Like a few of the other players on this list, middle linebacker Ted Nelson became a star for the Brigham Young Cougars at the expense of another player. However, when he got his chance, Nelson proved he was more than just a replacement player. He deserved to be out on the field.
Carl Bowers had an outstanding sophomore season for BYU in 1969. The middle linebacker had 117 tackles, one interception, one pass breakup, and two blocked kicks. He was going to be the star of the Cougar defense for the next two seasons.
That didn't bode well for Nelson. As a junior college transfer, Nelson didn't see much of the field playing behind Bowers that '69 season. It didn't look like anything would change for Nelson's senior campaign in 1970. Not exactly what he had in mind when he left Fullerton Junior College.
Missing most of 1970 with various knee injuries wasn't what Bowers had in mind. However, that is exactly what happened. The health problems for Bowers gave Nelson the opportunity to shine. (Fortunately, Bowers recovered and made 124 tackles as a senior in 1971.)
Nelson became a leader on the Cougar defense. By the end of the season, he led the team in defensive stats. He set a school record for most tackles in a game with 20 against Arizona State.
1970 stats: 173 tackles (53 solo), 4 TFL, 2 pass breakups, 1 interception
1969 stats: 1 tackle
Note: These stats come from CougarStats.com. It appears that the 173 tackles is inflated. It was a statistical phenomenon of that era, which was explained here. The official BYU record books do not list Nelson's 173 tackles among the most tackles in a season. Furthermore, CougarStats.com notes BYU's opponents attempted 582 runs and completed 123 passes in 1970. That is a total of 705 plays, yet BYU defenders were credited with 1,224 tackles (480 solo, 744 assisted). Clearly, there were occasions when two or more players were given credit for the tackle on a single play.
Nevertheless, Nelson merits the number 3 spot on this list because he did have 53 solo tackles, which is indicative of a player with 100 tackles in the modern era. For a defender, that is equivalent to having 1,000 yards rushing or receiving. Also, Nelson was the team leader for defensive points in 1970. That is a big deal. No other one hit wonder has done that. Finally, while Nelson played in this era of inflated tackling stats, no other player came within 16 tackles of Nelson's 173 prior to 1991. Whether he made all those tackles or not, it is undeniable that he was flying around the field and getting involved in a lot of plays.
Top 10 One Hit Wonders
10. Ray Crandall (1971), Jon Kormylo (1978)
9. Shane Hunter (2010)
8. Reynaldo Brathwaite (2003)
7. Ezekiel Ansah (2012)
6. Ben Cahoon (1997)
5. Ryan Hancock (1992)
4. Ethan Pochman (1996)
3. Ted Nelson (1970)
2. David Mills (1984)
1. Jay Miller (1973)
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