Staley’s Bears 1920-1921
Nelson Gadd “Nocky” Rupp
Height: 5’10” Weight: 180
Born: 6/15/1891 Marion, OH
Died: 8/9/1948 South Norwalk, CT
High School: Doane Academy (Granville, OH)
At age 30, married with a baby daughter, it’s not clear what enticed Nelson Rupp to leave Ohio and put on the red jersey of a Decatur Staley. He was promoted in the October 1921 Staley Journal along with Ohio State University standouts Tarzan Taylor, Pete Stinchcomb and Chic Harley as the team’s publicist wrote, “It isn’t very often than a man from a small college gets much of a chance to break into the big dailies but that fact didn’t keep Nelson ‘Nocky’ Rupp, former All-Ohio halfback with Denison for three years, in the background.”
Rupp started at quarterback in Staley’s first game, a non-conference route of the Waukegan American Legion club team at Staley Field on October 2. He did not appear in the second game on October 10 and four days later the Dayton newspapers were overjoyed to report that “Nocky” and “Staley management disagreed, allegedly over terms,” and thus Rupp had signed to play with the Dayton Triangles, another of the original APFA teams. He started at LH against the Canton Bulldogs the following Sunday and then subbed at RH against his former teammates on October 23 as the now “Chicago” Staleys defeated Dayton at Cubs Park. Thus, Rupp’s entire National Football League credits are four games played with the Triangles without scoring a point.
Nelson Rupp was born in Marion, Ohio but was living in Sandusky by the time he was nine years old. He most likely attended Sandusky high school before entering Doane Academy in Granville in 1910 at age 19. In his three years there he excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track before moving into the associated Denison College in the same city. After his freshman year he concentrated only on football and was an All-Ohio back his sophomore, junior and senior years with the “Big Red” and was captain of the team in the 1916 season. At the end of his senior season the college paper reported “The best thing we can say of ‘Nocky’ is that although he has been the marked player in every game, he has never been known to lose his temper, and his true sportsmanship has won for him the admiration of every opposing team.” In January 1917, only a few months before graduation, Rupp decided to leave school and take a job with Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati. The Denison yearbook Adytum would later declare that “’Knocky’ spells ‘All-Ohio’ sure enough. His fame is state-wide and we are mighty glad that Denison can claim him. There is scarcely an activity in which Nelson has not had a part and made good. From his ‘prep’ days on up, he has boosted his college at every turn and he will be sorely missed.”
Just as Staleys had sponsored pre-1920 industrial league teams in Illinois, three of Dayton’s downtown factories sponsored the Ohio-league Triangles. By late March 1917 Rupp was induced to move to Dayton to get a job in one of the factories while he played on the basketball team. Later that year as America entered the war he took a civilian recreation job with the Y.M.C.A. at Camp Sherman near Chillicothe, Ohio. He was allowed to play with the enlisted men on the camp’s football team in 1917 before he resigned his $2,400 a year job to enlist as a $30 a month private in December. He served in the army infantry from January 1, 1918 to March 6, 1919 and saw action in France. Shortly after returning to Ohio he was hired to coach football and basketball and be athletic director for Waite High School in Toledo. After two years of high school coaching, YMCA summer camp work, and college football refereeing, something made the now 30 year-old attempt to be the oldest player ever associated with Staley football.
After his brief pro football career he took a job as a salesman for the Morrell Meat Packing Company near his wife’s parents in Ottumwa, Iowa. He later was the personnel director of a bank in University Heights, Ohio. When the U.S. entered World War II Rupp was supervising industrial relations for the Trojan Powder Company which was contracted by the U.S. Army to run the Plumbrook Ordnance Works near Sandusky. In 1942 he moved to Norwalk, Connecticut and served as the personnel director for the Nash Engineering Company. Nelson Rupp had a heart attack and died at his home in Norwalk on August 9, 1948. Although he had only played in one Staley exhibition game in October 1921, upon his death the Connecticut papers erroneously reported that after graduation from Denison, “he played several years with the Chicago Bears of the National Football League.” “Nocky” Rupp married Madeline Edgerly on April 26, 1918. She and children Madeline and Edward survived him. He was buried in Rivercliff Cemetery in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
Copyright@2018 Mark W. Sorensen