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Heisman Trophy candidate speaks at Ceres football camp
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Nick Eddy spoke at the second annual Ceres Cowboys Football Skills Camp at Mae Hensley Jr. High on Saturday.

"He's got quite a resume," said Reg Evans, Cowboys president.

Eddy, 59, won a national championship, placed third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and earned All-America honors twice while playing for the Notre Dame football team. He also played in the National Football League.

"I have so much to be thankful for," said Eddy, who lives in Modesto and speaks at schools and camps several times a year.

Born in Dunsmuir, which is located 10 miles south of Mount Shasta and 45 miles north of Redding, Eddy moved to Tracy when he was 12. He was raised by his mother Angelina.

"I was very fortunate that I had a lot of good teachers and mentors that kept me off the street and out of trouble," he said.

Eddy earned a scholarship to Notre Dame University after graduating from Tracy High School in 1962.

"Nobody from the Valley has gone back there on scholarship in 40 years," he said.

Eddy led the Tracy High football team to a second-place finish in the Valley Oak League during his senior year. He was a punter, kicker, defensive back and running back.

"I just never came off the field," Eddy said.

He also starred in three other sports in high school.

"I enjoyed the other sports but I loved football," Eddy said.

Eddy batted close to .500 and played in the outfield for the baseball team. The St. Louis Cardinals expressed interest.

"I had a strong arm and good bat," he said.

Eddy played guard and forward for the basketball team.

He ran sprints and did the long jump for the track and field team. He set several school records and held the Ceres Invitational 220-yard dash record for many years.

More than a dozen colleges recruited Eddy, including Notre Dame, USC, UC Berkeley, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.

"I think my mother still has boxes from every school that I received letters from," he said.

Eddy became fascinated with Notre Dame at an early age.

"I always used to listen to the games on the radio," he said. "When I got in high school, they started broadcasting their games on television on Sunday mornings."

Eddy saw the campus for the first time when he showed up for football practice. The team was led by legendary coach Ara Parseghian.

"He's one of the greatest men I have had the pleasure of being associated with," Eddy said. "He taught me so much about life. He was an excellent role model and still is."

Eddy, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound halfback in his playing days, finished behind Steve Spurrier, who is now head coach of the Washington Redskins, and Bob Griese, who went on to lead the Miami Dolphins to three-straight Super Bowl appearances and back-to-back championships, in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1966 despite leading Notre Dame to a national championship. He also led the team in rushing and kickoff returns and was an All-America selection.

Eddy might have won the prestigious award if he was healthy.

He wasn't in uniform when the top two teams in the nation, Notre Dame and Michigan State, battled to a 10-10 tie in front of 76,000 fans at Spartan Stadium.

Eddy re-injured his bruised right shoulder while getting off a train in East Lansing. The steps were slippery.

"I couldn't move my arm so I couldn't play," he said.

"If I could have played in the game, I would have gotten national television exposure and I would have really had a great shot at winning the Heisman Trophy."

Eddy and the Fighting Irish clinched the national title with a crushing 51-0 victory over the USC Trojans a week later.

Eddy was drafted by two professional football teams in 1965. That was the last year the AFL and NFL held separate drafts.

The Denver Broncos selected Eddy in the first round of the AFL "Redshirt" Draft. The Detroit Lions used their first pick of the NFL Draft and selected Eddy in the second round.

"I told them I wouldn't talk to them until after college," said Eddy, who earned a degree in communication arts. "I went back for my senior year and it worked out pretty well for me."

Eddy was picked in the second round of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Lions. He was the 24th overall selection. The Broncos also made an offer.

"I had two teams bidding for me and I decided to go for the Lions," he said.

Eddy signed a contract, which paid him more than $520,000 over nine years, including seven as a player. He receives pension checks, approximately $1,000 per month, from the NFL.

Eddy played in the NFL for seven years (1967-1973). He was on Detroit's active roster for six years.

"The first time I touched the ball, I ran a punt back 74 yards for a touchdown," Eddy said. "The very next week, I injured my knee in the second half. It took three operations to get that knee straightened out. I never had the same explosive burst."

Eddy and the Lions played in the toughest division. The NFL's Central Division featured just four teams, including the Lions, Bears, Vikings and Packers.

"It was a physical division," said Eddy, who had 272 yards rushing, 78 yards receiving and three touchdowns in 11 games during his third year in the NFL. "We beat up each other every year."

Eddy remembers playing against Green Bay's Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Herb Adderley, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Minnesota's "Purple People Eater" defense and fearsome Chicago linebacker Dick Butkus.

"He (Butkus) was the greatest football player I ever played against," Eddy said.

Eddy retired from the NFL when he was 28 years old.

"I could have held up for another year or two but I didn't want to uproot my family," he said. "I just felt it was time to go to the next chapter of life.

Eddy and his wife Jean, who he met in high school, have been married for almost 39 years. They have four children, Nicole Pursh, Nick Jr., Alicia Lewis and Angela Weber.

"I count my blessings," Eddy said.

Eddy was in the insurance business for 24 years. He retired a couple of years ago.

He started teaching at Modesto High School five years ago as a resource specialist. He works with special education children.

"I'm just trying to give back," he said.

Eddy will be awarded a teaching credential from Chapman University within the next year.

"I didn't think I'd be back in school at 59," he said.

"I enjoy what I'm doing."

Eddy still keeps in touch with some of his former college teammates. He watches his alma mater play live a couple times a year. Nick Jr. usually accompanies him.

"Every year they invite you back for the first home game," Eddy said. "I also watch them on Thanksgiving weekend on the West Coast."

Eddy could get selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in the future.

"I've been told that day is near," he said.- By DALE BUTLER

Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier