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By Randy York
The N-Sider has featured several “must read” stories, and today’s blog now offers up its first “must-see” video segment produced by Nebraska Educational Television’s Joel Geyer, a University of Indiana graduate who’s been more fascinated with Nebraska’s unique football culture than his alma mater’s distinguishing basketball culture. With permission from NET, this video is my treat for N-Sider readers to help Al Zikmund celebrate milestone birthday No. 90 a week later than everyone else.
The Lincoln Journal-Star, the Grand Island Independent and the HuskerMax website gave their readers a chance to sign an electronic birthday card for Zikmund, the legendary Husker football player who starred on Nebraska’s first-ever bowl team before going on to become a Hall-of-Fame football coach at what is now the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Zikmund once coached football at Alliance (Neb.) High School and was a friend of Lyle Stephens, my late father-in-law, so I knew of him more than I knew him. I can still remember Lyle talking about Zikmund growing up on a farm new Ord, Neb., and playing on a high school football team that never lost a game and gave up only seven points in four years. You can read that and more in a 2009 personal interview by David Max, who was a student-athletic trainer under Zikmund at Kearney State College from 1970-73.
What I’m suggesting is hitting the link at the bottom of this blog and watching Zikmund help narrate much of Geyer’s 10-minute creative masterpiece on Nebraska’s 1941 Rose Bowl team. The Huskers sold out of their ticket allotment to that memorable game against Stanford in three days. An estimated 15,000 gave Nebraska a hero’s sendoff at the Lincoln Train Station, where five full rail cars were packed with fans who paid $58.95 apiece to travel to the West Coast, stay in the team hotel and punch a game ticket before entering Pasadena’s hallowed Rose Bowl gates. More than 92,000 fans were eager to see Stanford’s new offense – the T-Formation – in that game.
The vintage video footage shows Zikmund catching an over-the-shoulder pass for a touchdown on a deep route. Unfortunately, he had to leave the game with a jagged break in his leg. The Huskers lost, 21-13, but Zik will never forget the thousands of fans who welcomed the Huskers back to Lincoln. I’ve transcribed his video-ending quote describing that experience, but it just doesn’t do justice to the words that come straight from a hero’s mouth. Happy Belated Birthday No. 90, Al Zikmund! Even though your team lost the Rose Bowl battle, the Huskers won the war among faithful fans. No wonder they gave you a hero’s welcome. Not the Victory but the Action … Not the Goal but the Game … In the Deed the Glory are words still etched into NU’s West Stadium wall. And six decades later, everything’s still coming up roses, the ultimate goal for a Big Ten Conference champion.
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