Husky Hero Chuck Nelson

There was no one better at putting the ball through the sticks for three points than Chuck Nelson was during the 1981 and 1982 seasons for the Washington Huskies. When Washington named their all-centennial team, they didn't need to look farther than Everett, Washington, to find their best of all time.

Nelson received a very early indoctrination into the Husky athletic tradition from his father. "Dad graduated from Washington in 1954 and he told me all about Hugh McElhenny and Bob Houbregs. I kind of knew early on that I'd probably be a Husky," said Nelson from his 39th floor office that overlooks all of Seattle from the Two Union Square building.

Nelson grew up in Everett he began to follow the Huskies during the Sonny Sixkiller era. "Sonny, and Bo Cornell were the first teams that I watched. It was also the time of the Green Bay Packers of the NFL so I had Bart Starr, Ray Nietsche, and Donny Anderson posters on the wall. I had the Green Bay Packer helmet lamp, too," recalls Nelson.

It was during punt, pass, and kick competitions that Nelson discovered his aptitude for the sport that would treat him so well. "When I was nine I won the west coast punt pass and kick championship so I got to go down to San Francisco and wear a 49er jersey and compete. Then I went to Detroit to compete for the entire Western USA championships, where I came in third. I had some success in it so I got more excited about it," said Nelson.

Nelson wrapped up his career at Everett as a kicker and quarterback with no scholarship offers. "Dick Baird was the coach at Olympic College at the time and he asked me if I wanted to come there. Jim Lambright was recruiting our area for Washington and we kind of went through the recruiting process. I didn't get a trip. I'd still like to take my trip because I never had a Carol James omelet or the Nordstrom boat trip or anything," deadpanned Nelson.

Washington wound up putting Mike Lansford from Pasadena CC on scholarship and convincing Nelson to come on his own dime. "I kind of knew I was probably going to go to school at the UW anyway with my Husky background, so I walked on."

Nelson remembers his first game he suited up for vividly. "It was a rainy conference opener against UCLA and Kenny Easley blocked a punt to beat us 10-7 in Husky Stadium," recalls Nelson. "I was the backup kicker and punter so I made all of the road trips. Lansford was the kicker and Aaron Wilson was the punter. Then Rich Camarillo was the punter and I backed him up, too."

When Lansford was a senior Nelson began to kick off once or twice a game. "Kicking off was fun. Not as much pressure," laughed Nelson.

In 1980 Nelson was a redshirt sophomore and became the starting place kicker. His debut was as auspicious as they come. "I didn't have a scholarship yet and Air Force was the first game. We scored a minute and a half into the game on an 84-yard pass from Flick to Rosborough and I promptly ran out onto the field and missed the extra point. Mike had made 71 in a row to that point."

On the Huskies next drive they stalled and Nelson was summoned to chip a 29-yarder through the posts.

"Missed it," said Nelson.

Washington then drove down the field, still in the first quarter and stalled at the seven, setting up Nelson for a sure thing 24-yarder.

"Missed it," said Nelson. "Yes, my first three kicks were misses on a PAT, from 29 yards and from 24 yards out. Not a good start. Things happen so fast, that's what I remember the most. The team stalls, you run out onto the field, you kick the ball, and you run back off in about 30 seconds. The pace of it really caught me off guard."

Washington called on Bob Brennan to kick the next extra point against Air Force.

Just before halftime the Huskies were lining up for a 46-yarder from the left hashmark. "The rule of thumb was that if you are not substituted for, you're in. I didn't even ask, it was third down and we didn't make it. I heard the call for a field goal and ran onto the field (laughs). I was going to make them tell me if I wasn't supposed to be the one out there, so I ran out there and made it. I was fine after that."

Little did anyone know that Nelson would go on to be the most accurate place kicker in NCAA history. From the USC game in 1981 until the fourth quarter of his final Apple Cup of his career, Nelson didn't miss a field goal or a PAT, finishing the season making 25 of 26 kicks including 30 in a row without a miss. That may never be duplicated.

"I finished out my junior year pretty strong and had high expectations. I didn't really pay attention to how many in a row I had made until I began to get close to the record, which was 16 at the time (Maryland's Dale Castro). When I kicked to tie and to break it, I became very aware of it, but once I got past it I stopped paying attention," said Nelson.

"I think I had success because I never really saw it in terms of the big picture. People would ask, ‘How do you make 30 in a row?' My response was, ‘I didn't make 30 in a row. I made one in a row 30 times.' I knew I was in a zone and it was fun. 95 percent of those kicks weren't more than five feet off center."

Former Husky offensive guard Pat Zakskorn relayed a funny story to Nelson on how much the team would relax when they would get into the ‘Nelson zone.'

"He told me that the offensive line would get down to the 35-yard line standing in the huddle and they'd have their hands on their knees and look at each other and say, ‘He can make it from here.' It's nice to have the confidence of your teammates, but extra points are nice, too."

Nelson's Husky team was ranked #1 in the country for eight weeks in 1982 until John Elway's Stanford team upset the Huskies on the farm.

"It was a fun year, a different time. You wanted to win as many games as you could and you always knew you had the chance to go to the Rose Bowl if you played as well as you could, but it wasn't a matter of 7-4 not being good enough. The expectation level was somewhere between 7-4 and 9-2. On a different scale and in a different way, it was probably more fun. Of course it's fun to play for national championships but at the same time, I think fan expectations and the relationship with the community and the boosters was different back then. The expectations were just beginning to come up."

For anyone that still wonders about Nelson's last kick against WSU that was ruled no-good, there is no doubt in the kicker's mind about the call.

"The kick wasn't good. At the time I tried to fake it. It was 4-5 inches wide. The posts weren't as tall back then so you hope that the referee will make a mistake (laugh), so you try to fake it. It's like a batter that takes a third strike and pretends it's a ball. I knew I missed it and I tried to run off the field as if I'd made it and to see if they would buy it. They didn't. It certainly would've made my life easier since if they would've. Probably three times a week someone brings it up, in any context. I've grown accustomed to it as a point of reference for many Husky fans. I get a lot of Husky fans that can tell me exactly where they were when they heard it on the radio," said Nelson.

"It was a landmark event and I recognize that. Doesn't mean that I like it, but I recognize it (smile)."

Nelson was automatic for over a year

Nelson was named all-American as both a player and an academician, having graduated with a degree in Business Administration. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams, which struck Nelson as odd. The Rams had not only never contacted Nelson before, they already had a placekicker – Mike Lansford.

"Mike and I went down and competed for the job, which was very weird," recalls Nelson. "He hurt his knee so I kicked the first half of the season and he returned and kicked the second half. The next year in training camp they had us compete all over again and it was VERY awkward. Mike and I were very good friends. I had flown down to LA and stayed with Mike to attend (former UW QB) Tim Cowan's wedding. We kicked and worked out together and then I flew home two days before the draft. It was quite a shock to get drafted by Mike's team."

Nelson was let go by Los Angeles in 1984 and had tryouts every week in San Diego, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Indianapolis. "They would call at 7AM Monday, I would fly out at noon, spend the night Monday, kick on Tuesday morning and then they'd say, ‘You're pretty good. We'll give you a call if we need you.'" Halfway through 1984 Nelson hooked on with Buffalo.

"Buffalo told me that they were really happy with the way I had kicked. Then I got to training camp the next fall and there were 10 kickers there. I guess they weren't as happy as they said they were (laughs). They let me go and kept Scott Norwood."

Nelson then replaced Jan Stenerud as the Minnesota Vikings kicker in 1986. "They flew 12 of us into the Metrodome to try out. They signed three of us and I ended up winning that job. Typical of the NFL, nobody ever came up and said, "you're the kicker." It was literally a deal where you went out to practice and one day you realized, ‘hey, Luis (Zendejas) is gone.' Then comes the last cut and there's no body else there but me. That's how I found out."

Nelson was released in 1989 after a tough training camp and that was the end of his playing career. "I came home to Seattle and my wife was pregnant at the time. The league had pretty much decided that I was done. I was 29 years old and had always looked at the NFL as gravy, not what my life was going to be all about. There were other things to do in life."

He went from the NFL into the broadcast booth in 1990, covering Husky games on a tape delay basis for four seasons with Don Poier on former network Prime Sports Northwest. "Don and I had an absolute blast. It was gorilla cable TV, run out of a truck basically. They were great games to do, obviously," said Nelson.

"Radio is great. Obviously the radio package for Husky football is one of the biggest in the country so when Sam Adkins decided to retire, it was a great opportunity. We have a lot of fun. Bob Rondeau is as good as anyone in the country, if not the best, at doing college football. I tell people that my job comes when Bob stops talking. My line is, ‘That's right Bob. Couldn't agree with you more," (laugh). It's fun. He and Bill Swartz are great to work with and travel with. Those guys take it very seriously in terms of preparing for the games and understanding what the teams and games are about. I'm very lucky to be a part of that."

Nelson is very high on current UW head coach Rick Neuheisel and his coaching staff. "Those guys are spectacular. The successes of the last two and a half years are largely a credit to them. If you look at the level of NFL type players during that time, there aren't any. The talent level compared to other schools has been lower. To get them to win seven games two years ago and 11 last year is just remarkable. They are so good at figuring out what we're good at and sticking with it and hiding what we're not good at. They are very passionate about what they do and they get along. The atmosphere out there is so much fun and everyone is having a great time. That filters down to the kids," said Nelson.

Today Nelson is the Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager for Rigel Capital Management in Seattle. Rigel makes and manages stock portfolios for high net worth individuals, institutions, unions, foundations, and pension plans. Nelson works with the investment team and the clients to ensure that the goals of his clients and the actions of the investment team are in sync.

Nelson and his wife, former UW cheerleader Nanette Borromeo, live in Mill Creek with their two children Emma (11) and Quinn (8). They are all big Husky fans, of course, something that Nelson feels a lot of pride about.

"Husky fans are involved in something special. It's a very special thing we have going. The community support here is far and away better here than anywhere else. To have a college atmosphere in a city of this size is really unique. Things are very good right now, appreciate it while you have it because you never know how long it will last." Top Stories