Randy York's N-Sider
You’ll have to forgive Steve Manstedt for being a little giddy this weekend. The one-time skinny walk-on defensive end from Wahoo, Neb., will be inducted Friday night into the 2012 Nebraska Chapter of the College Football Hall of Fame. That means Manstedt will compress a lifetime of football memories into a short speech that describes his incredible journey.
Five other Husker honorees – Bill Weber, Dale Klein, Ahman Green, Josh Heskew and DeJuan Groce – will be charged with a similar task in the same third-floor West Stadium banquet room. On Saturday, those five players will be recognized in a Hall-of-Fame presentation 20 minutes before kickoff. Green will attend Friday night’s banquet, but will miss Saturday’s game because of his duties as a radio and television analyst in Green Bay. Fellow 2012 Hall-of-Fame inductee Frank Solich also will be introduced in absentia to another Memorial Stadium sellout crowd 20 minutes before Nebraska hosts Idaho State. Ohio’s Saturday game against Norfolk State in Athens, Ohio, prevents Solich from participating in the weekend’s activities.
Groce, Heskew, Klein, Manstedt and Weber will sign autographs Saturday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Autograph Zone of Husker Nation Pavilion, north of Memorial Stadium on the Gass Practice Field. The Pavilion provides free family friendly activities three hours before kickoff.
Manstedt joins a rare group of Husker honorees after playing for two Hall-of-Fame coaches at the same school – Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. “Both possessed an incredible knowledge of football and surrounded themselves with great and talented coaches,” Manstedt said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to play for both of them.”
One coach who worked for both legends is Boyd Epley, the pioneer of strength and conditioning training at Nebraska. Epley and his wife, Jane, will be among 21 Manstedt supporters who will attend Friday night’s private banquet. “Getting inducted is an awesome surprise and a great reward,” Manstedt said. “I appreciate everyone’s support. My youngest son, Reed, is a football coach at Waverly (Neb.), so he has a game and won’t be able to make it.”
To honor his induction, Manstedt’s family will come to Lincoln from as far east as North Carolina and from as far west as Washington. Joining Epley as special guests are Vern Thompson, Manstedt’s high school football coach, former Husker teammates Mike Beran and Dennis Thorell, and former Seward (Neb.) prep coach Charlie Thorell, a longtime advocate for Manstedt.
Winning the 1971 Game of the Century at Oklahoma is Manstedt’s most memorable moment as a Husker. His most memorable moment as a fan was watching Nebraska’s 1994 team rally late to beat Miami, 24-17, in the Orange Bowl, giving Osborne his first of three national championships. Manstedt said he learned two valuable lessons from both legendary coaches: 1) “The importance of hard work and perseverance; and 2) the importance of setting and attaining goals.”
Manstedt isn’t the only 2012 Husker Hall-of-Famer uniquely tied to both Devaney and Osborne. Solich played for Devaney and coached under Osborne before succeeding him as head coach. Solich will be inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame Friday night, and Husker fans will have the opportunity to show their appreciation for a coach who also was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1992.
Solich’s acceptance of his latest Hall-of-Fame honor will be shown on video at Friday night’s banquet as well as on Memorial Stadium’s high-definition screens on Saturday.
Solich was a key cog in the Nebraska football machine for 29 years – four as a player and 25 as a coach. A member of Bob Devaney’s first recruiting class in 1962, Solich set Nebraska’s single-game rushing record with a 204-yard game against Air Force in 1965, the same year he became an All-Big Eight fullback.
Solich becomes the first dual player/coach member in the history of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. Several months ago, Osborne praised Solich’s accomplishments.
Osborne still marvels at Solich’s 58-19 record in his six seasons as NU’s head coach after replacing Osborne. “That’s a winning percentage very near 76 percent (.753 to be exact),” Osborne pointed out. “Frank coached six bowl teams, including two in what would now be BCS bowls (one Rose and one Fiesta, plus two Alamo Bowls, one Holiday Bowl and one Independence Bowl). He won a Big 12 championship, and he played for the national championship.”
This weekend, Solich will earn his rightful place in Nebraska football history. “If you look across the world of college athletics in a 6-year period, Frank was in pretty fast company,” Osborne said. “His winning percentage would be the equal to what Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and some of the great coaches in the game achieved.”
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