George Nock, the vaunted running back and successful self-taught artist from the Eastern seaboard who joined the Jets out of Morgan State the year after their Super Bowl triumph and stayed through the 1971 season, died Nov. 22 reportedly from complications associated with the coronavirus in Georgia. He was 74.
Nock was born in Baltimore and grew up in Philadelphia. He was an athlete in his formative years, turning to football at Ben Franklin HS, and continued his pigskin career at the Baltimore university. While there he returned a punt for a touchdown in the win over Florida A&M in the 1965 Orange Blossom Classic for the unofficial Black college national championship. As a senior in 1969, he led the Morgan rushing attack in the 9-7 win over Grambling in the first game played at Yankee Stadium between HBCUs.
Nock's college career got him limited notice from the pros. He was selected by the Jets in the 16th round (416th overall) of the 1969 draft and played in only two regular-season games plus the AFL playoff game against Kansas City as a rookie.
Nock's biggest season in green and white came in 1970, when he played in all 14 games, starting nine, rushed for 402 yards and five touchdowns on 135 carries and added 146 yards and another TD on 18 receptions. His 548 scrimmage yards were second on that team behind Emerson Boozer's 839 yards, and his 36 points on six TDs led the team among non-kickers.
Nock no doubt entered fans' consciousness in the Jets' first regular-season meeting against the Giants, on Nov. 1, 1970 at Shea Stadium, when he scored the first touchdown in the rivalry on an 8-yard TD pass from Al Woodall. The Giants won, 22-10.
Almost a month later, he starred in the biggest game of the Jets' first season as members of the NFL. He carried 32 times for 117 yards — both career highs, his only 100-yard rushing game as a pro and the only 100-yard game yielded by the Vikes' No. 1 defense that year — and scored the opening touchdown in the 3-7 Jets' 20-10 upset of the 9-1 Minnesota Vikings at Shea.
Nock's last headline game came when he scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns on short runs to lift the Jets over the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl, 14-10, in the third game of the '71 season.
Nock moved on to the Washington Redskins in '72. Then after a fling with the short-lived World Football League, he retired as a player and turned to his lifelong love from before and after football — art, and in particular sculpture.
The Capital Gazette detailed his creations, statues of athletes and others performing their passions in his Georgia studio. Some of his works sold for as much as $30,000. He was the driving force in the creation of Morgan State's Legends Plaza and the 6-foot bronze statues of the school's late football coaches, Eddie Hurt and Earl Banks. The memorial to the school's athletic greats was unveiled in 2017.
"George was a man of so many talents, and he loved Morgan unconditionally," school president Dr. David Wilson told the Gazette. "He was affable and always saw the humor in many things. I never saw him where he exuded stress or even worry. I liked to think that his second passion beyond football — art — played a role in that.
"Morgan has lost an incredible son."
And the Jets have lost another alumnus in a season that has been difficult not only on current players and fans but on the Legends and followers from the team's first decades.
Nock is survived by his wife, Mary, their three children, eight sisters and brothers — he was the oldest of nine — and four grandsons.