Nelson Toburen
Date of birth: (1938-11-24) November 24, 1938 (age 81)
Place of birth: Boulder, CO
Career information
Position(s): Linebacker
College: Wichita State
NFL Draft: 1961 / Round: 14 / Pick: 194
 As player:
1961-1962 Green Bay Packers
Playing stats at

Nelson Edward Toburen (born November 24, 1938 in Boulder, Colorado) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League for the Green Bay Packers. He played high school football at Colby High School and college football at Wichita State University as a End.

Nelson Toburen, was selected in the 14th Round (194 overall) of the 1961 NFL Draft, by the Green Bay Packers.

Toburen, a second-year linebacker with the world champion Green Bay Packers, was making his first start in the National Football League. The date was November 18, 1962. The site was City Stadium, Green Bay Wisconsin. The opponent was the Western Conference rival Baltimore Colts led by star quarterback Johnny Unitas. "Unitas went back to pass and then started to run," Toburen said. "(Ray) Nitschke was coming at him straight on and I was coming from the side.

"I hit him squarely in the hip, but the mechanics of the tackle got blown up. My head was down and it should have been up."

Toburen's hit jarred the ball loose from Unitas and Nitschke recovered the fumble. But Toburen lie still on the City Stadium turf.

"With my first start, my emotions were high, and I was playing reckless that day," Toburen said. "It was the greatest thing with my first start in front of my wife and dad. One moment I was on top of the world and then I wasn't."

Before Toburen even hit the ground, James Nellen, the team physician, was off the Packer bench and running onto the field to assist.

"Doc Nellen realized right away what had happened - Nelson had broken his neck," said former Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer. "According to Kramer, Nellen put pressure on Toburen's neck as they put him on a cart, moved him off the field, loaded him in the ambulance, wheeled him into the hospital and took him up to his room where they put him into traction.

Nellen's quick actions to stabilize Toburen's head and neck were instrumental to a successful outcome.

"Nellen was wringing wet and shaking after that, but he made the difference," Kramer said. "He preserved Nelson's functions and maybe his life."

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Toburen said it was a tackle that he had made more than 1,000 times in his football career, but he immediately knew something was wrong, very wrong.

"I was aware of things and just knew that it felt like my arms were on fire," Toburen said. "Doc Nellen saved my bacon. He realized what was wrong and he didn't let me get up."

Toburen, whose sixth vertebrae broke in half and fifth was displaced, was fortunate that his spinal cord was stretched, not severed. At St. Vincent's Hospital, he was put in a body cast for the next six weeks.

"I tell people I broke my damn neck, but I had to be dramatic and do it against a (Pro Football) Hall of Fame quarterback like Johnny Unitas," Toburen said with a laugh. "But I accomplished everything I set out to do on the play - make the tackle and cause a fumble.

"Most important, we won the game. The next week we lost our only game at Detroit, and I always told my teammates it was because I wasn't there."

But for Toburen, his first start in a Green Bay uniform also was his last.

Nelson, obtained his law Degree, and eventually became a Judge in Kansas.(1)


1. Injury Sent Toburen to Law School

2.Judge Nelson Toburen

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