Position, years at UA: Back, 1936-38
Honors, accomplishments at UA: Was a Little All-American in 1937. … Was the first UA player to appear in the East-West Shrine Game, doing so in 1939. … Became the first first-round NFL draft pick in school history.
Why he made our list: Walter Nielsen, from Los Angeles, picked UA over USC to help control his asthma, and his first game with the Wildcats showed the player he could become.
A UPI story from 1936 said Nielsen earned his nickname “Hoss” during the season-opening 32-6 victory over BYU. The UPI wrote: “(H)e carried a trio of Brigham Young University tacklers a good 10 yards pickaback after he had already negotiated 23 yards through a broken field.”
Nielsen, a 220-pound fullback who also was a sprinter and competed in field events, was UA’s best runner in the first half of the 20th century, helping lead the talented 1937 “Blue Brigade” that opened with a 20-6 victory over Arizona State and ended with a 20-6 victory over Oregon, the latter propelling the Ducks to swipe coach Tex Oliver from the Wildcats.