The Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards committee of the American Heart Association (AHA) has announced that longtime Nebraska Head Coach Tom Osborne has been named the 2008 winner of its’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Osborne will receive the award at the Paul “Bear” Bryant College Football Coaching Awards Dinner Thursday, Jan. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston. The award recognizes excellence in coaching on and off the field during a career, allowing recipients to take their place in history alongside legends such as Bryant. Recent Lifetime Achievement recipients include Glenn “Bo” Schembechler, Jack Pardee and Lou Holtz.
Osborne coached for 25 seasons at Nebraska, earning three National Championships and 13 conference titles. He led the Cornhuskers to a bowl appearance in every season, and broke Bryant’s record of 24 straight postseason trips. Osborne retired with a record of 255-49-3 (.836), the fifth-best winning percentage in Division 1-A history and 12th best among all-time coaching wins.
In his final five seasons, the Huskers went 60-3, winning national titles outright in 1994 and 1995 and a co-championship in 1997. Osborne coached 47 first-team All-Americans who won 55 total honors, two Heisman Trophy winners, six Outland winners (top lineman), one Butkus winner (top linebacker) and one Johnny Unitas winner (top quarterback).
Retiring after the 1997 season, Osborne was named to the College Football Coaches Hall of Fame, earning a waiver on the three-year waiting period for induction. The playing field at Nebraska was also christened that year in Osborne’s honor.
After a 36-year career in college football, Osborne turned his attention to politics, winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Nebraska’s third district in 2000. Osborne served three terms in Congress. He recently returned to the college athletics arena when he was named interim athletics director at the University of Nebraska on Oct. 16.
Osborne is a fourth-generation Nebraskan, earning his bachelor’s degree in history from Hastings College, and his master’s and doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Nebraska.
After graduating from Hastings, he played three seasons in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. Osborne switched to coaching in 1962, becoming an assistant coach at Nebraska under Bob Devaney and serving in various assistant positions before taking over the reigns as head coach in 1973.
Osborne and his wife of 44 years, Nancy, have three children and four grandchildren. He and Nancy founded the TeamMates Mentoring Program in 1991, in which University of Nebraska football players and other community volunteers mentor middle school students one-on-one in Nebraska public schools.
The Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards honors excellence in coaching while raising funds to fight heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers. Bryant himself suffered a heart attack prior to his death in 1983. Funds raised benefit research, community education and outreach programs of the AHA.
Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association today is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to reducing disability and death from diseases of the heart and stroke. These diseases, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers, and all other cardiovascular diseases claim over 870,000 lives a year. In fiscal year 2005–06 the association invested over $543 million in research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives.