The Nebraska High School Sports HOF Foundation will develop a plan to honor a new Tom Osborne Exhibit in Lincoln.
Photo by University Archives and Special Collections, UNL Library

Lincoln Hall of Fame Exhibit Will Honor Tom Osborne

By NU Athletic Communications

High School Sports HOF Hopes Exhibit Hall Inspires

Tom Osborne College Football Foundation HOF Bio

Randy York N-Sider

Official Blog of the Huskers

The Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation (NHSSHOFF) has received permission from Tom Osborne to name its football exhibit hall in honor of Nebraska’s Hall of Fame football coach, athletic director and U.S. Congressman who represented the state’s third district.

The NHSSHOFF is a non-profit organization, located across the street from the home fields for Husker baseball and softball programs at 500 Charleston St. in Lincoln, sharing the same building with the Nebraska State High School Activities Association and the Nebraska Coaches Association.

“The goal of honoring our past to inspire the future has reached its pinnacle moment,” said Chuck Johnston, executive director for the NHSSHOF. “Everyone knows how humble Coach Osborne is in light of his own accomplishments, so we are equally humbled to have his permission to use the only name we’ve wanted to promote Nebraska’s rich tradition in high school football.”

Osborne was inducted into the NHSS Hall of Fame as a 1955 graduate of Hastings, Neb., High School, where he was an all-state quarterback, a starter on the Class A state championship basketball team and the state champion in the discus throw and state runner-up in the 440-yard dash. 

Although Osborne is best known for coaching Nebraska to three national football championships (1994, ’95 and ’97) and serving as Bob Devaney’s offensive coordinator for two more national titles (1970 and ’71), Osborne faced a unique challenge when he graduated from high school.

Offered full scholarships to play both Nebraska football and Husker basketball, Osborne spurned the offers because neither head coach would allow him to play for both programs. So he accepted joint scholarships from Hastings College, where he went on to become the Nebraska State College Athlete of the Year before he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and played three NFL seasons.

Osborne Understands Unique Nature of Being and Honoring Student-Athletes

“If anyone understands the unique nature of being a student-athlete and honoring student-athletes, Tom Osborne would probably be the ultimate expert,” said Pat Salerno, the president of the NHSS Hall of Fame Foundation.

The most fascinating part of Osborne’s 255-49-3 record and 25 bowl appearances in his 25 years at the Husker helm is the number of Nebraska state high school athletes who played pivotal roles while earning scholarships or choosing to walk on without funding.

“Over those 25 years, nearly 40 percent of Coach Osborne’s travel rosters were Nebraska high school student-athletes,” said Dick Beechner, who once coached at Nebraska with Osborne before becoming a past president of the Hall of Fame. Beechner led the drive to connect Osborne’s name with the Hall of Fame, based primarily on honorees who have been vocal about naming the upcoming football exhibit in Osborne’s honor. “Tom is one of the greatest unifiers in the history of our state,” Beechner said.

“I’ve seen the progress of Hall of Fame exhibits in Lincoln, and I’m confident that Nebraska’s leadership in technology will honor past, present and future inductees in a meaningful way,” Osborne said. “I think it’s important to honor Nebraska’s homegrown athletes for their contributions and from what I’ve seen, visitors should be educated and entertained at the same time.”

The Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation has inducted more than 400 athletes, coaches and contributors in the past two decades. With Osborne’s endorsement, the Hall of Fame Foundation will develop a plan to showcase Nebraska high school football.

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