a typical off tackle running play. Like any good running back, when he was stopped he was still pointed toward the goal, mostly. His leg was pointed toward a parallel universe.A compound leg fracture ended his football career, but you just can’t keep a good man down. He took a year off to recover, and came back as Taylor’s No. 1 tennis player the next year. He was named all conference, even though he hadn’t played since high school.No pampered starsYou know all those stories of star college athletes driving flashy cars with money to burn? That’s not part of the Taylor University story.
Taylor doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. Gould was long on athletic talent, but short on money. He had to work his way through college, which meant he had to choose between college football and basketball – he couldn’t afford to do both, although he was also a basketball starter his freshman year. The other four starters are also in Taylor’s Hall of Fame.Gould chose football and worked in the athletic department’s boiler room during the winter to put himself through college. He went to class all day, practiced football or worked out in the afternoons, and worked in the boiler room most of the night.”It was the only way to pay the bills,” Gould said.To recruit athletes to play around Gould, Davenport cashed in on the fame he earned as a collegiate national championship and professional athlete and talked to any groups of kids who would listen.He put a trailer in his back yard that housed eight football players. They later refurbished an old army barracks that housed most of the team.”We gave them all about $5 a week to eat on,” said Davenport. “Those kids thought they were living high.”It’s the kind of experience that forges lifetime friendships. Gould coached Taylor’s football team for several years after Davenport stepped down in 1969. And when Gould was inducted into Taylor’s Hall of Fame, some of his teammates and players traveled back to Indiana to be there.One is a football coach at Fordham in New York City. Another coaches at another east coast college. They arrived in Upland for the induction, then had to turn around and go home that day. But nothing would stop them from being there.”Now I appreciate it even more because my children and grandchildren and some of my oldest and best friends were there to enjoy it with me,” said Gould.Randy Wyrick can be reached at email@example.comVail Colorado