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Nelson “Bud” Talbott: The First Head Coach of a College and NFL Team in the Same Season

Posted by Andrew McKillop on July 13, 2011

Thank you to Ralph Hickok who runs the HickokSports.com website, for pointing out that Aldo Donelli also coached a pro and college football team in the same season.  Donelli coached Duquesne and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1941.  Thank you for the correction about the “only” label I had put on Bud Talbott.

Nelson “Bud” Talbott is a name that most people probably see in football encyclopedias, but don’t really give much thought to.  Most people weren’t even alive when Talbott was a notable name in football.  What I find most interesting about Talbott’s football career, was that he was the first person to coach a college football, and an NFL team in the same season.  In 1920 and 1921 Talbott coached the now defunct Dayton Triangles of the American Professional Football Association (now known as the NFL).  He also coached the University of Dayton grid team in 1920, and in their last game of the 1921 season.

Talbott was a native of Dayton, but prepared for his college career at the Hotchkiss Prep School in Lakeville, Connecticut.  Talbott left Hotchkiss for Yale, and became a standout on the gridiron as a tackle in the early 1910’s.  The 6’0, 189-pound Talbott, was a three-time letter winner from 1912-14; he was also a letter winner in track.  Talbott was a selected as a Walter Camp All-American in 1913, helping to lead Yale to seven shutouts in ten games that season.

Talbott was elected team captain for the 1914 season.  Back then the Yale team captain was responsible for selecting the team’s head coach.  Howard H. Jones, the future coaching legend at USC, led Yale to a 5-2-3 record in 1913, in what would be his second one-year stint at Yale.  Talbott chose Frank Hinkey, not Jones for the job of Yale head coach in 1914.

As team captain, Talbott helped lead Yale to a 7-2 record in 1914.  Yale’s most notable victory of the year was a 28-0 shutout over Notre Dame in New Haven.  Notre Dame entered the game with a 27 game unbeaten streak, and had beaten Rose Polytechnic (now known as Rose-Hulman) 103-0 the previous week.   The most notable loss of the year was to Harvard.  The game was notable, because it was the first ever game played at the Yale Bowl; Harvard defeated Yale 36-0.

In 1915 Talbott served as an assistant coach under Hinkey, during a disappointing 4-5 season, which led to the dismissal of Hinkey as Yale’s coach.  Talbott’s time at Yale had a great influence on the rest of his career in football.  In 1921, when Talbott was the head coach of the APFA’s (NFL’s) Dayton Triangles, the Chicago Staleys George Halas was quoted in the 10/19/1921 edition of the Chicago Tribune, saying that Talbott was using “Yale’s style of offense and defense” with the Triangles.

In 1916 the Dayton Cadets became the Dayton Triangles, and Talbott was named the head coach of the professional team.  Talbott helped lead the Triangles to a 9-1 record in 1916.

After serving two years in the armed forces during WWI, Talbott returned to the Triangles as their head coach in 1919.  That season Talbott led the Triangles to a 5-2-1 record.  In 1920 Talbott became one of the NFL’s original head coaches, as the Triangles joined the APFA (NFL).  That same season Talbott also became the head coach of the University of Dayton grid team.

In 1920 the Dayton Triangles went 5-2-2 under Talbott’s direction.  The Triangles started the season 4-0-2, and were in the hunt for the NFL’s first championship; however they faded at the end of the season, losing twice to the eventual first NFL champion, the Akron Pros.

That same season Talbott led the University of Dayton to a disappointing 2-4.  But in the last game of the season, Dayton defeated Georgetown College of Kentucky, 6-5.  It was Dayton’s first ever victory over Georgetown in four tries.  On at least four weekends, Talbott coached the University of Dayton on Saturdays and the professional Triangles on Sundays.  On the weekend of 11/13-14/1920, Talbott coached two games for Dayton on Saturday, and one game for the Triangles on Sunday; winning one game with the University of Dayton, and the one with the Triangles.

It seems that coaching college football on Saturdays, helped Talbott coach the Triangles on Sundays.  The Triangles late season collapse occurred when Talbott’s season with the University of Dayton was over.

At least initially in 1921, Talbott didn’t continue his dual role as a head coach in college and the pros.  Talbott remained the head coach of Triangles, but didn’t return to his position of head coach at the University Dayton, until the last game of the season.  Talbott led the Triangles to a 4-4-1 record.   In his only game coaching the University of Dayton in 1921, Talbott led the school to their first and only victory of the season; a 13-6 victory over John Carroll University.

After the 1921 season, Talbott left both the Dayton Triangles and the University of Dayton.   After football, Talbott would go on to have a successful business career, as well as a successful military career.  He clearly never shied away from dual roles in his life.  Talbott eventually took over his family’s business, becoming the president of the Talbott Corporation.  Talbott also rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force by the time he retired from the armed forces.  In 1947, Talbott founded the Nelson Talbott Foundation.

Talbott led an extraordinary life, fitting for a man who completed an extraordinary feat in football; becoming the first head coach of a college football team, and an NFL team in the same season.

Reference: Listed within this document.

One Response to “Nelson “Bud” Talbott: The First Head Coach of a College and NFL Team in the Same Season”

  1. Tex Noel said

    Once again, Andrew you have come-up with a very indepth, well-researched post!

    Keep-up the outstanding work.

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