Nottingham was selected in the 17th round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts, the penultimate pick. He spent two full years with the team, and was traded midway through the 1973 NFL season to the Dolphins. He was part of the Dolphins team that won Super Bowl VIII over the Minnesota Vikings 24-7. He gained the starting role after Larry Csonka left for the World Football League in 1975 and finished in the top ten of all running backs for rushing touchdowns during the 1974, 1975, and 1976 seasons. Nottingham broke his left shoulder blade in August 1978 and sat out the entire 1978 season on injured reserve, then retired in March 1979 to sell insurance. He finished his career with 2,496 yards and 34 touchdowns on 611 carries, as well as 67 catches for 502 yards. The Don Nottingham Cup is given to the top Kent State offensive player at the end of spring practice.