H eisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, former Butkus Award winner Matt Russell, All-American distance runners Mary Decker Slaney and Alan Culpepper, and legendary radio play-by-play man Larry Zimmer head the largest class of inductees in University of Colorado athletics Hall of Fame history.
The school announced 12 new inductees Thursday at the annual Casotti Classic golf tournament at Pelican Lake Golf Course. It is the ninth class in CU history, and it will be officially inducted on Nov. 15.
Three of the inductees who played in the tournament were on hand Thursday, including Frank Bernardi, who played football and baseball at CU from 1952 to 1955. He also has had heavy involvement in the Alumni C Club for more than 50 years.
Bernardi said athletic director Mike Bohn called to give him the news.
“I found out at June 27 at about 8:05 in the evening,” Bernardi said. “I must have levitated a couple of feet. It’s just a super honor from a university that I love.”
A total of five former football players are in this year’s class.
Joe Garten, an All-American guard on the 1990 national championship team, and Boyd Dowler, an All-American on the 1958 team, joined Russell, Salaam and Bernardi.
Russell won the 1996 Butkus Award as a senior and went on to become an NFL scout after knee injuries cut short his pro career. He was named the Denver Broncos director of player personnel earlier this year.
“I think this is really kind of a hats off to all the guys I played with,” Russell said. “You don’t do it by yourself. There are 11 guys on that field. I played my rear off, and they did, too. I feel like awards like this, as well as the Butkus, are reflective of the guys that you played with, and it’s kind of an honor for all of us.”
The field of inductees spreads beyond the football team.
Vidar Nilsgard became a three-time, first-team All-American in the early 1970s as a member of CU’s ski team. He was the 1971 and 1973 NCAA champ in ski jumping and finished in the top four in the nation in ski jumping all four years of his career. He also was a three-time champion of the Rocky Mountain Inter-
collegiate Ski Association.
Golfer Steve Jones became one of a handful of four-time, first-team all-conference selections in any sport during his CU career from 1977 to 1981. He set school records that still stand with nine top 10 finished and 10 top-20 preformances in his career.
Two former stars in the men’s basketball program also will be inducted in November.
Jack Harvey remains the only two-time, first-team All-American in CU history in the sport. He led the program to two Mountain States Conference titles during his career from 1937 to 1940.
Leason “Pete” McCloud earned first-team All-American status during his career from 1939-1942. He led the Buffs in scoring in the 1941-42 season when the team advanced to the Final Four. He also led the conference in scoring as a junior and senior.
Decker-Slaney is recognized as the first star female athlete in CU history, becoming a six-time All-American in just two years of competition before turning professional following her sophomore year. She went on to become a two-time Olympian and held 10 different world records in her pro career.
Culpepper also became a two-time Olympian after a standout career with the CU cross country and track teams. He earned All-American status seven times in three different disciplines during his college career (1992-96) and won the NCAA outdoor title in the 5,000 meter run in 1996. He still holds the CU record in the event.
Culpepper is now a race director for the Rock n Roll race series. Culpepper and his family still reside in Boulder County.
“I’m honored,” Culpepper said. “I was surprised and honored. To be in the company of a lot of amazing athletes, not just from this year’s class but from previous years, it’s an honor for me. You work hard to achieve a certain level or goals not for the recognition you get, but it’s nice to be recognized in that regard.”
Salaam is the biggest star in the group.
He came to CU in the same recruiting class as Russell and won the Heisman in 1994 when he became just the fourth player in college football history at the time to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
Zimmer made one of his classic calls on the radio broadcast the day Salaam eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark against Iowa State in Folsom Field.
Zimmer is the first inductee to the CU Hall of Fame who is not a former athlete, coach or administrator. He has called 1,006 CU football and men’s basketball games since 1971.
Zimmer now has earned induction in three Halls of Fame in his career, including the Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. He also was honored with the Chris Schenkel Award in 2009 by the National Football Foundation.
“It really means a great deal,” Zimmer said of the CU honor.
“To be the first one who is not a coach or an athlete, I am tremendously honored.”