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Football Digest, October 1974

Why Jim Nance Joined The WFL

By Marty Twersky

Jim (Bo) Nance, part-owner of a travel agency in Boston, a fast food chain in Syracuse, New York (Big Bo's) and a string of summer wrestling camps stretching along the East Coast, needs the game of pro football as desperately as Howard Hughes needs those "Get you started" bank loans.

"Fact is, I am financially set." Nance said.

So what does a nine-year veteran of National and American Football League's bumping and grinding, a fullback who already has rushed for 5,323 yards, need from the Houston Texans of the fledging World Football League?

Jim Nance once gained 1,458 yards rushing in a single season. But that season is not too recent. Most people have a recent memory of Nance being cut from the Philadelphia Eagles or sitting on the bench of the New York Jets.

Nance has fond memories of several seasons, including the 1966 season when he gained 1,458 yards with the Boston Patriots of the American Football League. The next season, he gained 1,216 for the Patriots.

All those yards came from a 19th round draft selection. Those were the good days for Nance. Then came the bad ones, like 1970, when he gained only 532 yards.

Nance, twice the AFL's rushing king, and league's Most Valuable Player in 1966, talks mostly about his pride when asked why he's still playing. His pride is a feeling that has been hurt the past few years, while being kicked around the pro circuit.

"I love the game and I will play it until I can't go on." said Nance, who is a regular fullback for the Houston Texans. "But I also feel I have something to prove to people in the NFL.

"Me, I feel I have a lot left. I can still do it. And if last year had turned out the way it should have, I would have done pretty well."

Last year turned out to be another jolt to his pride. He had signed with the New York Jets, led the team in preseason rushing, and was the fullback opening day against Green Bay.

On the game's second series, he missed a block on a blitzing linebacker, who went on to deck the Jets' bread and butter, quarterback Joe Namath. For this cardinal sin, coach Weeb Ewbank pulled him out of the game and, for the most part, pulled him out of the season.

"A big, big disappointment," said Nance, who was cut by the Eagles before the opening of the 1972 season. "But the missed was just an excuse by Weeb, if you ask me. No matter how well I played there was no way I could replace John Riggins.

Riggins had played for him the year before and he was Weeb's boy. It was all a matter of politics."

Nance, who got his release from the Jets in March ("I asked them for it.") said he had offers from other NFL teams but was up to his neck in league politics. When the new league opened shop, he came knocking.

The 31-year old is a Texans' starter on a veteran-laden team, which some have labeled the "Rocking-Chair Club" of the WFL. The roster is dotted with names that have been around...and around.

We have an older team," Nance said. "but one that's also a more experienced team. Guys like me who have been around can do things they couldn't do their first few seasons."