O.J. Simpson Nominated for Rose Bowl's All-Century Class

His nomination comes just weeks after Simpson begins a four-year sentence in connection with an armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel

By Samantha Tata
|  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013  |  Updated 8:18 AM EDT
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OJ Simpson’s is inclusion as a finalist in the Rose Bowl Game’s All-Century Class stirs up controversy a convicted felon is considered for the honor.  Conan Nolan reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Oct. 28, 2013.

Conan Nolan

OJ Simpson’s is inclusion as a finalist in the Rose Bowl Game’s All-Century Class stirs up controversy a convicted felon is considered for the honor. Conan Nolan reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Oct. 28, 2013.

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O.J. Simpson, now serving time in Nevada State Prison, may be named one of the greatest college football players of the last century for his revered career at the University of Southern California.

Called “one of the greatest running backs of all-time,” Simpson has been nominated as a finalist for the Rose Bowl Game All-Century Class as a representative for the 1960s, according to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

Simpson led his alma mater to a 19-2-1 recording during his two-year college career, which included appearances in the 1968 and 1969 Rose Bowl Games. His number -- 32 -- is now retired at USC.

“In the 1968 game, Simpson ran USC past the Indiana Hoosiers, 14-3, earning Player of the Game honors by rushing for 128 yards on 25 carries, and scoring the game’s only two touchdowns,” the tournament said.

“Simpson bettered his ’68 performance claiming the Heisman Trophy and leading the Trojans to the 1969 game.”

Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983. He was also a 1993 Rose Bowl Hall of Fame inductee.

After college, Simpson -- who also made a name for himself onscreen in the Naked Gun trilogy -- played for the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers.

But the USC Heisman Trophy winner’s legal troubles began to overshadow his achievements on the field in 1995, when he went on trial for – and was ultimately acquitted in – the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a waiter, Ronald Lyle Goldman.

"I was surprised," Scott Jenkins, president of the Tournament of Roses Association, said of Simpson's nomination. "And it was immediately apparent to me that they must have focused on on-field performance."

Simpson ended up behind bars more than a decade later for a kidnapping and armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel. Earlier this month, he began serving a minimum four-year sentence imposed for use of a weapon in the 2007 holdup.

He was granted parole earlier this year on some charges. Simpson will have another parole hearing in a year on the remaining weapons-related sentences. After that, he has two more consecutive terms for assault with a deadly weapon, a parole board official said.

Several passersby in Pasadena Monday said Simpson's criminal history should be a factor in his nomination.

"We realize he was a great ballplayer, but some lines you just don't cross," football fan Jules Rikkers said.

Simpson was nominated for the Rose Bowl honor by a panel from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). Each Sunday throughout the remainder of the college football regular season, new candidates will be revealed.

The voting committee will chose one Rose Bowl Game representative for each decade to comprise the All-Century Class. The winners will be announced on Dec. 8 in Pasadena, Calif.

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