FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - In a year that the franchise is celebrating its 50th anniversary, Patriots fans had an opportunity to vote for one of three hall of fame finalists, each of whom were perennial American Football League (AFL) All-Stars for the then Boston Patriots. Today, the Patriots announced that fullback Jim Nance has earned the honor of becoming the 14th player and the first running back to be inducted into the team's hall of fame.
"I am glad that the fans selected Jim Nance for this honor," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "Like so many others, he was one of the reasons I became a Patriots fan. He was an attraction. He brought fans to the games and that was very important in building a loyal fan base. Four decades later, we still have many season ticket holders who became fans of the Patriots in the 1960s because of players like Jim Nance. The fact that he still holds some prominent rushing records 38 years after his playing career speaks volumes."
Nance was drafted by the Boston Patriots in the 19th round of the 1965 AFL Draft despite leading Syracuse in rushing in 1964 and tying Jim Brown's school record with 13 rushing touchdowns as a senior. In 1963 and 1965, he also earned All-America honors as the NCAA's heavyweight wrestling champion.
In just his second season with the Patriots (1966), he led the AFL and earned league MVP honors after setting a franchise record with 1,458 yards rushing. In the 10-year history of the AFL, Nance was the only player to eclipse the 1,400-yard plateau and his 104.1-yard rushing average per game that season remains a franchise record -- 43 years later.
Nance was voted to the AFL All-Star game in 1966 and again in 1967 after leading all AFL and NFL rushers each year. It is the only time a Patriots back has led the league in rushing in back-to-back seasons. He also earned the distinction of being the only AFL player to rush for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He was traded by the Patriots to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972, but left New England as the franchise's all-time leading rusher in nearly every statistical category. His 45 career rushing touchdowns remain a franchise record.
In 1966, Nance was the first Patriot to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. The photo captured his 65 yard touchdown run against the Buffalo Bills in the Patriots' 14-3 victory. The game was billed as "The Game of the Year" in 1966.
At 6-foot-1 and weights varying from 225 to over 240 pounds, Nance was a powerful runner. Yet, he also had five career runs from scrimmage of 50 yards or more, including three touchdowns. He rushed 299 times in 14 games in 1966, including a game against the Oakland Raiders that he carried 38 times for 208 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-21 win. His attempts record was broken 31 years later by Curtis Martin, but remains second all-time and his 208 yards rushing remains second only to Tony Collins' 212 in 1983.
In addition to his tenure in New England, Nance also played in seven games for the New York Jets in 1973 and finished his career by playing his final two seasons in the World Football League (WFL) from 1974-75. He became the WFL's all-time leading rusher with 2,007 yards on 490 carries (4.1 avg), including 15 touchdowns.
Nance passed away on June 17, 1992. He is survived by his daughter, Rachel, who will represent her father at the Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony the weekend of the Patriots' preseason opener August 20-23.
Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a new hall of fame tradition, inducting one player or head coach to The Hall each year. The process for induction now involves a panel of media, alumni and staff who collectively nominate the players or head coaches most deserving of induction. After the nominations are made and discussed, the committee votes and the top three tallies become that year's finalists. The Patriots then give their fans the opportunity to vote online to select each year's winner.
Earlier this year, a 19-person nomination committee met at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon to discuss this year's candidates for induction. Those votes were tallied and the three finalists were Houston Antwine, Jon Morris and Jim Nance. Fans had the opportunity to vote from April 21 until May 31. Since the new process was implemented, the fans have inducted Stanley Morgan (2007), Ben Coates (2008) and now Jim Nance (2009).
About The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon**
The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon is the crown jewel of Patriot Place and the only sports and education experience of its kind. Through a dazzling array of interactive multimedia exhibits and artifacts never before viewable by the public, The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon showcases the tradition of the New England Patriots, explores the history of football in New England, and promotes math and science education for the thousands of schoolchildren expected to visit each year. For more information, please visit www.thehallatpatriotplace.com.
About the Patriots Hall of Fame
The Patriots are celebrating their 50th anniversary season this year and one of the first announcements made by the Kraft family to commemorate the anniversary was the induction of William H. "Billy" Sullivan, Jr. into the team's Hall of Fame. Sullivan, the franchise's founder, is the first non player or head coach to be inducted into The Hall.
The Patriots Hall of Fame was officially formed in 1991 after John Hannah became the first Patriots player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Prior to 1991, the only honor bestowed a former player was to retire the player's number. With the hall of fame, the Patriots created a new way of honoring their greatest players. But it wasn't until 2008, with the opening of The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, that Patriots players, past and present, truly had a place to call home that they could share with their fans. Now, enshrinement into The Hall is an honor befitting of the franchise's greatest players, with 30-foot video pylons displaying each enshrinee.
Beginning in 2007, fans became part of the hall of fame tradition and active participants in the selection process. In the first year of the new hall of fame voting process, a nomination committee presented Ron Burton, Ben Coates and Stanley Morgan as finalists. That year, the fans selected Morgan for induction. In 2008, the committee nominated Ben Coates, Jon Morris and Jim Nance and Coates became the 13th player to be inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Jim Nance will join 13 other Patriots' greats and one contributor as a member of the New England Patriots' Hall of Fame (listed in alphabetical order below with year of induction):
PATRIOTS HALL OF FAME
Players are listed in order of their induction
Player Pos. Years Enshrined John Hannah* G 1973-1985 1991 Nick Buoniconti* LB 1962-1968 1992 Gino Cappelletti WR/K 1960-1970 1992 Bob Dee DE 1960-1967 1993 Jim Lee Hunt DT 1960-1971 1993 Steve Nelson LB 1974-1987 1993 Vito "Babe" Parilli QB 1961-1967 1993 Mike Haynes* CB 1976-1982 1994 Steve Grogan QB 1975-1990 1995 Andre Tippett* LB 1982-1993 1999 Bruce Armstrong T 1987-2000 2001 Stanley Morgan WR 1977-1989 2007 Ben Coates TE 1991-1999 2008 Jim Nance FB 1965-1971 2009
William H. "Billy" Sullivan, Jr. Founder 2009
*-Also enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame