By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
The year 1981 had its moments of agony and ecstasy for Grand Valley guard David Nye.
A heartbreaking 7-3 loss to Berkshire — one in which the would-be winning touchdown was called back by a penalty — cost the Mustangs dearly. But for that loss, Grand Valley would have qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in its history.
Alas, the playoff format at that time included only the top four teams in each division (as calculated by computer rankings) and the Mustangs finished fifth.
“We were just a few points off,” said Nye, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club’s Hall of Fame Dec. 9 at Our Lady of Peace (formerly Mount Carmel).
On the plus side, that season was a contest against Perry. Both teams entered the game that would decide the Grand River Conference championship undefeated in league games. Grand Valley prevailed, 14-10.
“Every game had its own quirks and hitches my junior year,” Nye said. “It was remarkable playing (against Perry) in front of that kind of crowd.”
Nye got an early start on his football career, beginning with flag football in the third grade.
“I worked up through the ranks and ended up with a scholarship at Edinboro,” Nye said.
That version of the Grand Valley team has always been winners, posting victorious seasons through junior high, a freshman championship and Nye’s sophomore season, when they went 8-2. After that junior year, when they went 9-1 and barely missed the playoffs, the Mustangs fell to 6-4, second in the GRC.
“We had some tough losses to tough teams like Chardon and Perry that year,” he said.
Aside from Nye, who played guard, Grand Valley had other standout players like his brother Bill (a tackle), Tom McGowan, Chris Cash, quarterback Howard Jenter, Carlos Cunningham, Sam Holley, Albert Santo, Alfred Morris (two years ahead of Nye) and Mark Adams. The Mustangs were coached by ACTC Hall of Famers Jim Henson (head coach) and Ron Chutas (as a player and assistant coach). Tom Henson, who is a member of the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation’s Hall of Fame, was the defensive coordinator.
Nye was a an honorable-mention choice on the All-GRC and Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County teams as a sophomore, a first-teamer on those squads as a junior and Lineman of the Year in Ashtabula County as a senior. That year he was also MVP of the team, first-team All-Northeastern Ohio and special mention all-state.
But, at 6-foot, 215, he was too small to be considered by Division I teams for a scholarship, despite the fact that he was the strongest player on the Grand Valley team, bench-pressing 400-plus pounds.
“Six-four, 260 was about the cutoff back then,” he said.
Several Division III schools were interested in Nye, including Hiram, Westminster and Allegheny. But when Edinboro University, a Division II college, offered him a scholarship, it was an easy choice.
“Division II schools could offer more of a package,” he said. “It was a better fit and it worked out well.”
If Nye had expected to start from Day 1, he was disappointed.
“I was on the JV squad,” he said. “When you’re a star in high school and you’re on the fourth string, it’s humbling. There’s a transition stage.
“Edinboro had a very tough program. In my freshman class, we had 125 players at camp. Seven of us were there on Senior Day my fourth year.”
Nye still saw a little playing time and moved up to the second string. His sophomore year he made the starting lineup and stayed there.
As had been true at Grand Valley, Nye found himself on a winning program. The Fighting Scots were 8-2 his sophomore year, 5-4-1 his junior season and 7-3 his senior season. Denny Crehan, his head coach his first two years, moved on to take a job in the Canadian Football League, and was replaced by Steve Szabo from Ohio State his last two college seasons.
“We ran a wing-T,” Nye said. “The guards would pull. I did a lot of that. I was the fastest and strongest lineman. In college everything depended on staying healthy. A couple of guys didn’t have my luck.”
After his senior year, Nye was named All-Pennsylvania as a guard in the PSAC (Penn State Athletic Conference) West.
“There are quite a few Division II schools in Pennsylvania,” he said.
When Nye graduated with a degree in environmental science, he went on to graduate work at California State-Fullerton, working at day and taking classes at night.
“I got a a lot of experience and my master’s degree,” he said.
Nye moved back to Ohio in 1990, taking a job with the EDP consulting firm in Willoughby as a hydrogeologist-energy person. He worked there for 16 years, then accepted a job as general manager of True North (a combination of the Lyden Company and Shell Oil).
“We have 250 stores in Ohio and Illinois,” he said. “I’m in charge of all regulatory affairs and corrective action with cleanups of things like tank leaks and other issues.”
In addition, David and his brother, Bill, took over the running of the family dairy farm in Hartsgrove Township. His father, William Robert, died in 2002, but his mother, Joanne, still survives.
“The farm is about 1,000 acres,” Nye said. “We divided it up into a grain farm and raise about 90 beef cattle. We raise corn and soy beans on about 400 acres and hay on 200 acres. We have one hired hand.”
In addition, he and Bill own the BP station in Hartsgrove.
David married Anna (Chunyo), a 1994 graduate of Grand Valley, where she was a softball player and cheerleader, in 1989.
“We dated in high school, parted ways, then got back together,” Nye said.
The couple has three children: Emily, a sophomore at the College of William and Mary in Virginia; Holly, a senior at Grand Valley who is an excellent volleyball player and a basketball player; and David, a sixth grader at Grand Valley Elementary School.
David plays football (running back), wrestles and plays baseball.
Nye coaches his son in the Grand Valley Youth Recreational Football League, along with Chutas, whose grandson is on the same team, the Vikings.
“We won the league with a 6-0 record,” Nye said. “(David) is the reason we won. He scored 21 touchdowns in six games.”
Larick is a freelance writer from Geneva.