FIRST CLASS: Brooks, Chappell, Caulkins and Hotchkiss honored to be part of Nevada Union High School’s inaugural Hall of Fame class
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series profiling the first class of inductees to the Nevada Union High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Featured today are Rich Brooks, Rex Chappell, Steve Caulkins and Dick Hotchkiss.
Often great athletes become great coaches. Such is the case with many members of Nevada Union High School’s first class of Hall of Famers. Here are four members that were not only top tier athletes, but also went on to have careers in which they shared their knowledge with others.
Class of 1959
Support Local Journalism
Football, basketball, baseball, track
Rich Brooks built a storied and decorated coaching career in college and pro football over the last 50 years. It all started at Nevada Union.
“I was blessed to have great coaches at Nevada Union,” said Brooks, citing his coaches at NU: Ursal Snapp, Tim Kays and John Valentino for being instrumental in his development as a coach.
“Determination and using the things that I learned growing up, and at Nevada Union,” he said of how he has found success coaching. “You work hard and do the right thing.”
Before Brooks was a Division I college and NFL coach, he was a four-sport standout at Nevada Union, excelling at football, baseball, basketball and track. Brooks was a captain on both the football and basketball teams. He earned all-league honors in football and basketball, and was named the Kendall Arnett Basketball Tournament MVP in his senior year. Brooks was also named Nevada Union’s Best Athlete Class of 1959.
Brooks attended and played at Oregon State University. In his senior year Brooks and the Beavers won the 1962 Liberty Bowl.
After graduating in 1963, Brooks knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I knew when I graduated I wanted to coach,” he said.
Brooks spent a brief period coaching the high school level, before catching on with his alma mater Oregon State as their defensive line coach. He would later be an assistant coach at UCLA and for the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
Brooks earned his first head coaching job in 1977 with the University of Oregon Ducks. Over the next 18 years, Brooks would build the Oregon football program into a national contender and in 1994 Brooks led Oregon to its first outright conference title in the schools’s more than 100-year history and a berth in the Rose Bowl. Brooks was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year, the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, the Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year and the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award winner in 1994. Brooks was also the Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 1979.
Brooks then took a head coaching job with the St. Louis Rams in 1995 where he stayed for two years, going 13-19 along the way. He then spent four years with the Atlanta Falcons as their defensive coordinator, reaching the Super Bowl in 1998.
In 2003, Brooks became the head coach at the University of Kentucky, where he helped revive yet another program. After three losing seasons, Brooks’ Kentucky teams finished with winning records in his final four seasons with the program. In 2009, Bleacherreport.com ran a story headlined, “Rich Brooks: The Man Who Saved Two Football Programs.”
As a head coach in the college ranks, Brooks was at the helm for 290 games.
Brooks is a member of the University of Oregon Hall of Fame, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, the Northern California Sports Association Hall of Fame and now the Nevada Union High School Hall of Fame.
“It’s pretty special,” he said of being inducted to the Nevada Union High School Hall of Fame. “That’s where it all started. And, it’s always good to come home.”
Class of 1959
Football, baseball. boxing, wrestling
During his days at Nevada Union and beyond, Rex Chappell was known for his toughness in any given sports arena.
As a defensive linemen for Nevada Union, Chappell was a force in the trenches. He was also a member of the Miners baseball team, the boxing team and the very first NU wrestling team. He recalled his wrestling coach was closer to a drill sergeant then a coach.
“I’ve never been in better shape,” he recalled.
After graduating from Nevada Union in 1959, Chappell attended Sierra College where he was coached by Homer “Buzz” Ostom. At Sierra College Chappell starred as the team’s fullback and linebacker. He was a two-year starter, was named the team MVP and was First Team All-Golden Valley Conference after the 1961 season.
Chappell then headed north to Humboldt State where he was a member of the “Green Chain Defense,” helping the Lumberjacks win the Far Western Conference League championship in 1963. In 1964, Chappell was a game day captain multiple times and was First Team All-Far Western Conference at his linebacker position.
After receiving his college degree from Humboldt State, Chappell played some semi-pro football with the Humboldt Foresters, where he got his first taste of coaching. A taste that would stick with him for much of his life.
As Chappell’s playing days came to a close, his coaching journey began. Chappell became a graduate assistant at Humboldt State, helping out with the defensive front. By 1969, he was an assistant coach responsible for the defensive front and the linebackers. In 1968, Chappell was a member of the Humboldt coaching staff that led the Lumberjacks to a Far Westrn Conference Championship as well as a Camellia Bowl victory.
In 1976, Chappell made his way back to Sierra College where he was an assistant coach. Chappell then took over the head coaching job at Sierra College in 1979 and remained there for 21 years. Chappell led the Wolverines to a Bay Valley Conference Championship and the state playoffs in 1980, a Bay Valley Conference championship in 1990 and was named the Bay Valley Conference Coach of the Year that season.
Chappell retired in 1999, and has since been inducted into the Sierra College Hall of Fame as a player and a coach, the Humboldt State University Hall of Fame, and the Northern California Sports Association Hall of Fame.
Chappell’s Hall of Fame career was something he never expected, when he first went to Sierra College.
“I had no idea I would coach,” he said. “I just wanted to keep playing. I mean, where else can you go on a Saturday night, get into a street fight and not get arrested.”
One lesson that Chappell drew from his own journey and one he would pass on to his players was the importance of an education.
“One of the things I believe is athletics are a vehicle that you can get a college degree with,” he said. “When I discovered a kid like me can do it, I knew any body can.”
Chappell said he was very pleased to be part of Nevada Union’s inugural Hall of Fame class.
“When I was told I would be inducted it was emotional,” he said. “That’s where it all started.”
Class of 1956
Track & field, basketball, boxing
Dick Hotchkiss is honored to be a member of Nevada Union’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, but he’s also quick to point out that he never played for anything other than the love of sport.
“I have never done athletics for the notoriety,” he said. “I’ve always done them for the love of sport.
“Sport is to me the kingpin of life. You learn to work hard, accept wins and accept losses. You get hurt, you get up. And, the most important thing I try to communicate to the athletes I work with is you have to have an intelligent plan of attack. If you don’t, you shoot yourself in the foot all the time.”
Hotchkiss’ love for sport is what propelled him to a decorated playing career and coaching career spanning more than 50 years.
While attending Nevada Union, Hotchkiss was a member of the boxing team all four years, but didn’t find his way onto the track until his junior season.
“As a junior I was 5-8 or 5-9 and I could dunk a basketball. Some kid told Buzz Ostrom, ‘this fat kid can stuff a ball, he’s the only one in high school that can stuff a ball’ so Buzz got me out for track and we won the championship. I placed fourth in pole vault and third in high jump in the conference as a junior. The next year I played all the sports.”
A football injury would derail Hotchkiss’ momentum in his senior year, but he was far from done competing.
Hotchkiss went to Sierra College, where he became a Junior College All American in track and field, and a valued member of the football team, despite not having played football in high school.
“Buzz said ‘I would like to see you play football.’ I said ‘I’m no good, I didn’t play in high school.’ He said ‘I think you can play now.’”
He could. Hotchkiss was a stand out player on both sides of the ball, playing defensive end and tight end.
“I really came into my own in football (at Sierra College),” he said.
Hotchkiss drew scholarship offers from the University of Oregon and Washington State, but neither wanted him to run track, so he chose Sacramento State, where he was a member track and field team and a member of the football team, playing both ways once again.
Once his college career came to a close, Hotchkiss began sharing his knowledge as a coach. Something he did starting in 1962 and still does today.
During his coaching career Hotchkiss has spent time at Sacramento State, Washington State, College of Siskiyous, Yuba College, Chico State and Nevada Union High School. He was the throws and jumps coach at NU from 1984-2006.
Hotchkiss also competes in Matsers track and field competitions and has done so since he turned 40 years old.
Hotchkiss currently teaches Fine Arts at Sierra College and still helps out with the NU track and field team when called upon.
Class of 1965
Steve Caulkins is one of the founding members of Nevada Union’s first golf team and went on to have a highly successful career in the sport, but he doesn’t want anyone to forget he was a pretty good football player too.
“I think the drive for me being inducted was my golf career,” he said. “But, I don’t want my time with the football team to get lost in it.”
Caulkins was indeed a talent on the gridiron, starting on the offensive and defensive lines in his junior and senior years at NU. In 1965, his senior year, he was an all-leaguer and was invited to play in the Optimist All Star Game.
But where Caulkins would truly leave his mark was on the golf course. He along with Don Tremewan initiated the first Nevada Union golf team and it didn’t take long for them to be competitive.
“We were the new kids on the block and we were the best golfers on the block,” Caulkins recalled. “We came out of nowhere and were competitive right off the bat.”
After his time at Nevada Union, Caulkins attended Sierra College, where he was a star on the golf team. Caulkins led the Sierra College team to conference championships in 1966 and 1967 and was the individual conference champion both years.
After his time at Sierra College, Caulkins was an assistant golf pro at Alta Sierra Country Club (1967-68, 1970-73). Then in 1973, Caulkins was approved as a member of the Professional Golfer’s Association of America and competed on the tour from 1973-1974.
Caulkins had a chance encounter with Arnold Palmer during that time, and played a practice round with The King. Caulkins said he couldn’t miss a putt that day, prompting Palmer to give Caulkins the nickname “One-Putt.”
Caulkins would go on to play in eight Bing Crosby National Pro-Ams, win the NCPGA Pro Scotch Championship several times (1975, 1977, 1981, 1983), win the NCPGA Pro Assistants Championship twice (1979, 1984), qualify for seven National Club Professional Championships between 1975 and 1995, win the Dunlop Masters Championship in 1980, be named the Northern California PGA Player of the Year twice (1981, 1983) and win the Senior Northern California Open.
Caulkins currently lives in Fresno, and said he is excited and honored to be inducted into the Nevada Union High School Hall of Fame.
“I’ll never forget the great times I had there,” he said. “I look back on those days and it was great. I’m really proud and honored to be a part of the first class that’s for doggone sure.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Connect with needs and opportunities from
Get immediate access to organizations and people in our area that need your help or can provide help during the Coronavirus crisis.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.