As the son of a coal miner growing up in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Jim Nance overcame many obstacles to become one of Pennsylvania’s greatest athletes. Community leaders, family members, and scholars join together to explore his life and work in this photo exhibition debut at the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement in Elkin Hall, IUP, on Wednesday, September 5, at 6:30 p.m.
The “Jim Nance Story” provides an overview of Nance’s life while growing up as a son of a coal miner in Chevy Chase in the 1940s and 50s. It also celebrates his athletic career as the first African American two-time heavyweight wrestling champion in high school and the NCAA, and as running back for the Boston Patriots 1965–71.
Nance set an AFL rushing record of 1,458 yards in 1966 and was named the league’s most valuable player. He also was the league’s top rusher in 1967 with 1,216 yards, was the first Patriot player to appear on the front cover of Sports Illustrated (December 12, 1966), and achieved All-Pro status twice (1966 and 1967).
After retiring from football, Nance participated in many community services. In 1969 he was part of a USO tour to Vietnam. Because of their efforts they received recognition from the commander in charge of the unit they visited for helping to improve the soldier’s morale. In addition, Jim sponsored and organized many youth sports programs in the Boston area, was a featured speaker at sports banquets in Indiana County, and often met with football players and students at Indiana Area High School. On other occasions Jim would assist IUP’s Chuck Klausing with instructing running backs on IUP’s football team.
Nance was inducted into the Indiana County Sports Hall of fame in 1983 and the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame and the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 2009. Jim Nance overcame many obstacles to become one of Pennsylvania’s greatest athletes.
This event is co-sponsored by the IUP Center for Northern Appalachian Studies, the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement, and the departments of Anthropology, History, and Sociology. Our community partners include the Northern Appalachian Folk Festival and Chevy Chase Community Center.