Finally, a Hometown Honor for Husker Legend
More than a century after one of Nebraska’s most legendary football players graduated from high school, a monument will be dedicated on Saturday, Aug. 16, in Blue Springs, Neb., the hometown of Guy Chamberlin, who became a Nebraska football All-American in 1915.
The red-veined granite monument that honors Chamberlin will be placed at the Southern School District’s elementary facility in Blue Springs, a town of only 383 people. Chamberlin’s hometown residents now attend high school in nearby Wymore, but local planners wanted to connect his accomplishments and fame to where he grew up and in the roots that launched his induction into both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The only other Husker to achieve such status is the legendary Bob Brown. Chamberlin’s Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame bio calls him “perhaps Nebraska’s all-time best football player” who was all-state in 1908, ’09 and ’10.
Chamberlin was such a legendary figure that his name has honored one of Nebraska’s top individual awards presented annually for nearly half a century. Guy Chamberlin Trophy winners include the likes of Jeff Kinney, Rich Glover, Dave Rimington, Dean Steinkuhler, Will Shields, Trev Alberts, Grant Wistrom, Mike Brown, Eric Crouch and Barrett Ruud, not to mention Ndamukong Suh, Alex Henery, Lavonte David and Rex Burkhead.
Ritch Bahe Enjoyed Going Back in History
Lincoln’s Ritch Bahe, a former Husker split end, was the eighth of 47 Chamberlin Trophy winners, who are now honored annually at the Outland Trophy Banquet in Omaha. When Bahe saw a Facebook post about what he knew to be a Husker legend, he was almost stunned by Chamberlin’s accomplishments and got a real kick reading what was published in the 1915 Cornhusker Yearbook after he became a first-team All-America end:
This is the “guy” that crimped the Kansas farmers
And trampled on the Michigander’s hopes.
This is the “guy” that kinked the cunning Hawkeyes
And shoved the shivering Jayhawks through the ropes.
If you boast about the Huskers, and a stranger asks you why,
Just point to Mr. Chamberlin and murmur “He’s the Guy!”
Berlin “Guy” and “Champ” Chamberlin is a Nebraska football great who graces a bronze gate that opens the door for the Huskers’ fabled Tunnel Walk into Memorial Stadium. Flanked by George Flippin, Nebraska’s first-ever black football player, and Sam Francis, the 1936 Heisman Trophy runner-up, Chamberlin joins three other ageless legends – Bob Brown, George Sauer and Bobby Reynolds on that important gate.
Guy Chamberlin Story a Fascinating Journey
“I’ve always thought we must have had some great teams that came before Bob Devaney arrived or we wouldn’t be ranked among the top five college football programs of all time in terms of winning,” Bahe told me en route to a Sandhills golf outing in Valentine this week. “I mean, we had to win a lot of games in those early eras, too.”
A Fremont native and CPA who has lived in Lincoln since his college graduation, Bahe makes a good point. Chamberlin became Nebraska’s second All-American one year after tackle Vic Halligan became the first Husker to earn that honor.
Chamberlin and the Cornhuskers capped a 29-game unbeaten streak with a 52-7 Homecoming win over Iowa. Midway through that 1915 senior season against Notre Dame, Chamberlin scored Nebraska’s first two touchdowns on runs of 20 and 10 yards before completing two passes for 49 yards and the winning touchdown in a memorable 20-19 triumph over the Fighting Irish in Lincoln. He was also part of the defense that shut out five opponents (including Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State) in an 8-0 season.
29-Game Winning Streak Longest in NU History
Did we mention that the 29-game winning streak Chamberlin left at Nebraska 99 years ago still has not been topped? And that’s not all. Berlin (his real first name) Guy (his middle name) Chamberlin was the first Husker ever to play in what is now the National Football League. As a player-coach at Canton, Ohio, he helped lead his team to 21 wins and 3 ties in a two-year stretch. Of the coaches in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with 50 or more victories, Chamberlin’s 58-16-7 record and .759 winning percentage still ranks among the very best. In his six coaching seasons, Chamberlin’s teams won four NFL championships and one APFA title (the American Professional Football Association was the predecessor to the NFL). With five national championships at the highest level of football, Chamberlin was called “The Champ” by fans, coaches and athletes in Chicago.
We also acknowledge Chamberlin’s contributions after his All-American career and before he became a professional player and coach. In 1918 and 1919, he was a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army, where he served his country in World War I. In 1932, Chamberlin returned to Blue Springs to become a farmer, stockman and businessman. A well-known authority on football, he also became a popular public speaker and radio broadcaster. He died in Lincoln on April 4, 1967, the same year the Guy Chamberlin Trophy was born.
Tom Novak's Son Supports This Important Cause
Bahe remembers Nebraska’s 1974 football banquet when he won the Chamberlin Trophy and teammate Tom Ruud won the Tom Novak Award. Those two awards were, and still are, the top two individual honors presented annually at Nebraska. The late Tom Novak was the first Husker to have his number permanently retired, and only his and Bob Brown's number are circled in red in the North Stadium to designate such status.
Terry Novak, son of the legendary "Trainwreck" Novak, has a friend, Gene "Radar" Reedy, on the Blue Springs City Council. Reedy helped promote a local fundraiser to pay for the nearly $4,000 monument that will remind fans of a rare athlete who grew up in a small town and returned home when his football days ended. Like Bahe, Novak made a generous donation and local organizers now have received enough to cover more than one-third of their costs to honor Chamberlin. Blue Springs native Jan Morris, who now lives in Lincoln, has led the recognition project with vision, zeal and passion.
“Folks have asked me why I think the Guy Chamberlin monument is important, especially friends who know I am most definitely not a sports fan,” Jan told me. “Everyone knows that I do love history, particularly Southern Gage County history.” Jan's hours sharing Guy Chamberlin stories that she’s collected and posted are designed to help people understand how predecessors carved out and built their towns right out of the prairie.
Jan Morris Finds Magic, Attention in Huskers
Jan leads fourth-grade history tours of Blue Springs and decided to add the site of Guy Chamberlin’s farm to the tour. “Teachers worry that the kids won’t find the history of their towns very interesting, but kids do love to hear about pioneers and Indians and things were going along well until I asked if there were any Husker fans on the bus,” she said. “Immediately, I had everyone’s attention. When I showed them Guy Chamberlin’s UNL football picture and pointed to the site of his family farm, their eyes got big and they strained in their seats to catch a glimpse of ‘The Champ’s’ former farm. I’ve learned that pretty much all children share their parents’ love of Nebraska football.”
In researching Chamberlin for her tour over the last several weeks, even Jan the non-sports fan was inspired by the story of a young farm boy, much like the boys who came to help her dad in the hay fields; a young man who played choose-up games in Arbor State Park after school and seemed to have a natural talent for sports without much formal training. “When Guy graduated from Blue Springs High School with the class of 1911 and went on to college, his talent made a name for him that every Husker player sees when they run through the tunnel onto the field at Memorial Stadium,” she said. “This fall will mark the 100th anniversary since that farm boy first played varsity for the University of Nebraska (N-Sider note: the legendary Chamberlin played two years at Nebraska Wesleyan University before transferring to Nebraska).”
The Ultimate Motive: Inspiring Someone Else
When Chamberlin died, Jan’s research showed that he wanted his ashes spread on the farm on a hill overlooking Blue Springs, and family members accompanied representatives from the University of Nebraska to honor that request. “If the kids take away anything from these wonderful stories, it’s important to me that they realize that their beloved Huskers are not just players in a big stadium in a town far away,” Jan said. “They can be found growing up in Southern Gage County, and if one child finds a monument to this great football player to be their source of inspiration, well, to me, that’s priceless.”
The Ultimate Amazement, a Century Later
There is an astonishing twist for a legendary hometown hero’s monument that will live in the heart of the Blue River Valley. There are plans to attach a black-and-white picture of Guy Chamberlin from his Husker playing days, along with the date of his birth near Blue Springs and a list of the four halls of fame in which his memory lives on. “For the high-tech genealogy community,” she said, “we’re ordering a small emblem with a QR Code for the base of the stone to direct phone apps to all things Chamberlin on a proposed Guy Chamberlin page on BlueSpringsNE.com.” One thing about a small town that waited nearly a century to honor a legend. When the community finally decided to commit, Blue Springs came up with something very, very special for the next century to enjoy. Guy Chamberlin is the benchmark for all Nebraska natives who gave their hearts and souls to a football program that is like no other … anywhere!
Editor's note: For more information on the monument and dedication ceremony go to BlueSpringsNE.com.
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