Soltau’s all around athletic versatility was developed as a youth growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, where he excelled in many sports: football, baseball, track, even hockey and skiing. Being inspired by University of Minnesota All-American halfback George Frank, Gordy gravitated towards football. During the middle of World War II when Gordy graduated from high school he enlisted in the United States Navy and was part of the Navy’s first class of frogmen (The Navy Seals today) specializing in underwater demolition.
Coming out of the Navy in 1945, Gordy enrolled in University of Minnesota. Under his role model football coach, Bernie Bierman, Gordy developed into a talented receiver, place kicker and learned the skills to also be a threat on defense. Gordy Soltau became one of the school’s legendary football figures. He was named to the “All Big Ten” team. He played in the Hula Bowl, the East-West Shrine game and on the college all stars team that beat the champion Philadelphia Eagles in 1950. He made the Minnesota Hall of Fame and the Duluth Hall of Fame.
It was 1950, and the San Francisco 49ers were starting their first year in the NFL when Gordy Soltau was hired by Coach Buck Shaw as a wide receiver and place kicker. The prior season the 49ers had played in the All-American Conference. Shaw’s job was to field a team that could compete with the longer and well established teams in the NFL, like the Los Angeles Rams. Gordy filled the bill in two areas as he was both a place kicker and wide receiver as well as could play offense and defense. Gordy was the 27th draft pick out of the University of Minnesota, chosen by the Green Bay Packers who traded him right away to the Cleveland Browns, who in turn dealt him to the 49ers. In 1952 and 1953 he led the NFL in scoring. During his nine seasons as a 49er he led the team in scoring with 644 points, 25 touchdowns, and 70 field goals. He was All-Pro in 1952, 1953, and 1954.
Off the field Gordy was a pioneer in advancing benefits for NFL football players. He was the first player representative for the 49ers. Word got around that players were meeting and wanted to establish a dialogue with the owners. This was the beginning of a players’ association.
Gordy retired from the 49ers in 1959 and soon was inducted into The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. He then spent ten years as a color commentator with Bob Fouts at CBS television. His next job was five years at KSFO with Lon Simmons.