Written By David Sugarman
The next installment on our list in the Hoosier Legacy Series is a player who excelled at not one, not two, but three different positions. Tom Nowatzke played running back, linebacker and kicked field goals in his time for the Hoosiers and despite not being in the College Football Hall of Fame, is one of the greatest Indiana Football players of all-time.
Before being drafted by the Lions in 1965, Nowatzke had a three-year stint in Bloomington from 1962-1964. Born in LaPorte, Indiana, Nowatzke’s versatility was evident early on in his athletic career. In high school Nowatzke lettered in football, basketball and track, earning All-Conference and All-State honors in both football and basketball.
When Nowatzke made the move from Michigan City Elston High School to Bloomington, he had no problem carrying over the success from his high school days. Earning All-Big 10 in 1963 and 1964, Nowatzke was a dynamic, game changing playmaker at any and every position he played. In 1964 Nowatzke led the Big Ten in rushing while scoring a then IU single-season record 73 points. That record has since been shattered by Anthony Thompson who had 156 points at running back as a junior in 1988. Nowatzke also held the then IU record with a 50-yard field goal. Not to mention, “The kick was good,” with some additional obstacles given the time period. Mark Deal, Indiana’s Assistant Athletic director in charge of Alumni Relations said, he “kicked a 50-yard field goal, on grass with a square-toed shoe, straight ahead kicker.”
In 1965 Nowatzke would go on to the pro football draft where was elected in the first round by the Detroit Lions as well as the New York Jets who were in the AFL at the time. Nowatzke would take his talents to Detroit and spend the first five seasons of his career there before being traded to the Baltimore Colts. It’s there where he would etch his name into football history. In Superbowl V Nowatzke helped the Colts take down the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 where he led the team in rushing and scored a crucial game-tying touchdown.
After Nowatzke’s All-American career for the Hoosiers, Mark Deal feels it’s a, “Absolute travesty,” that Nowatzke has been left out of the College Football Hall of Fame. Having been on the ballot several times, if his name makes his way onto the ballot again, it would be hard to turn him down. If the committee needs a reminder of just how good he was, consider this his resume.