Houston – For Tom Osborne, football always has been more about relationships than X’s and O’s and wins and losses.

A dozen ex-players drove that point home again here Thursday night when they were asked to join Osborne onstage at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, as he accepted the Bear Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award from Cathy Schembechler.

Event organizers asked Osborne’s former players to help Cathy, the widow of former Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler, present the award. Schembechler, a longtime colleague and friend of Osborne’s, won the same honor posthumously in 2007.

"To have this number of players come out is a great honor," Osborne said, adding that coaching against Bear Bryant was a “meaningful experience” because he was “the gold standard of coaching."

Osborne recalled the Schembechlers driving 30 miles to see him in Michigan when he was still a U.S. Congressman and how much that meant to him.

Ex-Houston Oiler Jamie Williams, an NFL tight end for 11 years, made the trip from San Francisco to honor Osborne. Two current Houston Texans players – running back Ahman Green and kicker Kris Brown – were in the audience. So were former Nebraska All-Americans Doug Glaser and Broderick Thomas.

Six other ex-Huskers joined Osborne for a private pre-banquet gathering – Bill Bobbora, David Clark, Ray Coleman, Clint Finley, Allen Lyday, and Kris Van Norman.

Osborne said the award had extra meaning for him because the evening was sponsored by the American Heart Association. Acknowledging his own bypass heart surgery performed 23 years ago, Osborne quipped that his prevention seems to be working “because I’m vertical instead of horizontal.”

Earlier this month, Osborne won the Tuss McLaughry Award, given to a distinguished American for the highest distinction in service to others. The award, established in 1964 by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), was presented at the AFCA’s National Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Friday night in Omaha, Osborne will receive the Founder’s Medallion at the fourth annual RED Gala, sponsored by the Nebraska Alumni Association. The award is based on “bringing great recognition to the University of Nebraska.”

Thursday night, players had fun both honoring and teasing Osborne because they know how much he prefers team honors over individual honors. “We told Coach he’s going to have to add on to his house to make room for all these new awards,” Van Norman said. “We gave him a taste of his own subtle sense of humor.”

For more on Van Norman and Osborne, check out Randy York's N-Sider.