BOULDER -- Hatfield “Chilly” Chilson, one the early “superstar” athletes at the University of Colorado, has been selected for induction into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, the organization announced Tuesday. He will be honored posthumously as he passed away in 1991 at the age of 87.
CU was a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference from 1909-1938, prior to joining the Mountain States Conference for the 1938-39 school year.
Chilson earned 11 combined letters in three sports from 1923-26: football, basketball and baseball, was a captain in all three sports and earned All-RMAC honors in all three as well. Despite being a diminutive 5-foot-8 and 142 pounds, he was a dynamic quarterback, tailback and field general under coach Myron Witham as he could run, pass and play defense and was the man the offense revolved around his sophomore through senior years.
He was one of if not the nation’s first “jump passers” and earned national recognition with that unique style (he developed the art in high school at Pueblo Centennial). In 1923 in his first game as a sophomore, replacing an Art Quinlan in the middle of the season and on the road against defending league champion Utah, he completed 11-of-21 passes for 170 yards and ran for one touchdown in CU’s 17-7 win. He started the remainder of the year and led the then Silver & Gold to a 9-0 record (CU did not become the Buffaloes until 1934).
In 1924, he led CU, known as the “Wonder Team” to a 7-0-1 regular season mark and a split of two postseason games in Hawai’i. CU won two RMAC football titles (1923, 1924) and posted a 23-4-1 record during his time on the team, and as a senior, he earned honorable mention All-America honors and was a second-team All-Western team member.
Newspaper accounts said he was a fine passer due to “his extremely large hands, but he wasn’t extremely fast because of his large feet.” When Chilson first enrolled in school, he got the last remaining practice uniform and his shoes didn’t match, one size 11, the other an 11½, which didn’t help, either.
An account from an eastern newspaper would say: “Chilson has a style all his own. He dashes out toward the wings, leaps into the air in full stride and turns with an acrobatic twist, flipping his passes while at the top of his leap. The altitude he achieves gives him a birds-eye view of his objective. He lays the ball easily and accurately into the receiver’s hands.”
He graduated from CU’s School of Law in 1927, practiced law in Greeley and Loveland (where the recreation center is named in his honor), became a district attorney and went on to serve as undersecretary of the Department of the Interior in the 1950s. On Feb. 19, 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated him as the U.S. District Judge for the state of Colorado; the senate confirmed him less than two weeks later and he served in the position for 26 years. He also served 23 years as a trustee of the Boettcher Foundation, one of Colorado’s largest philanthropic organizations.
Chilson was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, and was named to CU’s All-Century Football Team in 1989. Born Olin Hatfield Chilson on Nov. 22, 1903 in Pueblo, Colo., he worked as a carpenter to earn money for college while in high school and during his summers away from CU. He passed away on Sept. 28, 1991.
The 2018 RMAC Hall of Fame Banquet and Awards Ceremony will take place at the Colorado Springs Marriott Hotel on Friday, July 13.