Return to Class of 1952

Dwight Nichols02/02/2009
Dwight Edward Nichols, born October 21, 1934, was a Korean War veteran who became the All-American captain of Iowa State’s celebrated 1959 “Dirty Thirty” team, died Monday, February 2, 2009, in Dallas, Texas. He was 74. “Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to the Nichols family,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “If you know Iowa State football, then you know the Dirty
Thirty.

If you know the Dirty Thirty, you know about Dwight Nichols. There isn’t
a tougher football player in Iowa State history.” Nichols, a Knoxville native, was
a force even as a sophomore in 1957, leading the Big Seven Conference and ranking
third in the country in total offense.

He landed a spot on the all-league team.
He was named the conference’s Most Valuable Player in 1958, amassing 1,172 yards
in total offense. Nichols not only led the conference in total offense but also
in rushing. His school-record 815 rushing yards ranked him third in the country.
He finished the year fourth in the country in punt returns.

Nichols turned out to be a perfect fit in Iowa State’s single-wing offense. In 1959, Nichols led the famous “Dirty Thirty” squad, a team that shrank from 55 to 30 players before the first
game of the season. “We got together as a team and said, ‘that’s it. If anyone else
wants to quit, do it now.”

No one else did and the Cyclones earned their nickname from trainer Warren Ariail after trudging off a muddy field in a season-opening win at Drake. Iowa State fought to a 7-3 record, including a season-ending 35-12 loss at Oklahoma that ended the Cyclones’ dream of a Big Seven title and Orange Bowl appearance.

“By the end of the season, the lack of numbers and depth were taking
a toll on us,” Nichols said. “It was a great team and it seems that most of the
guys on that team went on to great success outside after college.” Nichols spurned
pro football and went on to a successful career, earning a master’s degree while
working in financial markets and insurance.

If the Dirty Thirty was Iowa State’s most beloved team, Nichols was its star, becoming only the second player in Big Seven history to lead the conference in offense three times. As a senior in 1959, he was named first-team All-America. His all-Big Seven selection marked the first time a Cyclone football player had received the honor three times in a half-century.
Dwight Nichols
Nichols was the first ISU player to place among the top 10 vote-getters in the Heisman
Trophy balloting, finishing eighth.

Nichols closed his career as the all-time Big Seven rusher with 2,232 yards on 638 carries. His 638 carries ranked second in NCAA history at the time. Nichols ended his career second in Big Seven history with 3,949 yards of total offense.