The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News 2

June 12, 2014

LIMESTONE COUNTY SPORTS HALL OF FAME: James Nolan one of Trinity’s best

— Whenever old-timers get together to talk about Trinity football, one of the first names to surface is usually the late James Nolan.

At 5-feet, 11-inches, 195 pounds, Nolan was a force to be reckoned with as a running back at Trinity High School in the early 1950s.

On Saturday, Nolan will be posthumously honored as one of eight Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductees in the 2014 class.

A three-year starter, Nolan racked up more than 30 touchdowns during his Trinity High School career. Several teammates and friends remember the bruising runner.

“I played with him his last year in football and he was real good. I never hit him because he would run over you,” said Fred Sloss, one of Nolan’s teammates. “I played a little baseball with him and he was good in baseball, too.”

A natural athlete, Nolan could do it all. He started at catcher for three years on Trinity’s baseball team, ran track and threw shot put.

But it was football where Nolan excelled. His high school career began in 1949 under Limestone County Hall of Fame member H.B. Province. Nolan was known as a powerful, slashing runner with the ability to run over, around or through a defender.

“It was just his athletic ability. It was the way he ran with the football,” remembers James Lucas, who watched Nolan play at Trinity. “It looked like he could score anytime he got ready. There were some tough games back then. He was one of the best I’ve seen, surely one of the best out of Trinity.”

Nolan played in one of the most memorable games in Trinity High School history. Known as the Rogersville Fair game, Trinity traveled to Rogersville to play Alabama A&M High in October 1950. As a sophomore in that game, Nolan scored on touchdown runs of 68, 50 and 37 yards to secure a 32-13 Trinity victory.

He went on to score 20 touchdowns over the next two seasons and earn the opportunity to play for Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he started at halfback.

“I did not go out for football when I wanted to because I did not want to have to tackle Nolan,” said Burnett Houston, a Trinity athlete who saw him play. “I waited a year until he had graduated before I went out. He went to Central State in Ohio to play ball and most people thought he was not going to be as good as he was at Trinity. Then we heard he was the starting halfback up there and was even better.”

Following his collegiate career, Nolan returned to Alabama to play for the semi-pro Decatur Rough Riders. James Nolan died in a train derailment accident in 1969 at the age of 33.

Nolan will join his cousin, Arthur Kirby in the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame. Nolan’s mother, Lottie Robinson and daughter, Pamela Young, are among other family members expected to attend Saturday’s induction ceremony.


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