July 31, 2013
By John Hirn
Alumni Athletes Association
On July 24, 2013, Colton Iverson became the 82nd winner of the prestigious Nye Trophy since it was founded by William and Elwood Nye in 1929. This annual award presented to the school’s top male athlete has become the pinnacle of success for an individual male athlete at CSU and reads like a who’s who of Aggies and Rams greats.
There have been 43 Nye Trophy winners inducted into the CSU Sports Hall of Fame, including 2013 inductee Bradlee Van Pelt. The Nye Trophy has also been awarded to 22 athletes that have played in the NFL, six that have played in the NBA , two College Football Hall of Famers and one Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Three athletes (Bryan Berryhill, Greg Primus and Pat Durham) have received the award twice and six times it has been presented to two different athletes in the same year. There have been six years since its inception that no award was given making 85 total awards that have been presented during the 85 school years since it was founded.
Half the story of this award is in the amazing athletes that have won it and the other half is in the Nye Brothers themselves. In 2012, William Nye’s granddaughter, Katie Frank, donated artifacts including his letter sweater, scrap books, several photos, awards and medals from the time he was a student-athlete at Colorado Agricultural College between 1914 and 1920.
The Nye Trophy was created by both William Nye and his older brother Elwood after a discussion with their old mentor, Harry Hughes, at an alumni gathering in 1928. A letter from the spring of 1929 discovered in the Nye Family collection to Hughes laid out the parameters of the award. The letter stated that the award would go to the school’s top senior athlete and would be sponsored and presented by William and Elwood Nye.
As tradition would hold, one or both of the brothers came back to Fort Collins annually to present the award to the athlete or to make a public presentation if the athlete was not available. The annual presentation of the Nye Trophy, which was always a plaque, remained an important story in the newspapers each spring when the award was presented at the annual year-end banquet.
The brothers themselves were ardent supporters of their alma mater and their personal stories are not as well-known as one might think.
Elwood Nye attended Colorado Agricultural College from 1910 to 1914 and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. He ran track for the school’s new coach, Harry Hughes, and in 1917 joined the US Army in the veterinary corps where he remained until his retirement as Colonel in 1946. Col Elwood Nye then briefly came back to teach at Colorado A&M and on many occasions presented the award when his brother William could not attend to present with him.
William Nye attended CAC from 1914 to 1920, serving during WWI, which interrupted his collegiate career. William was a member of the track team and also the championship football teams of 1915 and 1919. A season-ending injury before the 1916 football campaign kept William from being on a third championship football team, however, he ran on the 1919 track team that won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship. William Nye was also the first boxing coach in school history in the spring of 1920, a sport that only lasted about six years before being discontinued.
William Nye earned his DVM in 1920 and spent his life in Idaho and Montana where he served in several government veterinary positions. He even served as the local sheriff in Idaho for a brief period. William Nye, like his brother, not only served in WWI but also in WWII, where William attained the rank of Major in the chemical corps.
Both brothers prided themselves on their service back to their alma mater and honoring the school’s top senior athlete. William died in 1965 at the age of 70 and Elwood died in 1975 at the age of 83.
The award itself has continuously been presented since 1954 with no winner during the War years of 1943 to 1947 along with 1953 which also had no winner. Since the Nye Brothers’ death, there have been some modifications to the original structure laid out in that 1929 letter to Harry Hughes.
The Nye Award is no longer just presented to a student-athlete in his final year of eligibility, it can be presented to a junior or even a sophomore if the voting committee allows. It is also only presented to a male athlete, something that was solidified in 1976 when the Virginia K. Frank Award (no relation to the Nye Brothers) was created for the top female athlete.
As time has marched onward, the Nye Trophy has become the Heisman Trophy of CSU athletics. The Nye Brothers created the award to honor the school’s best athlete each year and in 2013 Colton Iverson, who is headed to the NBA’s Boston Celtics, is a prime example of the tradition and excellence set forth by these former Aggie athletes.
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