Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 9 – 1 (Z)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

This is it.  The final ten*.  The single digit club is made up of quarterbacks (including a Heisman Trophy winner), cornerbacks, I-Backs, and a miscellaneous blend of wingbacks, receivers, and kickers.

*Actually, there are only nine.  My research could not uncover any Nebraska football player who ever wore the number 0 or 00.  

And more than probably any other group in the countdown, 9 – 1 contains guys who despite solid (if not outstanding) careers, were never fully embraced by Husker fans, cautionary tales, and talk of a curse.


Best Player:  Steve Taylor, Quarterback, 1985 – 1988
Other notables:  Gary Russell
Personal Favorite:  Taylor

Comments:  Throughout the countdown, we’ve talked about players who were ahead of their time.  Guys who could be lifted out of their era and land successfully in today’s game.  Steve Taylor is one of those guys.

Taylor had good speed and elusive moves as a runner (over 2,000 career rush yards and a then single game record 157 yards against Utah State in 1987).  But Taylor does not always receive enough credit as a passer.  Certainly, many remember his impressive line against #3 UCLA (10-15, 217 yards, five touchdowns).  But having been away from an option offense for more than ten years, can we really appreciate what a five passing touchdown day would have looked like in Osborne’s ground offense?

In case you thought the UCLA game was a fluke, Taylor added a four TD performance against Mizzou in the same season, which helped him earn All America honors.  I’d love to see what somebody with Taylor’s skill set would look like in one of today’s spread offenses.


Best Player:  Tyrone Williams, Cornerback, 1993 – 1995
Other notables:  Ameer Abdullah, Tyrone Byrd
Personal Favorite:  Ameer Abdullah, I-Back, 2011 – 2014

Comments: Tyrone Williams was an excellent cover corner. Strong and fast, he matched up against some excellent receivers during his NU career and usually came out on top. He received honors after each of his three seasons at NU: Big 8 Defensive Newcomer in 1993 and All Big 8 in 1994 and 1995.  He may not be in the first tier of great Husker cornerbacks, but he’s definitely in the next group.

Ameer Abdullah is everything you could want in a college running back. Breakaway speed, raw power, good vision and agility, and a warrior-like toughness to play through injuries. When Abdullah arrived on campus he was not as highly regarded as fellow recruits Aaron Green and Braylon Heard. Yet, Abdullah is poised to finish his Husker career near the top of the all-time rushing chart. Off the field, Abdullah is a bright kid who understands the importance of education. His statement announcing his decision to come back for his senior season should be required reading for all student athletes.


Best Player:  Eric Crouch, Quarterback, 1998 – 2001
Other notables:  Scott Frost, Demorrio Williams
Personal Favorite:  Crouch

Comments:  Nebraska’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner is one of the most electrifying athletes to ever play at Nebraska. Sprinter fast, Crouch was a threat to score from anywhere on the field. He carried the 2001 team to the National Championship game (Seriously. Crouch almost has as many rushing yards at team leader Dahrran Diedrick and his two best receivers were Wilson Thomas and Tracey Wistrom. Not exactly Rozier and Fryar – or even Phillips and Muhammad).

One of the themes within this set of numbers is talented players who were never fully embraced by Husker fans. The number 7 has two primary examples in Crouch and Scott Frost. The primary reason, in my opinion, was a perceived lack of loyalty to the program. Frost famously chose Stanford and Bill Walsh over Nebraska out of high school, before coming home. Crouch had to be convinced to return to campus during a heated QB controversy with Bobby Newcombe. Personally, I think these reasons are stupid.  I’d wager at least a third of the guys in this countdown have been homesick, changed their mind, or reacted poorly to disappointing news. I care more about their on-field production (a National Championship for Frost and a Heisman for Crouch) than a harmless decisions made by a teenager.


Best Player:  Keith Jones, I-Back, 1984 – 1987
Other notables:  Sammy Sims
Personal Favorite:  
Darin Erstad, Punter, 1994

Comments:  The original “End Zone” Jones, Keith was a very successful back at Nebraska.  An injury to Doug DuBose made him a starter his junior season, and he never looked back, leading the Big 8 with 830 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to All Big 8 honors.  The speedy I-Back, another product of the Omaha Central pipeline, had a big encore as a senior.  He put up 1,232 yards and another 13 TDs, picking up all conference honors again.  Jones left NU third on the all-time rushing list.

I remember hearing that Darin Erstad was going to join the football team as a punter.  At the time, I thought it was odd that the best baseball player at Nebraska was going to be a punter and not a “skill” player, but Erstad proved quite skilled.  He averaged over 42 yards a kick, made some PATs, and a couple of field goals.  I wholeheartedly believe he does not receive nearly enough recognition for his role in the 1995 Orange Bowl.  But let’s be honest, he’s on this list for one reason:  Double Extra Point!


Best Player:  DeJuan Groce, Cornerback, 1999 – 2002
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  
Jammal Lord, Quarterback, 2000 – 2003

Comments:  DeJuan Groce was a good cornerback.  Not great – or at least not as great as some of the others on this list – but good enough to be a multi-year starter and second team All Big XII selection as a senior.  But make no mistake, DeJuan Groce is not on this list for his work in the secondary.  Groce is here because he is one of the best return men in school history, trailing only Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers in punt return yards and touchdowns.  In his senior year, Groce racked up a school record 732 yards on punt returns and scored four touchdowns, including two against Troy State.  For his efforts as a return man, Groce was named All Big XII and All America as a return specialist.

I liked Jammal Lord.  I thought he was a talented athlete who made a pretty decent quarterback.  Unfortunately, he is another player whose career is not fully appreciated by Husker fans.  Why?  Lord had two big strikes against him:  1) he followed a Heisman Trophy winner, and 2) he was the quarterback of the 2002 team that broke the 9-win streak.  Like many Husker QBs in the Osborne/Solich era, Lord was definitely more of a runner (1,412 yards rushing in 2002) than a passer (48% career passer, more interceptions than touchdowns).  Lord racked up big numbers (234 rushing yards against Texas), but did not always make the play in crunch time (he threw an interception that ended that Texas game).  Regardless, I believe that had he been surrounded with better talent, Lord would be remembered more fondly.


Best Player:  Lavonte David, Linebacker, 2010 – 2011
Other notables:  Larry Asante, Troy Dumas, Tim Jackson
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  One of the best linebackers in school history, Lavonte David is on the short list with Mike Rozier for the best Junior College transfer in school history.  David appeared to be as fast going sideline to sideline as he was going straight ahead.  Combine that with his ability to detect plays before anybody else, and it is no wonder he racked up so many tackles in his two year career.  As a junior, he set a single season record with 152 tackles.  He followed that with 133 more as a senior.  To put that in perspective, Lavonte David played in 27 games as a Blackshirt.  In 14 of those games, he recorded ten or more tackles.

David racked up the honors in his two years.  Big XII Defensive Player of the Year, Big XII Defensive Newcomer of the Year, All Big XII, All Big 10, Big 10 Linebacker of the Year, All-American, and finalist for the Butkus, Lott, and Bednarik  Trophies.

In my years of watching Nebraska football, I’ve seen some outstanding linebackers.  Barrett Ruud.  Ed Stewart.  Demorrio Williams.  Trev Alberts.  Terrell Farley.  But I’m not sure if any of them were better than David.  He always seemed to either make the tackle, or be within 5 yards of the ball carrier.  And he had a knack for making a big play when Nebraska needed it the most – especially his stop, strip, and recovery of Braxton Miller in the 2011 Ohio State game.


Best Player:  Keyuo Craver, Cornerback, 1998 – 2001
Other notables:  Matt Davison, Tyrone Legette, Taylor Martinez, Daimion Stafford, Dean Sukup
Personal Favorite:  
Taylor Martinez, Quarterback, 2009 – 2013

Comments:  Keyuo Craver was another terrific cornerback from an era of great secondary players.  Craver wasn’t especially big (he was listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds), but he was fast, athletic, and always around the ball.  He ended his career second all time in pass breakups and first in career tackles among cornerbacks.  Craver was also a special teams standout, blocking four kicks and scoring two touchdowns.

As a senior, Craver was All Big XII, All-America, and was a semi-finalist for several national awards.

Ah Taylor Martinez. Has there been a more polarizing player in Nebraska history? The freshman phenom who burst onto the scene with long touchdown runs was a sight to behold. Then injuries hit, and he was arguably never the same. His image probably took a bigger beating than his body, as he took heat for calling his dad from the locker room during a game, being careless with the football, body language that made him appear aloof, and his interesting relationship with the local media. And yet, he holds darn near every record that a NU quarterback can hold – including some involving turnovers.  He was a player who could make you say “Oh my God!” for both good and bad reasons.

There will probably never be another T-Magic.  While I’m guessing that’s okay for many fans, I think it is a little sad too.


Best Player:  Jeff Krejci, Safety, 1978 – 1981
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  
T.J. Hollowell, Linebacker, 2001 – 2003

Comments:  Jeff Krejci is poster child for the Nebraska walk-on program.  A Nebraska kid from a small town (Schuyler), he walked on to Nebraska in 1978, and was buried on the depth chart.  Through hard work and perseverance, he worked his way up and saw enough playing time to earn a couple of varsity letters.  As a senior, he became a full time starter at safety and was good enough to be named All Big 8, and earn a shot at the NFL.  A Nebraska football history site named Krejci to its All Time Walk-On Team.

I’ll admit that Hollowell is a bit of stretch as a personal favorite.  That is no disrespect to T.J., who was a part of one of Nebraska’s greatest linebacking trios (Hollowell, Barrett Ruud, and Demorrio Williams).  But when I think of Hollowell, I remember him more as a #17 (his number for his first two years in Lincoln) than a #2, but my other options for the duece were limited.  Regardless, T.J. was a good player whose career I enjoyed watching.

Number 2 is littered with guys who came in with hype but never made a significant impact:  Major Culbert, Mike Demps, Aaron Green, Lazarri Middleton, Patrick Witt, just to name a few.


Best Player:  Lawrence Phillips, I-Back, 1993 – 1995
Other notables:  Dale Klein
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  Lawrence Phillips stands alone in Husker history.  Many have said he is the best I-Back to ever play at Nebraska – even ahead of Heisman winner Mike Rozier.  But he also stands alone as the person who did the most damage to Nebraska’s reputation.  Let’s start by focusing on his on-field accomplishments.

Phillips had a strong freshman year, contributing in a number of games.  But 1994, his sophomore season, was something special.  With Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer out with injuries, everybody knew L.P. was Nebraska’s biggest threat.  Playing at #16 Kansas State, with walk-on Matt Turman at QB, Phillips had 31 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown – all while nursing a thumb injury.  In 1994, he racked up 11 straight 100 yard games, was All Big 8, and finished 8th in the Heisman voting.  His 1995 season got off to an even better start:  359 yards on 34 carries (10.5 yard average) with seven touchdowns in two games.

But when you talk about Lawrence Phillips, you have to talk about his off the field issues. The arrest. The suspension. The impact his reinstatement had on Osborne and the rest of the program. His additional legal issues in the NFL and beyond.  Bernie Goldberg digging for dirt and painting Nebraska as a “win at all costs” school.  We can debate if Nebraska has ever gotten past the damage Phillips did to the program’s reputation.  I think they have, only because the losing in the Solich and Callahan years became a bigger story.  But you know that should a Husker ever be arrested for violence against a woman, the name Lawrence Phillips will be brought up.

I have watched every Nebraska I-Back since the early 80s, and there have been some greats: Rozier, Ahman, Helu, Abdullah, Keith and Calvin Jones, and so many more. And yet, I truly believe the greatest back I have ever watched – regardless of team – is Lawrence Phillips. I also have no doubt that had the night of September 9, 1995 gone differently, L.P. would have won the Heisman Trophy over Tommie Frazier and Eddie George.

Also, no discussion of the #1 jersey at Nebraska would be complete without mentioning this brilliant (and extremely well-researched) piece where Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald explores the curse of the #1 jersey.

Previous:  19 – 10

Start Over:  99 – 90


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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

NFL Draft Walk Up Music – Four Ways (W)

For the first time, players chosen in the first round of tonight’s NFL draft will take the stage to walk-up music they picked.

There are just so many ways I can go with this.  So many, in fact, for me to decide upon my favorite.  Therefore, I give you NFL Draft Walk-Up Music four ways:

I – Friendly Suggestions for the Projected* Top 10 Picks

*based on USA Today mock draft

1.  Houston Texans.  Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina  

“Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles  (honorable mention:  “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman)

2. St. Louis Rams.  Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

“Mrs. Robinson” – Lemonheads

3. Jacksonville Jaguars.  Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

“Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow”* – Sammy Davis, Jr.

*Aside from the whole Sammy Davis, Jr. for Sammy Watkins angle, there is no real reason for this song, but can’t you just picture The Commish getting his groove on to this funky track?

4. Cleveland Browns.  Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

“Flirtin’ With Disaster” – Molly Hatchet

5. Oakland Raiders.  Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Songs like “Return of the Mack”, “Mack the Knife”, and others are too predictable.  So how about this big Mack classic?

6. Atlanta Falcons.  Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Pomeroy

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

“Born to Fly”* – Sara Evans

*Disclaimers:  I abhor country and/or western music, but “Mike Evans” doesn’t lend itself to a lot of musical ideas.  Also, if anybody in the Top 10 would go with a country song it would be a guy from Texas A&M.

8. Minnesota Vikings.  Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Whenever I hear “Blake Bortles”, my mind goes to the Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers from the 1980s.  As classic as the “We thank you for your support” commercials were, they don’t really lend themselves to NFL Draft walk-up music.  So we go to Plan B – as in Bruce.

9. Buffalo Bills.  Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan

“Levon”* – Elton John.

*Close enough

10. Detroit Lions.  Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

“I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” – Gilbert and Sullivan

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II – Rejected Walk-Up Songs

Because some songs, regardless of their eternal awesomeness, just don’t work for a setting like the NFL Draft.

  • “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cindi Lauper
  • “Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix A Lot
  • “Loser” – Beck
  • “Dancing Queen” – ABBA
  • “Ironic” – Alanis Morrissette
  • “Little Green Bag” – George Baker Selection
  • “Wake Me Up When September Ends” – Green Day
  • “It’s Raining Men” – Geri Halliwell
  • “Cold Hard Bitch” – Jet
  • Anything from the “Frozen” Soundtrack
  • “Just a Friend” – Biz Markie
  • “Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
  • “F*** You” – Cee Lo Green
  • “You Know I’m No Good” – Amy Winehouse
  • “99 Problems (But the Commish Ain’t One)” – Jay Z

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III – Under the Radar Walk-Up Songs

The odds of any of these being used are slim to none*, but they would get noticed more than the draftee’s double-breasted aquamarine suit with purple pin stripes – and in a much more positive light.

*Oddly, as a white guy in my late 30s, my musical tastes differ from soon to be professional athletes in their early twenties.

  • “Celebrate” – Rare Earth
  • “Feels So Good” – 311
  • “If I Had A Million Dollars” – Barenaked Ladies
  • “Skills to Pay the Bills” – Beastie Boys
  • “Runnin’ Down A Dream” – Tom Petty
  • “Honor” – The Nadas (below)
  • “The Fixer” – Pearl Jam
  • “Just Got Paid” – ZZ Top

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IV – Michael Sam Long Distance Dedications

I realize that Michael Sam, the Missouri linebacker who is poised to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, is not likely to be picked in the first round, but in compiling this post, there were several tracks that made me think of him and the adversity he is likely to face this year.

Disclaimers:  I have nothing but respect for Michael Sam, his athletic ability, and the gigantic microscope he now has to live under just for being the man he is.  I mean zero disrespect to Sam – or any other member of the LGBT community.  We’re just having some fun here.  If this list offends you, I apologize and refer you to the Duran Duran track below.

  • “I’m Gay” – Bowling for Soup
  • “Your Little Secret” – Melissa Etheridge
  • “Break on Through” – The Doors
  • “Come Out and Play” – Offspring
  • “Strong Enough” – Sheryl Crow
  • “It’s Not Unusual” – Tom Jones
  • “Pride (In the Name of Love)” – U2
  • “Relax” – Duran Duran
  • “Living in America” – James Brown

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 19 – 10 (T)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

As we near the home stretch, we get into the teens.  Lots of defensive backs, I-Backs, and as one might expect, lots and lots of quarterbacks, including one of the most famous players in school history.  A guy so popular and beloved, fans still wear his #15 jersey years after he graduated:  Beau Davis.


Best Player:  Kyle Larson, Punter, 2000 – 2003
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  John Klem, Split End, 1999 – 2002

Comments:  The pride of tiny Funk, Nebraska, Larson was one of the greatest punters in school history.  A three year starter, Larson averaged over 43 yards per punt, which put him second all time at Nebraska, with 30% of his kicks going over 50 yards.

As a senior, Larson set the school record for yards per punt (45.12), was a consensus All Big XII pick, an All-American, and one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s best punter.

When you see that John Klem was a “split end”, you would likely assume that he was a receiver.  Maybe he was a “possession” guy or a maybe a deep threat, but certainly a guy who would catch his fair share of passes.  John Klem played in, by my rough count, 32 games at Nebraska over his four seasons.  He caught one pass.  For nine yards.  In the fourth quarter of a non-conference game with Nebraska up by 45.

Frankly, this is what makes me love John Klem.

Klem was a blocker.  Period.  With apologies to recent standouts like Quincy Enunwa, Niles Paul, and Kenny Bell, Klem is one of the best blocking receivers to ever play at Nebraska.  Part of the reason is there was little deception in his game.  My buddy Husker Luke figured it out early on:  when Klem is on the field, it is going to be a run.  Even if it’s 3rd and 9, if Klem was out there, it was likely going to be a run.

How effective of a blocker was John Klem?  Consider this from his junior season (2001):  He played major minutes in Nebraska’s first 11 games, and NU was undefeated.  After a torn ACL against K State knocked him out for the remainder of the season, Nebraska lost their final two games by a combined 99-50.  I’m not saying the 2001 team wins a national championship with a healthy John Klem, but it would have helped.


Best Player:  Jon Bostick, Split End, 1989 – 1991
Other notables:  Jim Anderson, Quincy Enunwa
Personal Favorite:  Brook Berringer, Quarterback, 1992 – 1995

Comments: Jon Bostick was one of the finest split ends Nebraska had in the ten years before the champion era began.  He earned All Big 8 honors as a senior, working opposite of talented tight end Johnny Mitchell, but Bostick was more than just some guy who benefited from relaxed coverages.

I love the story on this page that talks about how Bostick had to be pulled out of a redshirt four games into the 1989 season.  In his first game (against Oregon State), his first catch goes for a 60 yard TD.  Bostick followed that up with 176 yard and four TDs in his next two games.

I will always have a great fondness and appreciation for Brook Berringer’s career. He was easily the finest passing quarterback at Nebraska in the twenty-five years between Dave Humm and Zac Taylor, but he was also deceptively good running the option. Sure, I always thought Brook looked a little stiff on his options, but compared with Tommie Frazier, anybody is going to look less than fluid.

I sometimes wonder if Brook gets enough credit for the role he played on the 1994 championship team – not only running the team while Frazier battled blood clots, but also for keeping Nebraska within striking distance in the Orange Bowl so Frazier and Cory Schlesinger could do their thing.

I was a student at UNL when Berringer died, just a few weeks before the NFL draft, and his passing really shook me. It was sobering to realize that a guy who seemingly had everything (talent, brains, looks, a desire to give back) could be taken far too soon. I commend the University for that they’ve done to honor Brook’s memory and his legacy.



Best Player:  Reggie Cooper, Safety, 1987 – 1990
Other notables:  Ciante Evans, Dan Hadenfeldt
Personal Favorite:  Todd Peterson, Wide Receiver, 2004 – 2008

Comments:  Reggie Cooper may have been a player ahead of his time. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, he was a man among boys in the defensive backfield. Cooper used that size and speed to earn four letters, All Big 8 honors twice, honorable mention All-America twice, and finish as the leading tackler among defensive backs. The game may have changed since Cooper’s day, but there will always be room for a guy like him.

Todd Peterson also had prototypical size at his position. As a 6’4″, 215 pound wide receiver, he gave his quarterbacks a big target and sure hands. And while Peterson had an excellent career (top five in school history in receptions and receiving yards), he’s a personal favorite for how he did it.

Peterson walked on to Nebraska in 2004, the same year that new coach Bill Callahan infamously took an axe to the storied walk-on program – choosing to pursue highly touted recruits over in-state guys from Class C-1 schools.

But Peterson’s talent was too much to deny. He made it on the field as a redshirt freshman, and was starting by the end of the season. From there, he became a reliable presence and kept several three and four star recruits on the bench. Additionally, Peterson was equally strong in the classroom, and was a leader in community involvement.


Best Player:  Maurice Purify, Wide Receiver, 2006 – 2007
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite: 
Mike Stuntz, Quarterback/Wingback/Safety, 2001 – 2005

Comments:  Sixteen is the final number in the countdown to have never produced a first team all conference selection, although it certainly seemed like Maurice Purify would be the one to break that barrier (he was second team All Big 12 as a junior in 1996).

Purify was big, fast, and strong. Arguably, he was one of the most physically gifted receivers Nebraska has ever had. Purify excelled in deep routes, short routes, and his specialty: the jump ball. His 9 yard catch of a Zac Taylor lob at Texas A&M capped a huge comeback and helped the Huskers win the Big XII North division crown in 2006.

I’ve always been fascinated by the guys who participate in the biggest of plays on the biggest of stages. Is it foundation for a strong career, or is it a pinnacle that is never approached again? Mike Stuntz is a good example of the latter.

Recruited as a quarterback, he made it on the field as a true freshman in 2001. As a wingback, he threw one of the most famous passes in school history: Black 41 Flash Reverse to Heisman Trophy winner Erich Crouch. In 2002, he moved back to quarterback, he was 10-25 passing for 100 yards.

From there, Stuntz bounced over to defense seeing mop-up and special teams duty. Aside from Black 41 Flash Reverse, his biggest claim to fame was dating the “hot tutor” from the Tommy Lee Goes to College “reality” show.


Best Player:  Tommie Frazier, Quarterback, 1992 – 1995
Other notables:  Bob Churchich, Alfonzo Dennard, Vince Ferragamo
Personal Favorite: 

Comments:  If I were to call Tommie Frazier the greatest Husker player in the last 50 years would you disagree?  What about the greatest of all time?  Still no?  Certainly you could make a case for a handful of other guys (the three Heisman winners, Suh, Bobby Reynolds, or Train Wreck Novak), right?  Or you could try to break down Tommie by citing his stats – especially his career completion percentage of 49.5%.  But Touchdown Tommie Fraz-ah would still win.

Because that’s what Tommie Frazier did.

He won.

A Big 8 best 33-3 as a starter – a mark that would have been even higher if he didn’t miss seven games due to blood clots – you knew that when #15 went under center, or more appropriately, started running the triple option, that Nebraska was going to win.  Oh those option plays.  For my money, Tommie’s position coach Turner Gill is the only one who came close to matching Frazier’s mastery of Osborne’s signature play.  Frazier had a true gift for knowing when to pitch or when to keep as he glided down the field.

As good as Frazier was in regular games, he was even better in bowl games.  True, his bowl record sits at 2-2, but consider that his first bowl loss (in the 1993 Orange Bowl) was as a true freshman.  The blame for the second bowl loss could be placed on a number of people (i.e. some dubious missed calls, two defensive penalties that allowed FSU to score with 1:16 left, or the right leg of Byron Bennett), but there is no way Frazier could be blamed for giving his team every chance to win a National Championship.

From there, Frazier’s big game dominance took off.  It took most of the first quarter of the 1994 Orange Bowl to shake off, but Frazier all but willed Nebraska to Tom Osborne’s first National Championship.  In 1995, he was even better.  Frazier used and abused Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, racking up 199 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including one play known simply as The Run.

The only regret I have about Tommie Frazier’s career is that he played in an era where Heisman voters viewed the award not as it should be (college football’s most outstanding player), but as “who will have the best NFL career”?  This led to one of the greatest injustices of the 20th Century as Eddie George stole Tommie Frazier’s Heisman.


Best Player:  Jerry Tagge, Quarterback, 1969 – 1971
Other notables: Dennis Claridge, Gerry Gdowski, Barron Miles,
Personal Favorite: 
Barron Miles, Cornerback, 1992 – 1994

Comments:  Before there was Tommie, there was Jerry.  Jerry Tagge was the quarterback on the first two National Championship teams in school history (1970 and 1971).  Like Frazier, all Tagge did was win, compiling a stellar record as a starting quarterback, and playing his best games on the biggest stages.  In the 1971 Orange Bowl against LSU, Tagge was an impressive 12 of 15 passing against one of the nation’s best defenses.  It was his QB sneak from the one yard line that clinched the championship.

Tagge earned All Big 8 and All-America honors after the 1971 season, and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.  Although his accomplishments may have been overshadowed by those of Frazier and other famous Husker QBs, Tagge should be remembered for setting the standard of excellence.

Pure and simple, Barron Miles was a play maker.  An excellent cornerback, Miles had a knack for the ball and always seemed in position to make a big play.  Over his career, he had seven blocked kicks, 19 pass break ups (including six in one game) and numerous “wow” moments.  My favorite Baron Miles moment was in 1993 at Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys were punting from their own end zone when Miles came streaking in for the block.  He ended up catching the ball just off the foot of the punter and rolling onto the turf with a momentum shifting touchdown.


Best Player:  Carlos Polk, Linebacker, 1997 – 2000
Other notables:  Zac Taylor
Personal Favorite: 

Comments:  From the mid 80s through the mid 90s, the best Blackshirts were usually lined up at outside linebacker/rush end. The four-year career of Carlos Polk marked a shift, as the best Blackshirt was usually the guy anchoring the middle linebacker position. I’m talking about guys like Polk, Barrett Ruud, Lavonte David, and to a lesser extent Phillip Dillard, Steve Octavien, and even another #13 from a defensively challenged era: Corey McKeon.

But let’s focus on Polk, a bruiser with deceptive speed and a strong nose for the football. A four-year contributor, he was a two time All Big XII performer, and an anchor on one of the finest defenses in school history (1999). He was named first team All-America in his senior season.


Best Player:  Turner Gill, Quarterback, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Dave Humm, Jarvis Redwine
Personal Favorite: 

Comments:  Keep in mind, we’re only here to talk about Gill’s playing career, which is kind of too bad considering Gill coached three of the finest quarterbacks in school history (Frazier, Scott Frost, and Eric Crouch) while being a valued lieutenant to both Osborne and Frank Solich, before taking Buffalo from laughingstock to conference champion. Of course, Gill is not short of accomplishments as a player.

Let’s start with the biggest one: he had the keys to one of the greatest offenses in NCAA history and operated it with the skill and precision of a race car driver. Take a moment to truly appreciate this: The 1983 Huskers, quarterbacked by Turner Gill, averaged 52 points and almost 550 yards of offense per game. Gill became the first Husker quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. His greatness stretched back to his first start when he set a (then) school record with four touchdown passes in a game against Colorado.

Gill was named All Big 8 three times, finished fourth in the 1983 Heisman Trophy vote.


Best Player:  Matt Herian, Tight End, 2002 – 2006
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite: 
Matt Turman, Quarterback, 1993 – 1996

Comments:  Matt Herian was another player ahead of his time. The guy with the tight end size and wide receiver hands and speed, today’s NFL is full of guys who have the same skill set as Herian.

He exploded onto the scene as a freshman, catching seven passes for 301 yards (an absolutely ridiculous 43 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Yes, you read the correctly: 57% of his freshman year receptions went for touchdowns.

Unfortunately, Herian is also a starter on all-time “What Could Have Been” team. During his junior season in 2004, the first in Bill Callahan’s West Coast Offense, Herian was a putting together another excellent season when he suffered a nasty leg injury against Mizzou. Herian sat out the entire 2005 season, and came back for the 2006 campaign, but he just wasn’t the same player. I believe the sky would have been the limit for a healthy Herian.

To fully appreciate Matt Turman, we must put ourselves in his shoes the morning of October 15, 1994.  The greatest player in school history (Frazier) is out.  His backup, a legitimate NFL prospect (Berringer) is out too.  That leaves you, a 185 pound walk on from a Class C school to try to guide your 6-0,#2 ranked team to victory at #16 Kansas State, a team that had a very stout defense.  Granted, his moment of greatness consisted mostly of handing the ball to Lawrence Phillips and getting out the way, but still, Matt Turman – a.k.a. The Turmanator – may be the least likely guy to ever lead a championship-level team to victory.


Best Player:  Bret Clark, Safety, 1981 – 1984
Other notables:  Charles Fryar, Keithen McCant, Mike Minter
Personal Favorite: 
Roy Helu, Jr., I-Back, 2007 – 2010

Comments:  Bret Clark was an excellent safety for Tom Osborne’s early 80s teams.  Clark had a great talent for breaking up passes, tying the school record for pass break ups (8) in his sophomore and senior seasons.  He finished his NU career holding the school record for PBU.  During his senior season, Clark led the team in pass break ups, interceptions, and fumbles recovered.  A two-time All Big 8 player, Clark also earned All-America honors as a senior.

Roy Helu, Jr. is one of my favorite I-Backs from the last 20 years.  He combined speed, power, vision, and a love for hurdling over defenders to become one of the most vaunted rushers in school history.  Two memories of Helu stand out:  2009 at Kansas, Nebraska is in a dogfight until the Huskers decide to put the game on Helu’s shoulders.  Despite several nagging injuries, Helu picked up 85 yards and two critical touchdowns on Nebraska’s final two drives.

And then there is his masterpiece:  2010 versus Missouri.  On NU’s first play, Helu went 66 yards for a touchdown.  Later in one of the most complete quarters of football Nebraska has ever played, Helu went for a career long 73 yard TD run.  When it was all said and done, Helu had 307 rushing yards (and 317 all-purpose) breaking Calvin Jones’s twenty year old record of 294.  It was one of the most dominating performances I’ve had the pleasure to watch at Memorial Stadium.

Previous:  29 – 20

Next:  9 – 1


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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 29 – 20 (H)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

Numbers 29 through 20 are all about speed.  Cornerbacks, I-Backs, safeties, rovers, wingbacks, heck – even some of the fullbacks had speed to burn.  Plus, one of my all-time favorite Huskers shows up in the twenties…


Best Player:  Jim Pillen, Defensive Back, 1976 – 1978
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  Pillen

Comments:  Is this number jinxed?  There are notorious names (Scott Baldwin, Kellen Huston), disappointing transfers (Jordan Congdon, Collins Okafor), and a bunch of guys you’ve probably never heard of (Seth Rexilius, Pat Friesen, Mic Boettner).  Only one person has ever earned all conference honors while wearing #29.  That man is Jim Pillen.  Pillen was a two time All Big 8 selection, earned Academic All-American honors, and was inducted to the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

But most folks (myself included) remember Pillen for his moment in Husker lore:  1978 versus Oklahoma.  Nebraska is clinging to a late lead when Billy Sims fumbles.  Pillen recovers the fumble and Tom Osborne earns a signature win.


Best Player:  Jeff Smith, I-Back, 1981 – 1984
Other notables:  Eric Hagg, Dave Gillespie, Jamel Williams
Personal Favorite:  Jamel Williams, Linebacker, 1994 – 1996

Comments: How good of an I-Back was Jeff Smith?  Did we ever really know?  Sure, we saw the flashes – 473 yards in the first ten quarters of his senior year, an excellent punt returner, and of course, his off-the-bench heroics in the 1984 Orange Bowl – including the 24 yard TD (on fourth and 1) that set up Tom Osborne’s legacy-defining decision.

But we never got to see the full promise of Smith’s potential as he spent his first two varsity seasons backing up a couple of guys named Craig and Rozier.  And after racking up those 473 yards in the first ten quarters of 1984, he had an ankle injury that limited to just 462 the rest of the way.  Even so, Smith left Nebraska as the 10th leading rusher in school history.  Who knows what might have happened in a different time and place?

When I think of Jamel Williams, I think of how he was part of the new breed of Husker linebackers as Osborne and Charlie McBride abandoned the 5-3 defense.  Instead of the lumbering LB with the oversized shoulder pads and neck roll, Williams was sleek, fast, and explosive.  I’ll always remember his sack and safety of Danny Wuerffel in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.  Everybody in the stadium knew Williams was coming, but nobody could do anything about it.


Best Player:  Irving Fryar, Wingback, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Joe Blahak
Personal Favorite:  Abdul Muhammad, Wingback, 1991 – 1994

Comments:  Irving Fryar, by some accounts, may have been the most talented of the Scoring Explosion “triplets”, and yet I think he is the least heralded.  While understandable (Rozier won the Heisman and Turner Gill was the QB as well as a long time assistant coach), I think that is a shame.  Consider:  On the magical 1983 squad, Fryar touched the ball 83 times (catches, runs, and kick returns).  He averaged a staggering 14.6 yards per touch, and his yards per reception was 19.5.

Fryar easily earned All Big 8 and All-America honors – (side note:  do you understand how rare it is – and how good you need to be – to earn consensus All-America honors on a team that leads the nation in rushing?  Think about it, if your offense is rolling up 400 yards rushing every game, how many opportunities will you get to catch passes?  That’s probably why Fryar was only the second player to ever do it, with another Husker legend – Freeman White – being the first).  Fryar went on to become Nebraska’s first #1 pick in the NFL draft.

When you looked at Abdul Muhammad, you saw a small guy:  5’9″ and 160 pounds soaking wet.  But his diminutive size didn’t keep him from being a top receiver for Tommie Frazier, a strong blocker, and tough dude.  It must have been the bullet that was rather famously logged in his backside…


Best Player:  Wonder Monds, Defensive Back, 1973 – 1975
Other notables:  Josh Brown, Clinton Childs, Tom Rathman, Marvin Sanders
Personal Favorite:  
Tom Rathman, Fullback, 1982 – 1985

Comments:  Wonderful Terrific Monds, Jr. (yep, that is his real name) is more than just a hall of fame unique name or an Afro that would make Kenny Bell jealous.  Monds was a standout defensive back on some very talented teams.  He was sprinter fast, yet large enough to pack a punch.  He earned All-America honors as a senior and went on to play in the NFL.

One of my most vivid Husker memories from my childhood is right as I turned on the game, Tom Rathman was sprinting down the field en route to a 60 yard touchdown against Florida State.  That probably helped to foster my love of Nebraska-born fullbacks.  Rathman is arguably the greatest fullback Nebraska ever had, owning the position records for yards and tying the mark for touchdowns.  An amazing stat that will probably never be duplicated:  in his senior year (1985) a fullback was the fifth leading rusher in the Big 8.


Best Player:  Joe Walker, Rover, 1997 – 2000
Other notables:  Kyler Reed, Jon Vedral
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  Technically, Joe Walker makes this list as a Rover, but he could just as well be listed solely for his work as a kick returner.  Walker owns, or is near the top of, almost all of the kickoff and punt return records in school history.  His return prowess wasn’t limited to kicks – he also tied the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns in a career.  The combo makes him one of a handful of players in NCAA history to return a punt, kickoff, and interception for a touchdown.


Best Player:  Bill Kosch, Safety, 1969 – 1971
Other notables:  Niles Paul
Personal Favorite:  
Brandon Rigoni, Safety, 2003 – 2006

Comments:  Bill Kosch was a standout safety for Bob Devaney’s national championship teams in 1970 and 1971.  An All Big 8 selection in both 1970 and 1971, Kosch recorded several interceptions, including one that he returned 95 yards for a touchdown against Texas A&M.  Fun fact:  while there have been multiple father/son duos at Nebraska, only Bill Kosch and son Jesse have all five national championship rings from their playing careers.

If you’ve been following the countdown, you probably know by now that there are two roster positions that I have an affinity for:  fullback and kickoff wedge buster.  With apologies to Eric Martin, Brandon Rigoni is my favorite wedge buster of all time.  Why?  Because a 5’6″, 185 pound walk-on would probably be one of the last guys you would pick to lead your kickoff team down the field.  For three seasons, nothing made me happier than watching Rigoni take the form of human bowling ball and seeing him de-cleat some unsuspecting return man or blocker.


Best Player:  Mark Blazek, Safety, 1986 – 1988
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  
Lance Thorell, Defensive Back, 2007 – 2011

Comments:  This is another number with a single first team all conference pick, so the choices are a little slim.  I’m going with Mark Blazek as he was at least honorable mention All Big 8 in his junior and senior seasons.  Blazek had a knack for getting an interception in big games.  A bright student, Blazer earned Academic All-America honors as a senior.

Lance Thorell is a great success story from the walk-on program.  A kid from tiny class D-1 Loomis, he worked his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman, earning five starts.  And despite competing with scholarship guys from bigger schools with more recruiting stars, Thorell kept working his way onto the field, playing in every game in his final three seasons including multiple starts.  Off the field, Thorell was academic all conference and a four time member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team.


Best Player:  Ralph Brown, Cornerback, 1996 – 1999
Other notables:  Kenny Brown, Rex Burkhead, Doug DuBose
Personal Favorite:  
Jeff Makovicka, Fullback, 1993 – 1995

Comments:  How good of a cornerback was Ralph Brown?  He was a starter in his very first game at Nebraska, for the two-time defending national champs and was named Big XII Defensive Freshman of the Year.  Over the course of his legendary Nebraska career, Brown rewrote the records for pass breakups, setting the marks for a game (7), season (15), and career (50).  As one of Nebraska’s greatest cornerbacks of all time, Brown was all conference three straight years and All-America as a senior.  After that first start, Brown started each of the other 51 games in his NU career, setting another record.

As for my personal favorite, this was both the hardest and easiest choice to make.  The first (and only) Nebraska jersey I ever owned was a mid-80’s Doug DuBose #22.  Rex Burkhead is one of my all time favorite Huskers – for his play on the field and especially for what he did for Jack Hoffman and his family.

But there is no doubt that I would go with Makovicka.  Why?  As a freshman at UNL in 1993, I was able to attend all of the home games for the first time, instead of the one or two a year my Dad and I went to.  The ’93 team was pretty darn good, so they had a number of blowout wins.  Once the rout was on, I loved being able to move down 20-30 rows, find an abandoned seat back and watch guys my age fulfill the dream of every Nebraska kid.

One of those players was Jeff Makovicka.  In 93, he was a fourth string I-Back and would get a handful of carries late in the game.  I loved the rhythmic way the stadium P.A. announcer say “Ball care-reed by Mack-oh-vick-ah”.  From there, I adopted Jeff as one of my original personal favorites – a fondness that only grew when he moved to fullback, and was followed by his little brother Joel.  It was a sad day for me when the last of Mackovickas chose to play baseball…at Creighton, but I’ll always remember their big brother picking up seven yards against North Texas.


Best Player:  Mike Brown, Rover, 1996 – 1999
Other notables:  Prince Amukamara, Derek Brown, Kaye Carstens, Roger Craig
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  Considering that two numbers in the twenties had no all conference picks (23 and 25), #21 is stacked with contenders.  You could certainly make a case for Prince, Roger Craig, or a different Brown (Derek), but my choice is Mike Brown.

The position name “Rover” is such an apt description for how Mike Brown played football.  He roved sideline to sideline, from goal line to the opponent’s backfield making plays.  Brown ended his career second on the all-time tackle charts, which is no surprise considering that Mike Brown is the greatest open field tackler I have ever seen.   Period.  Brown was a multi-year starter and earned All Big XII and All-America honors in his senior season as he led arguably the greatest defense in school history.


Best Player:  Johnny Rodgers, Wingback, 1970 – 1972
Other notables:  Michael Booker, Josh Bullocks
Personal Favorite:  
Josh Bullocks, Cornerback, 2002 – 2004

Comments:  I truly believe that all Nebraska schoolchildren, when they go through their Nebraska history and social studies coursework in the fourth grade should be required to memorize Lyle Bremser’s legendary call of Johnny “the Jet” Rodgers tearing ’em loose from their shoes.

As they learn the proper Bremser cadence, they should also learn about the legendary Jet himself:  All conference three times.  All-America twice.  Two time national champion.  One time owner of 41 school records.  Heisman Trophy.  And one of the few players to defeat the Heisman bowl game curse, as he scored five touchdowns (three rushes, a reception, and a 52 yard pass) in a romp over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

I will never forget the season the Josh Bullocks put together in 2003.  He set the tone with two interceptions against Okie State and followed it up with eight more over the course of the season, setting a school record of 10 INTs – a total that would have made him the 8th best team in the Big XII.

Previous:  39 – 30

Next:  19 – 10

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 39 – 30 (E)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

I love the disparity of numbers 39 – 30.  At one end (39) is a fairly bleak field of candidates, while on the other end (30) you have two of the greatest I-Backs in school history.  And with another mixed back of I-Backs, fullbacks, linebackers, corners, safeties, kickers, wingbacks, and others, it makes the picking rather difficult.


Best Player:  Andra Franklin, Fullback, 1978 – 1980
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  Jeff Souder, Safety, 2005

Comments:  A starter in three different seasons, Andra Franklin was a mainstay at fullback in the late 70s.  A gifted runner, Franklin averaged over 5 yards a carry during his Nebraska career, while also proving himself as an excellent blocker.  Franklin earned All Big 8 honors in 1980.

Jeff Souder only played one season at Nebraska, and did not do much more than cover kickoffs.  But, oh, were those fun to watch.  Souder was generously listed at 200 pounds, but that was 200 pounds of excitement, energy, and desire to go blow somebody up.  I remember before kickoffs how he would jump around and excite the crowd like it was 4th and Goal with a national championship on the line.  Even though his career didn’t go as planned, that excitement was real.


Best Player:  Barrett Ruud, Linebacker, 2002 – 2004
Other notables:  Dan Alexander, Steve Forch, Bruce Pickens
Personal Favorite:  Dan Alexander, I-Back, 1996 – 2000

Comments: RUUUUUUUD!!!!  Nebraska’s all time leader in tackles, second to Grant Wistrom is tackles for loss, and is on the short list of greatest linebackers in school history.  A three year starter, Ruud was a force all over the field.  He had a nose for the football on running plays, but also excelled in pass coverage, recording 12 break ups and two interceptions in his career.  While he strangely only earned first team All Big XII honors once, he was a three time academic All Big XII performer.

When I think of Dan Alexander, I think of two things:  First, was amazing potential – the gifted athlete, seemingly chiseled from marble who captivated a fan base with his spring game performances – before knee injuries derailed him.  And secondly, there is his run.  1999, at Colorado.  Eighty yards right up the middle.  And the cherry on top:  he pulled away from Ben Kelly, a Colorado cornerback with exceptional speed.


Best Player:  Ken Geddes, Linebacker / Middle Guard, 1967 – 1969
Other notables:  Sam Koch, Jake Wesch
Personal Favorite:  Tony Ortiz, Linebacker, 1996 – 1999

Comments:  Bob Devaney once described Ken Geddes as best all-around athlete he ever coached.  And while that is pretty high praise considering the talent Devaney had around him, consider this:  In 1968, Geddes was All Big 8 as a linebacker.  The next season, Devaney and coach Monte Kiffin moved Geddes to middle guard.  In 1969, Geddes earned All Big 8 honors again.

Tony Ortiz was a smooth and fast linebacker who helped anchor one of Nebraska’s greatest defenses – the 1999 unit.  He was one of those players that was always good for a “wow – did you see that?” moment in every game.  Sometimes it was using his speed to make a play, and sometimes it was him laying a big hit, but he was fun to watch.


Best Player:  Larry Wachholtz, Safety, 1964 – 1966
Other notables:  Correll Buckhalter, Dana Stephenson
Personal Favorite:  
Matthew May, Linebacker, 2007 – 2011

Comments:  It really isn’t fair to Larry Wachholtz to simply list him as a “safety”.  Sure, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning All Big 8 honors twice, and All-America honors as a senior.  His seven interceptions as a senior was in the top ten nationally.  But that is not all he did:  he was an excellent punt return man, leading the Big 8 in return yards twice, and missing out on the national lead by seven yards his junior season.  And if that was not enough, Wachholtz also kicked PATs and field goals.

What is not to like about Matthew May?  A Nebraska native, he walked on and contributed on special teams as a redshirt freshman.  When injuries depleted the linebacking corps, he stepped up and became a solid contributor.  Off the field he was academic all conference and was named to the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team for his efforts in the community.  Every Nebraska team should have a Matthew May.


Best Player:  Jeff Kinney, Halfback, 1969 – 1971
Other notables:  Rick Berns, Steve Damkroger, Curt Tomasevicz
Personal Favorite:  
Andy Janovich, Fullback, 2012 – Present

Comments:  I wasn’t alive for Kinney’s career, so most of what I know is Game of the Century highlights – Kinney running through the Sooner secondary with his tear-away jersey hanging on for dear life.  And while that game (171 yards and four touchdowns) is arguably the pinnacle of his career, it doesn’t begin to explain Kinney’s greatness.

Kinney burst onto the scene as a sophomore, leading the team in rushing, receiving, and scoring.  Kinney was All Big 8, All America, and academic All America in 1971.  Nebraska won two national titles with Kinney in the Husker backfield, and when he left, Kinney held the NU career records for rushing yards and touchdowns.

Andy Janovich is probably not going to have a career like Jeff Kinney, but that doesn’t matter to me.  What matters is there is a kid from my small town, Class B high school (Gretna) who plays for Nebraska.  And that is really the heart of why we Nebraskans love the walk-on program so much – it is our connection to the team; our local point of pride that we can celebrate.  In his young career, Janovich has given Gretna residents and alumni much to be proud of – starting as a walk-on true freshman, getting a carry (the first Dragon to touch the ball in a Nebraska uniform, I believe), and earning a scholarship before the 2013 season.


Best Player:  Trev Alberts, Linebacker, 1990 – 1993
Other notables:  Stewart Bradley, Dave Butterfield
Personal Favorite:  
Cody Glenn, Running Back / Linebacker, 2005 – 2008

Comments:  Before we talk about Trev, let’s start by clearing our minds.  Get rid of your opinion of him as UNO’s athletic director.  Forget about his time on ESPN where he often went out of his way not to be a NU homer.  Disregard Mel Kiper, Jr’s hissy fit over the Colts selecting Alberts in the 1994 draft.  Heck, forget the rumors that Erin Andrews is nothing more than Trev in drag.  None of those things have any impact over his playing career.

Trev Alberts was an excellent, excellent player.  His 1993 season (Butkus Award, All-America, Big Eight Player of the Year, school record 15 sacks, and so much more) still stands as one of the greatest campaigns by a Blackshirt.  I’ll never forget how strong he was.  Several times, he appeared to be blocked, or the quarterback was about to escape, but Alberts would grab him with one arm and pull him down.  He may be polarizing after he left NU, but there is no doubt that he is one of the all time greats.

Cody Glenn is definitely a personal favorite of mine.  A bruising runner, he was an excellent short yardage/goal line guy.  An unselfish, team player, he moved to linebacker for his senior season for the betterment of the team (and to avoid a logjam at RB).  But that move was no joke, Glenn turned out to be a pretty decent linebacker before an undisclosed violation of rules cost him his final four games.


Best Player:  Dana Brinson, Wingback, 1985 – 1988
Other notables:  Barry Alvarez, Clester Johnson, Matt O’Hanlon
Personal Favorite:  
Barry Alvarez, Linebacker, 1965 – 1967

Comments:  Dana Brinson was a stand out wingback / kick returner for Husker squads in the mid 1980s.  When he graduated and went to the NFL, Brinson was in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return yardage.  He picked up first team All Big 8 honors as a senior in 1988.

I was not alive for Barry Alvarez’s playing career, and I was not a huge fan of his Wisconsin teams (I find it hard to support any team other than Nebraska), but I have the utmost respect for the program he built at Wisconsin, and especially for the way he did it:  using the Bob Devaney model to build a tough running game featuring a lot of home-grown talent; even down to modeling Wisconsin’s uniforms after Nebraska’s.  Alvarez’s efforts to get Nebraska into the Big Ten should also be recognized.


Best Player:  Ed Stewart, Linebacker, 1991 – 1994
Other notables:  Ken Clark, Adrian Fiala, I.M. Hipp, Brandon Jackson, Kent McCloughan
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  Ed Stewart was another stand-out linebacker on the early 1990’s teams, he blossomed as a senior into a leading force in Tom Osborne’s first national championship team.  An All American, Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year, and Butkus Award finalist, Stewart was a sideline to sideline playmaker, a sure tackler, and hard hitter.

Personally, I think Stewart was robbed and should have won the Butkus Award in 1994 (Dana Howard of Illinois?  C’mon.)  I think they didn’t want to give the aware to two Huskers in a row.


Best Player:  Joe Orduna, Halfback, 1967 – 1970
Other notables:  Harry Wilson
Personal Favorite:  
Jay Sims, I-Back, 1995 – 1997

Comments:  Joe Orduna was the leading halfback on Nebraska’s first national championship team.  In 1970, Orduna scored a team high 15 touchdowns and rushed for 897 yards.  Part of a 1-2 punch with Jeff Kinney, Orduna earned All Big 8 honors in 1970.

I love blowout wins.  Certainly, a big part of that is for the easy victory, the domination of a less opponent, the joy of seeing seven, eight, nine touchdowns being scored.  But I also love watching the career reserves, the guys who – let’s be honest – will likely never see the field get their moments of glory.  Jay Sims was a talented back, but he played on the same Husker teams as Lawrence Phillips, Ahman Green, Clinton Childs, and Damon Benning.  Suffice it to say, touches were going to be few and far between.  But how may fourth string I-Backs can say they scored an 80 yard touchdown against a Nick Saban defense (at Michigan State, 1995)?


Best Player:  Mike Rozier, I-Back, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Dahrran Diedrick, Ahman Green, Marv Mueller, Paul Rogers
Personal Favorite:  
Ahman Green, I-Back, 1995 – 1997

Comments: At a school known for producing excellent backs, Mike Rozier is easily the best of the best.  Let’s start with that amazing 1983 season:  2,148 yards, a 7.81 yards per carry average, and 29 touchdowns.  And here is my favorite:  in his final four Big 8 conference games, Rozier gained 929 yards.  That’s more than Joe Orduna’s team leading season total in a national championship season.  All Big 8 all three years, All-America twice, the 1983 Heisman trophy, and he has since been enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.  Rozier owns a plethora of single season and career records both at Nebraska, and in the former Big 8.

After Rozier’s stellar career, Nebraska took #30 out of circulation for 12 years.  Imagine the pressure of the being the first guy since Rozier to wear the vaunted 30?  Talk about big shoes to fill.  Well, Ahman Green damn near filled them.  Another back from the Omaha Central pipeline, Green burst onto the scene at a rather slow time in Husker football history:  an undefeated team trying to defend their national championship after their star I-Back and Heisman candidate Lawrence Phillips was suspended.  All Green did was become one of the greatest backs in school history.  An amazing runner who was blessed with strength and toughness to match his sprinter speed, Green likely would be Nebraska’s all time leading rusher had he returned for his senior season (he was only 900 yards behind Rozier).

Previous:  49 – 40

Next:  29 – 20

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(Author’s note:  So you may be asking yourself one of two questions, “what’s with the letter E in parentheses in the title?” or “What does a list of Husker greats have to do with the letter E?”  Allow me to explain…

For the month of April 2014, I’m participating in an A to Z blogging challenge, where I must publish 26 posts in the the month of April, each focusing on a different letter of the alphabet.  Today’s letter is E (hence the title), but I really didn’t have a good idea for E.  However, I’ve been wanting to finish up this series.  Conveniently, the next round up was 39-30 and a three is like a dyslexic “E”. Yes, that is a bit of a stretch, but if it worked for the CBS show “Numb3rs” it can work for me too. More from the A to Z series can be found here.)

Top Ten Reactions to Your Facebook Movie

As you may have heard, Facebook turned 10 years old this week.  To celebrate, they are creating a “look back” movie showcasing statuses and pictures from your account*.

*The cynic in me says Facebook is actually showcasing their ability to quickly mine your personal data, but whatever.

Everybody and their mom has taken advantage of this, and it is likely that your timeline is currently littered with variations on the following status:

Here’s my Facebook movie. Find yours at #FacebookIs10

I’ve watched several of these and some are definitely better than others.  Some are getting rave reviews, and some…well…let’s just say that each movie is special in its own unique way.

Without further ado, the top 10 reactions to your Facebook movie:

10.  The plot was a little slow.

9.  Wow, it is getting killed on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes (shout out to Derek Hernandez for this one)

8.  I was not expecting that much nudity.

7.  If this were the 80s, it would have gone straight to VHS.

6.  I liked the book better.  (shout out to Damien for this one)

5.  The cinematography was horrible.  Seriously, learn to work a camera.

4.  I really hope they don’t do a sequel.

3.  Siskel and Ebert gave it two middle fingers up.

2.  I was hoping the lead would be played by somebody better looking.

1.  Worst.  Movie.  Ever.

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 49 – 40

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

As we move on to numbers 49 through 40, we get a mixed bag of players.  While there are lots of linebackers and fullbacks, the forties also offer defensive linemen, kickers, defensive ends, I-Backs, tight ends, and even a couple of defensive backs.


Best Player:  Kevin Seibel, Kicker, 1980 – 1982
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  Adam Ickes, Linebacker, 2002 – 2005

Comments:  Not a very good start as we’ve hit the third number never to have an all conference or All America pick.  And let’s be honest – the pickings are rather slim.  My finalists were Ken Kaelin and Ickes, which should tell you all you need to know about the rich history of #49.

But not to dog too much on Seibel, a pretty good kicker in the early 80s.  He had a big, big leg and his 52 yard FG against Colorado is still in the top 10 for longest kicks.  He would have a second top 10 kick (50 yards) if not for Alex Henery rewriting that chart.

Adam Ickes was a small town Nebraska kid (Page, NE) who didn’t see the field too much after walking on.  And after Bill Callahan became head coach, one might have assumed that Ickes would be bypassed again.  Instead, he became a fixture on defense and special teams during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.  Ickes didn’t make every play, but he had a knack for making big plays (a blocked kick, tackle for loss, or forcing a fumble) when the defense needed it.


Best Player:  Scott Livingston, Kicker/Punter, 1983 – 1984
Other notables:  Micah Heibel
Personal Favorite:  Tyler Legate, Fullback, 2008 – 2011

Comments: Scott Livingston played as both punter and kicker during his two seasons, earning All Big 8 honors in 1984.  I love the split in workload from his 1983 season:  He only punted 34 times over the course of the season, yet he was rather busy kicking PATs for the Scoring Explosion (a duty he shared with Dave Schneider).  And yet, Livingston’s most famous kick is the one he never made – a potential PAT to tie the score in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

You may not know it, but Tyler Legate is a milestone player in Nebraska history.  In 2011 he recorded the first carries by a Nebraska fullback since 2004.  It was fitting that Legate got those carries as he was a throwback of a player – a former walk-on who became a battering ram lead blocker as a starter.


Best Player:  LeRoy Etienne, Linebacker, 1985 – 1988
Other notables:  Mike Stigge
Personal Favorite:  Etienne

Comments:  LeRoy Etienne was an impact linebacker for the Husker teams of the mid 80s.  Big, yet fast, he lettered as a freshman and went on to earn All Big 8 honors twice.

Aside from his standout play on the field, I’ll always remember his Louisiana heritage and how the papers played up his Creole roots.


Best Player:  Tony Felici, Defensive End, 1981 – 1982
Other notables:  Doug Colman, Eric Martin, Red Vactor
Personal Favorite:  
Eric Martin, Defensive End, 2009 – 2012

Comments:  Tony Felici was a relatively small defensive end, even by the standards of the early 80s – his playing weight was listed as 205 – but that did not stop him from being a presence on the defensive line. An Omaha native, the two-time All Big 8 pick, he recorded 14 sacks and made numerous tackles for loss.

One of my favorite positions to watch is the wedge breaker on kickoffs. He’s the guy right in the middle of the field whose job it is to run as fast as he can and explode through the return team’s blockers. Eric Martin was one of my all time favorites to watch. He had a big body and was like a locomotive coming down the field. There are countless examples of him absolutely blowing up return men and blockers, including a rather infamous hit against Okie State.


Best Player:  Frank Solich, Fullback, 1963 – 1965
Other notables:  Dick Davis, Joel Makovicka, Tom Ruud, Bob Terrio
Personal Favorite:  
Joel Makovicka, Fullback, 1995 – 1998

Comments:  I feel like I should start this with a disclaimer – this selection (like all of the other picks in this series) is based on their playing career only.  Clearly, Frank Solich was a big part of Nebraska football after his playing days (and is part of a debate that will rage on for all time), but I’m honoring him here solely for his work as a fullback.

And what a fullback he was.  His record of 205 rushing yards from the fullback position will likely never be broken (or probably even challenged).  He earned All Big 8 honors in his senior season.  All of that from a guy who looked more like a band member than a fullback.

I’ll be honest – I really, really wanted to put Joel Makovicka in the “best” spot.  Partially it was because of his play – Makovicka was a multi-year starter, academic standout, and the embodiment of everything good about the storied walk-on program.

But, really, it is because I’m a big Makovicka fan.  He really had everything I want to root for in a player:  native son, fullback, walk-on, tough, never-say-die attitude – and the fact that he was the little brother of Jeff (a story we’ll get to in the 20’s) definitely didn’t hurt.  Plus, how could you not love a player who made this run.


Best Player:  Calvin Jones, I Back, 1991 – 1993
Other notables:  Gregg Barrios, Jay Foreman, Jon Hesse, Mike Knox, Mike McNeill
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  One of the greatest in a long line of Nebraska I Backs to come out of Omaha Central, Calvin Jones was a star in the Husker backfield.  He was All Big 8 as a sophomore and junior, and was a finalist for the Doak Walker award.

Jones will always be remembered for his record-setting performance at Kansas in 1991.  He took over for an injured teammate and ran 27 times for a (then) school record 294 yards and six touchdowns.  I was on a school trip that day, and remember hearing updates that had scored a touchdown, and another, and another, and….


Best Player:  Terrell Farley
Other notables:  Todd Millikan, Scott Shanle, Ty Steinkuhler
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  A junior college transfer, Terrell Farley burst onto the scene in 1995, becoming a standout performer on one of the greatest teams of all time.  Farley had great speed and a nose for the ball that very few players possess.  He had a knack for big plays that changed the complexion of a game.  Unfortunately, legal issues kept him from completely what could have been a stellar senior season.

The first Husker road game I went to was at Kansas State in 1996.  Nebraska was still rebounding from the Arizona State loss, and the Wildcats felt like they could upset Nebraska.  On one of the first plays in the game, Farley broke through the offensive line and tackled the Wildcat running back as he was getting the hand off.  It was one of the most extraordinary plays I’ve witnessed.


Best Player:  Jerry Murtaugh, Linebacker, 1968 – 1970
Other notables:  Jeff Mills
Personal Favorite:  
Sean Fisher, Linebacker, 2008 – 2012

Comments:  Second all time in tackles at Nebraska, Jerry Murtaugh led the team in tackles in each of his three seasons, while leading some great defenses.  Murtaugh was a two-time All Big 8 selection, Big 8 Player of the Year as a senior, and was named All-America.

Sean Fisher is a classic “what if” story.  A physical specimen, he certainly looked the part of a star football player, and his recruiting credentials backed that up.  But injuries to his knee and a severely broken leg cost him playing time and sapped much of his athletic potential.  Had he stayed healthy, I believe he could have been a special player.


Best Player:  Marc Munford, Linebacker, 1984 – 1986
Other notables:  Phil Ellis, Dane Todd
Personal Favorite:  
Phil Ellis, Linebacker, 1992 – 1995

Comments:  If you’re compiling a list of the best linebackers in school history, Marc Munford’s name will probably be on that list.  A strong tackler, he led the team in tackles over his final three seasons – despite missing the final two games of his junior season due to injury.  He is in an elite class of Huskers to win all conference honors in three seasons.

Phil Ellis was the quarterback of the dominating Blackshirt defenses of the mid-90s.  He wasn’t the fastest or most talented guy on the field, but he knew how to read offenses and get the defense in position to make a stop.  When I think of Ellis, I think of him waving his fist over his head – a signal that he was coming on a blitz.


Best Player:  Pat Tyrance, Linebacker, 1988 – 1990
Other notables:  Cory Schlesinger
Personal Favorite: 
Cory Schlesinger, Fullback, 1992 – 1994

Comments:  Pat Tyrance was a leading performer on the Blackshirt defenses of the late 80s.  He led the team in tackles in his junior and senior seasons, earning All Big 8 honors along the way.

Why do I like Cory Schlesigner?  Allow me to recite a reader from the holy Book of Pavelka:

“The give on the trap play, and it’s Schlesinger inside the there for the touchdown! He’s got the touchdown! It’s the touchdown for…Cory Schlesinger, and Nebraska takes the lead with 2:46 left to go in the ball game.”

Previous:  59 – 50

Next:  39 – 30

Rejected 5K Runs

The other day, I received a Groupon email for something called the “Ugly Sweater Run”.  It is a 5K fun-run* where participants are encouraged to wear their ugly Christmas sweaters and “gaudiest holiday finery”.

Running 3.1 miles in a sweater may not sound like much fun, but consider that the run will be held in mid-December.  In Nebraska.  Outside.  But on the plus side, (and I kid you not), there are hot chocolate stands every mile.

*Let me just take a moment to clarify something.  I do not consider running distances greater than a half mile to be “fun”.  Frankly, if you consider running multiple miles is “fun”, I think you’re “nuts”. 

I’ve done a 5K and couple 2 mile “fun runs”, but I did not find them very amusing.  The only pleasure I took from those runs was from seeing how happy they made my wife (yeah, she’s one of them, but I love her dearly). 

I understand running to stay in shape or to train for an athletic event, but I am not wired to find pleasure in running.

The Ugly Sweater Run is just the latest in the current craze of runs with quirky themes (“come run while we throw colored chalk in your face!”), extreme obstacle courses (“the last two miles are nothing but mud and barbed wire!”), or events where the running is secondary to some other activity (“chug a beer at every checkpoint!”).

While you might think that the organizers of the Ugly Sweater Run are scraping the bottom of the idea barrel, you’d be surprised to see what run ideas they passed on:

Not really related, but this girl cracks me up.

  • Extreme Color Run – Volunteers with paint ball guns are positioned around the course.
  • Couch Potato Run – Contestants complete a 5K while dragging their sofa or recliner behind them.
  • Literal 5K – Runners are issued a random book at the beginning of the race – anything from The Hungry Caterpillar to War and Peace.  Read as you run, but you must finish the book before you complete the course.
  • 5K:  Literally – Held indoors, the course is cooled to 5 degrees Kelvin (approximately -450 degrees Fahrenheit).  Dress warmly!
  • Man vs 5K – Inspired by the Travel Channel show Man v. Food, runners must consume 5 kg of food over the length of the course.
  • Social Media Mile – Runners must complete a set number of tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram selfies.  Progress on the course will be tracked by the use of Foursquare check-ins.
  • 5Keg – Teams must push a pony keg of beer along the course, emptying said keg by the completion of the race.
  • First & 10K – Runners are given a football, which they must carry throughout the course before crossing the “goal line” at the end.  Players from local high school and college teams will be sprinkled throughout the course to tackle ball carriers.
  • Nickelodeon Slime Run – A 5K version of the old Double Dare obstacle course.  Nick’s signature green slime will be sprayed via fire hose if runners cannot answer random trivia questions.
  • I Would Walk 500 Miles – Not a run, but an endurance test for body and mind.  You walk 500 miles while your iPod plays nothing but The Proclaimers’ hit song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).
  • Terminal Velocity Run – In this strictly timed event, runners must get from gate B 2 to gate F 47 in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (approximately 3.1 miles) in under 20 minutes while toting either a small child or an over-sized carry on with a wobbly wheel.
  • Fore! K – Held on a golf course, runners must tee off, run to the ball, and hit is as quickly as possible.  Then run to the ball, and hit it again.  And so on, until they reach the hole – 2.48 miles away.  Lowest score wins.
  • Green Eggs and Run – In this Dr. Seuss themed race, contestants must run over and through various obstacles including a house, mouse, box, fox, car, tree, train, dark, rain, boat, and of course, a goat.
  • Red Light/Green Light Run – Speakers are set up along the course and a race leader yells “RED LIGHT” and “GREEN LIGHT” to start and stop the runners.  If you mess up, you go back to the beginning of the course.
  • Comedy Central’s Fun Run – In this all-star charity event, the entire 5K course is lined with comedians both famous and obscure.  Slow runners in the last pack will be trailed by Greg Giraldo and Lisa Lampanelli, who pelt your with insults about your weight and sexuality.
  • Virtual 5K – Download the Virtual 5K app (available for Apple and Android!), sign in and upload a picture.  The app will post statuses and pictures to your Facebook account to make it appear as if you ran a 5K.  Meanwhile, you sit at home in your underpants eating cookie dough right out of the tube.
  • Ice Dash – Held at the local ice skating rink, runners go out on the ice in regular running shoes and compete to finish 500 laps first.  Think roller derby on ice.
  • 50 Shades of 5K – If you’ve read the book, you can imagine some of the…um…obstacles within this event.  Consenting adults only.

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 59 – 50

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

When coaches and broadcasters talk about controlling the line of scrimmage, the odds are that work is being done by somebody wearing number 59 through 50.  At Nebraska, that means defensive linemen and linebackers on one side and on the other side you’ll find offensive guards, tackles, and one of NU’s prestige positions:  Center.


Best Player:  Josh Heskew, Center, 1995 – 1998
Other notables:  Ryon Bingham, Brett Byford
Personal Favorite:  Heskew

Comments:  In our last installment, we covered the amazing career of Aaron Taylor, the only Husker to be an All-American at two different positions.  One of the reasons that Taylor moved from center to guard, was Josh Heskew was a capable replacement, having studied under All-Americans Aaron Graham and Taylor.  A tough Oklahoman, Heskew helped anchor the offensive line for the 1997 National Champions.  He earned all conference honors as a senior in 1998.


Best Player:  Harry Grimminger, Guard, 1982 – 1984
Other notables:  Mike Caputo, Dave Volk
Personal Favorite:  Mike Caputo, Center, 2007 – 2011

Comments: Harry Grimminger was a mainstay – and a force – on the left side of some dominating offensive lines in the 1980s.  Grimminger initially backed up Dean Steinkuhler, but broke into the starting line up in 1983, helping to pave the way for the Scoring Explosion to put up over 400 yards of rushing and 52 points per game.  As a senior, Grimminger picked All Big 8 and All-America honors.

When three-year start Jacob Hickman graduated, there was concern among Husker fans about who would take over at center for the 2010 season.  Mike Caputo was the favorite to get the job, but there were concerns over his (relatively) short stature and his lack of experience.  Having watched him backup Hickman, I knew there was nothing to be worried about.  Caputo may have been built like a fire hydrant, but he was fierce like bulldog.  That concern became such a strength that when Caputo graduated, fans wondered who could fill his shoes.


Best Player:  Mark Traynowicz, Center, 1982 – 1984
Other notables:  Chad Kelsay, Chris Kelsay, Kevin Lightner, Kelly Saalfield, Kenny Walker
Personal Favorite:  Kenny Walker, Defensive Tackle, 1987 – 1990

Comments: How would you like to be the guy who follows one of the greatest center in college football history?  Mark Traynowicz had some mighty big shoes to fill when he moved from being a backup tackle to “Dave Rimington’s replacement”.  All he did was help anchor the line on one of the greatest offenses in NCAA history, while often grading out as well as (or better than) Outland Trophy winner Dean Steinkuhler.  As a senior, Traynowicz earned his second All Big 8 honors and was named an All-American.

Not only was Kenny Walker a tremendous talent (All-America in 1990), he was one of the most inspirational Huskers of all time.  Deaf since the age of 2, Walker was a strong and fast defensive lineman, with serious big play potential.  I was not there, but I have often heard that Walker’s ovation on his Senior Day (instead of clapping and cheering, the Memorial Stadium crowd gave Walker a “Roar of Silence” waving their hands in the air) was one of the most moving moments in school history.


Best Player:  Ed Periard, Middle Guard, 1968 – 1970
Other notables:  Rob Zatechka
Personal Favorite:  
Jeremy Slechta, Defensive Tackle, 1999 – 2001

Comments:  Need a good example of how much football has changed in the last 40-50 years?  Ed Periard was an All-Big 8 performer at middle guard in 1970, and was credited with seven tackles in the Orange Bowl win over LSU that gave Nebraska their first National Championship.  Periard was listed at 5′ 9″ and 198 pounds, which is by today’s standards is undersized for pretty much any position other than alto saxophone in the Cornhusker Marching Band.  Periard passed away in 1993.

As a Nebraska native, I have a soft spot for Nebraska kids who play at Nebraska, especially the ones who walk on or are lightly regarded but go on to be reliable starters.  Jeremy Slechta (Papillion-LaVista) is one of those guys.  Not the big or fastest guy, but one that you could always could on to play hard every down – and break up a pass or two each game.


Best Player:  Russ Hochstein, Offensive Guard, 1997 – 2000
Other notables:  Christian Peter, Jason Peter, Baker Steinkuhler
Personal Favorite: 
Jason Peter, Defensive Tackle, 1994 – 1997

Comments:  Let’s get the controversy out of the way first:  Jason Peter arguably had a better NU career than Russ Hochstein, but Hochstein did more in the #55 jersey than the guy who refers to himself as the “double nickel” did.  (Remember, Jason wore #95 for the first three years of his career, while big brother Christian wore #55).  But don’t overlook the career of Hochstein.  He was a starter on some very respectable lines in the late 90s, earned All-Big XII twice and was an All-American his senior season.  According to his bio, Hoch owns the school record for pancake blocks in a game (23 against Notre Dame).

Jason Peter is the kind of player I would build a defense around.  Big, strong, fast, with a healthy hatred for offensive linemen he had the talent and toughness to be an excellent defensive tackle.  I’ll always remember how after Peter broke his hand, he played with a cast that made it look like his arm morphed into a giant Q-Tip.  Instead of being hindered by only having one hand to fight off blocks and make tackles, Peter adapted by using that cast as a bill club.  But Peter is equally remembered for his vocal leadership, which is something Nebraska has sorely lacked since he and Grant Wistrom left.

For many people (myself included) the lasting image of the 1998 Orange Bowl is Tom Osborne whipping around to see who had dumped the dadgum Gatorade bucket on him.  T.O. initially looks as upset as anybody who is about to win their third National Championship can look, but the sight of Peter’s mug puts a big smile on Osborne’s face.  As they embrace, it shows the nation a side of the stoic coach that many had not seen.


Best Player:  (3-way tie) Rik Bonness, Center, 1974 – 1975; Aaron Graham, Center, 1992 – 1995; Dominic Raiola, Center, 1998 – 2000
Other notables:  Barney Cotton, Kelly Petersen
Personal Favorite:  

Comments:  Three centers from three different eras, but all with essentially the same resume:  Two time all-conference and All-American in their final season.  A strong case could be made that Raiola should have the Best title by himself as his jersey is retired and his name is on the North Stadium facade for winning the very first Rimington Trophy in 2000.  But let’s face it:  had there been a trophy for the nation’s outstanding center in 1975 or even 1995, Bonness and/or Graham probably would have taken it home too.  Bonness was a two-time All-American as well as an academic All-American.  Graham was also an athletic and academic All-American, and never allowed a sack during his playing career.

I loved watching Raiola play.  He was a beast of a blocker who could steamroll anybody in front of him, but he was also surprisingly quick.  Early in his Nebraska career, he was the long snapper on the punt team.  Many times, Dom would be one of the first guys down the field.  Imagine being a kick returner expecting to have a corner or safety be the first guy you see, then you look up and there is a freaking center bearing down on you.


Best Player:  Randy Schleusener, Offensive Guard, 1977 – 1980
Other notables:  Thad Randle
Personal Favorite:  
Tyler Wortman, Linebacker, 2004 – 2008

Comments:  Randy Schleusener was an excellent guard for some very good Nebraska teams during the end of the 1970s.  Schleusener was All-Big 8 and All-America as a senior, but he might be best known for scoring a touchdown on a fumblerooski against Oklahoma in 1979, a play that earned him a lot of notoriety.  Schleusener was also a two-time academic All-American, who went on to become a very successful surgeon, specializing in spines.

Tyler Wortman is another great walk-on story.  After a stellar high school career at Grand Island Central Catholic (a star of the football, wrestling, and track teams) he walked on at Nebraska during a time (the Callahan era) when the walk-on program was greatly reduced.  Despite not seeing the field during his first three years, he stuck it out to become a key contributor on Bo Pelini’s 2008 team.   He played some of his best football in the final four games of his career.


Best Player:  Tom Davis, Center, 1974 – 1977
Other notables:  John Garrison, Lyle Sittler
Personal Favorite: 
Philip Dillard, Linebacker, 2005 – 2009

Comments:  One of the fun parts of this project has been learning more about some guys who played before I was born, or was aware of Husker Football.  Tom Davis is one of those guys who I was not very familiar with.  In reading his bio, I was impressed (and slightly amused) to see that Tom Osborne once referred to Davis as “the best center Nebraska has ever had”.  Considering that Tom “Train Wreck” Novak was a center, that is very high praise.  My amusement comes from the fact that Osborne apparently referred to many centers (including Rik Bonness, Aaron Graham, and the guy at #50) as best ever.  For his part, Davis earned All Big 8 and All-America honors as a senior.

You could always tell that Philip Dillard had talent.  What was harder to tell was when he’d be able to show it.  Injuries derailed a couple of his seasons, and a poor attitude / work ethic got him demoted to the third string as a senior.  But I’ll always respect and admire how Dillard turned it around.  He stopped moping and started doing the work necessary to get back on the field.  Once he did, he became a stand-out performer making plays all over the field.


Best Player:  Bo Ruud, Linebacker, 2003 – 2007
Other notables:  Will Compton, Richie Incognito, Dan Schmidt, Kerry Weinmaster
Personal Favorite: 

Comments:  I would imagine it is not easy being a “legacy” at Nebraska, as often times the younger member of the family has a hard time meeting or exceeding the standard set for them by a brother or father (see also: Rodgers, Terry; Wistrom, Tracey; Makovicka, Jordan; among others).  Bo Ruud is no exception.  His brother is the all time leading tackler in school history.  His uncle owns one of the greatest hits in school history.  His dad, another uncle, and great-grandpa all played at Nebraska.  With all of that to live up to, one could understand how a guy might wilt under the pressure.

Bo Ruud’s career may not have surpassed big brother Barrett, but he certainly held his own.  He had a knack for big plays, recording five career interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.  One of the pick-sixes was a 93 yarder against Iowa State, the longest ever by a linebacker.  Ruud was a three-year starter, earned All-Big XII honors as a junior, and did the family name proud.


Best Player:  Dave Rimington, Center, 1979 – 1982
Other notables:  Kurt Mann
Personal Favorite: 

Comments:  Arguably the single greatest center in college football history, and definitely on the short list for greatest lineman in college history, Dave Rimington was a such a dominating force that he was named the Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year in 1981.  He won the Lombardi Trophy, the Outland Trophy twice – the only person to ever do that – was a two-time All-American, and was All-Big 8 three times.  In addition, he was twice named an academic All-American.

Rimington is the gold standard for student-athlete success, and it is fitting that his name is attached to the national award for college football’s best center.

Previous:  69 – 60

Next:  49 – 40

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 69 – 60

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

We’re going to stay in the trenches with numbers 69 through 60.


Best Player:  Mike Kennedy, Linebacker, 1963 – 1965
Other notables:  John Havekost, Tom Welter
Personal Favorite:  Kurt Glathar, Center, 1980 – 1982

Comments:  For the 1964 season, rule changes allowed schools to return to two platoon football. When Coach Bob Devaney broke out his offensive and defensive squads, he wanted a way to tell them apart.  As the legend goes, assistant coach Mike Corgan was sent out to a local sporting goods store to get some new practice jerseys.  The store owner had some black jerseys that weren’t selling.  He cut Corgan a deal and the new jerseys were issued to the first string defenders.

Mike Kennedy was one of the very first Blackshirts, starting the first game after the practice jerseys debuted.  He went on to earn All-Big 8 honors as a linebacker the following year.

I have zero recollection of Kurt Glathar as a football player.  But he made a big impression as the assistant principal of my junior/senior high school.  The school did not have many discipline problems to begin with, but a 6’2″, 250 former lineman strikes a big presence around a bunch of teenagers.  While I didn’t visit his office too often, I do remember his team pictures from the two Orange Bowls he played in.


Best Player:  Jake Young, Center, 1986 – 1989
Other notables:  Bill Lewis, Steve Lindquist, Mike Mandelko
Personal Favorite:  Young

Comments: What position is Nebraska best known for?  You could make arguments for I-Back, Kicker, Rush End, or a number of other choices.  I would make a case for Center, as Nebraska claims arguably the greatest Center in college football history (Rimington) as well as seven others who earned All-America honors.  Consider this run:  six times in the 1980s, the All-American center was a Cornhusker.

Two of those honors were won by Jake Young, a cornerstone of some dominating offensive lines.  In addition, he was also an Academic All-American.  Sadly, Young was a victim of a terrorist attack in Bali.


Best Player:  Aaron Taylor, Center/Guard, 1994 – 1997
Other notables:  LaVerne Allers, Greg Orton, Kevin Ramaekers
Personal Favorite:  Taylor

Comments:  There have been a lot of All-Americans at Nebraska.  Several players have earned multiple All-America honors.  But only Aaron Taylor did it at two different positions.  I still have a hard time believing that any coach – even Tom Osborne – would take an All-American center and move him to a different position for his senior season, like Taylor did.  Not only did Taylor repeat his honors, he also picked up the eighth Outland Trophy in school history.  Only five other Husker linemen earned all-conference honors in three straight seasons.


Best Player:  Wayne Meylan, Middle Guard, 1965 – 1967
Other notables:  Brenden Stai
Personal Favorite:  
Brenden Stai, Guard, 1991 – 1994

Comments:  Meylan was a fearsome presence in the middle for the early Devaney teams.  He was named Player of the Year by the Big 8 in both his junior and senior seasons, while picking up All-America honors in both seasons.  Meylan’s life was tragically cut short in 1987 when a World War II era airplane he was piloting crashing during an air show in Michigan.  He was posthumously elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

When I think of the Pipeline in the 1990s, I think of guys like Brenden Stai.  Not overly flashy, not loud or boisterous, but completely and utterly dominating.  Stai was 300 pounds of muscle and brute strength that opened gaping holes all game long.


Best Player:  Joe Armstrong, Offensive Guard, 1966 – 1968
Other notables:  Andy Keeler, Oudious Lee, Randy Theiss
Personal Favorite:  
Greg Austin, Offensive Guard, 2003 – 2006

Comments:  Normally, when you’re describing football players who wear a number in the sixties, “versatile” is not an adjective that comes to mind.  Joe Armstrong is the exception.  He earned All-America honors as an offensive guard, but played both guard and center, helping the Huskers rack up the yards on offense.  In addition, he also punted, averaging a very respectable 39.1 yards per punt.  Hard to imagine any other offensive lineman also serving as a punter.

At his best, Greg Austin was an average lineman on some below average teams.  The problem was, Austin was rarely at his best.  He suffered a knee injury during his freshman season, and fought injuries throughout his career.  My lasting image of Austin is him limping back to the huddle after every play.  My hunch is that Greg Austin’s knees still hurt him today, and that pain will only get worse over the rest of his life.  And for what?  The ability to start on some of the most forgettable teams in school history and to be criticized when his limited mobility caused him to miss a block.

We can surely criticize the coaches for continuing to play a guy who was probably never more than 70% healthy for a conference game (and I did), just as we can criticize the coaches for not having anybody on the bench who was better than a guy essentially playing on one leg (which I did).  But you could never criticize Austin for not giving everything he had.  I wasn’t a fan of his performance, but I respected his toughness and determination.


Best Player:  Bob Brown, Offensive Guard, 1962 – 1963
Other notables:  Jim McCord
Personal Favorite: 
Jon Zatechka, Offensive Guard, 1994 – 1997

Comments:  Bob Brown’s career is defined by firsts and seconds.  He was the first African-American in school history to be named All-American, and was the first All-American in the Bob Devaney era.  Brown is just the second Husker to be elected to both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame (Guy Chamberlain is the other).  Brown was described as a “relentless” player and helped the 1963 team win the first Big 8 title in school history in Devaney’s second season.

And one more notable second:  Bob Brown’s #64 is just the second number to be permanently retired at Nebraska.  No Husker has worn 64 since Kurt Mann in 2004.

Even without the legacy of Bob Brown, Jon Zatechka would not be the greatest to wear #64.  Heck, most folks would tell you that he wasn’t the greatest to wear a Husker jersey with “Zatechka” on it (big brother Rob had the better career).  But, Jon has one memorable moment that Brown or brother Rob can’t claim:  he scored a touchdown.  While not as glorious as a fumbleroosky (he fell on a fumble in the end zone), he was the first lineman since Dean Steinkuhler to score, and I’m pretty sure no offensive lineman has scored since.


Best Player:  David Clark, Defensive Tackle, 1978 – 1989
Other notables:  Tom Alward, Greg Jorgensen, Lynn Sinkbeil
Personal Favorite:  
Andrew Rodriguez, Guard, 2010 – 2013

Comments:  This was a hard one.  There are three worthy candidates as David Clark, Greg Jorgensen, and Lynn Sinkbeil all earned All Big 8 honors once in their careers.  However, I could not find much (i.e. any) information about their respective careers to distinguish them into a clear winner.  I’m giving the nod to Clark for two rather trivial reasons that I am a sucker for:  1) he was a walk-on, and 2) he is part of a set of brothers to play at Nebraska (see big brother Kelvin at #73).  I wish I could tell you more about what made David Clark a legend, and I’ll gladly listen to a case for Jorgensen or Sinkbeil.

The personal favorite pickings were pretty slim too, but I’m going with Andrew Rodriguez.  Not because he is an in-state kid, a guard with talent and potential, or anything like that.  I’m going with A-Rod because of a rather dubious achievement from the 2012 Wisconsin game – he was flagged for a false start at the end of the game while Nebraska was in “victory formation”.  Aside from the ridiculousness of it (and the frustration of another stupid penalty on a lineman), it proves two things I believe in as a fan:  You will see something you have never seen before during every game – but only if you’re there to see it.  I could have been one of the thousands of people who headed for the exits when Nebraska started running out the clock.  But I would have missed something as rare and ridiculous as an offensive lineman jumping offsides while his team is trying to run out the clock.


Best Player:  Ken Mehlin, Guard, 1991 – 1993
Other notables:  Bob Sledge, Matt Hoskinson
Personal Favorite:  
Cole Pensick, Offensive Line, 2009 – 2013

Comments:  Ken Mehlin is representative of what made Milt Tenopir’s offensive lines great.  While those lines featured some of the greatest linemen to ever play the game (Rimington, Shields, Wiegart, Taylor, etc) they were also filled with guys like Mehlin – undersized walk-ons who grew up playing 8-man football in some small Nebraska town while dreaming of playing for the Cornhuskers.  Mehlin earned All Big 8 honors as a senior and also earned academic honors.

Cole Pensick is cut from the Ken Mehlin mold.  While Pensick earned a scholarship offer in high school, he has still been one of those dedicated in-state rocks that the program is built on – willing to do whatever, whenever to make the team better.  The story of his 2012 season is pretty telling.  After being a career backup, Pensick battled Justin Jackson for the starting center job and lost out.  During a practice, they needed somebody to jump at guard.  When none of the guards stepped forward, Pensick jumped in and became the top backup at both guard spots before shifting back to center when Jackson was injured.


Best Player:  John McCormick, Guard, 1984 – 1987
Other notables:  Mike Huff, Spencer Long, Clete Pillen, Erik Wiegert
Personal Favorite:  
Brandt Wade, Guard, 1994 – 1998

Comments:  As a junior  coaches said John McCormick was the best offensive guard at Nebraska since Dean Steinkuhler.  As a senior, he did his best to live up to such high praise.  McCormick earned All Big 8 and All-America honors in 1987.  In addition, he was named the Big 8 Offensive Player of the Week after the Oklahoma State game, where he graded out perfectly for his 65 snaps.  That was the first time in 16 years that an offensive lineman won Player of the Week honors.

Brandt Wade, from Springfield-Platteview High, is one of two future Huskers that I my high school team faced (kicker Ted Retzlaff of Waverly is the other).  I wish I had some good stories of how I got the better of a future Husker, but there are some inconvenient and indisputable truths:  a) I was not good football player, so b) I didn’t play much, and c) I’m sure Wade dominated me as Platteview marched down the field for a score.  But in one of my few career highlights, I blocked a PAT that turned out to be the difference as the Gretna Dragons won the 1992 Sarpy County Shootout.


Best Player:  Tom Novak, Fullback/Center, 1946 – 1949
Other notables:  N/A – permanently retired since 1949
Personal Favorite: 
Train Wreck

Comments:  The #60 jersey has not been worn by any Husker since Tom “Train Wreck” Novak finished up his stellar career in 1949 as the first – and still only – Husker to earn All Conference honors in each of his four seasons.  Novak played both ways, as a center, fullback, and linebacker, and was also a three-time letterwinner on the NU baseball team.  Tom Novak is still one of the true legends of Nebraska Football.

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