How a Husker Lineman Became a Well-Known FBI Agent
By Randy York, The N-Sider
If you write a blog for Huskers.com, you never know what might come your way, especially when you see a picture like the one above – Bo Schembechler, the late, legendary Michigan football coach wearing an FBI cap next to Greg Stejskal, a longtime real-life FBI agent who happens to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
What an odd college football-related photo. Even though Stejskal was a full-scholarship Nebraska offensive lineman in the late 1960s and a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Law, he was invited to speak to Wolverine football players for 33 consecutive years before each college football season started.
Schembechler urged the state’s FBI office to help his players understand the ramications of illegal sports gambling. Later, he asked the FBI to educate his players about the dangers of steroids. The FBI’s decision to speak to Michigan’s team started in 1982. Wolverine administrators, coaches and players liked the presentation enough to invite Stejskal back for more than three decades. He took over the presentation in 1983 and continued to share his views on an annual basis through 2014.
Because combatting public corruption is important at all levels, Stejskal collaborated with other college and professional teams, including Notre Dame and Minnesota at the collegiate level and the Detroit Lions, Red Wings and Pistons at the pro level.
Who could guess that an offensive lineman recruited by Bob Devaney would become such an integral part of Michigan football?
Stejskal smiles at the irony, primarily because he did not earn a varsity letter in his three years on a full athletic scholarship at Nebraska. He was unlucky when he became a Husker in 1967 and needed a spinal fusion to correct a cracked vertebra. He was lucky in 1968 when he and Jeff Kinney were the only two Nebraska natives who started on the Huskers' freshman football team. Stejskal, in fact, delivered the block that enabled Kinney to score his first-ever touchdown inside Memorial Stadium.
Their teammates on that ’68 freshman team included the likes of Jerry Tagge, Larry Jacobson and Doug Dumler.
Stejskal remained on scholarship for three years, but never lettered as Nebraska went on to win back-to-back national championships in 1970 and ’71.
Greg Stejskal: Football at Nebraska Was a Great, but Humbling Experience
“Football at Nebraska was a great, but humbling experience,” Stejskal said. “I took away a lot of life lessons that have served me well throughout my life. I stayed for three years before going to law school under the ‘3&3’ program. They allowed me to get into that program a year earlier. I talked to Coach Devaney about it, and I still joke that he was the one who encouraged me to go to law school.”
Count Stejskal as a mutual admirer of Nebraska and Michigan athletics because both are trailblazers in major ways, including life skills. Both embrace the traditional values of honor and integrity. “To me, it’s all over Memorial Stadium,” Stejskal said. “It’s built into the structure of the stadium: ‘Not the victory but the action; not the goal but the game; and in the deed the glory.’"
Stejskal was a friend of the late Schembechler and remains a friend of former Michigan head coaches Lloyd Carr and Brady Hoke. He also has become a friend of Jack Harbaugh, the father of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Nebraska native and long-time Michigan resident can laugh about his football experience because it became, in essence, the elevator to the rest of his life.
“Bob Devaney was a great coach who was very supportive both on and off the field,” Stejskal said before admitting that he may be “the only player that Devaney broke a clipboard on his head. I was wearing a helmet,” he told me. “I jumped off-sides three times in a row in a scrimmage. My defense was that I was trying to block Rich Glover.”
Playing in the same class that produced three consensus All-Americans, an Outland Trophy winner and multiple all-conference players was an impressive legacy, so Stejskal playfully adds another highlight - One FBI Agent.
Even though Tom Osborne was not his position coach, “he always took the time to stop and talk to me,” Stejskal said. “Years later, Tom remembered me and knew that I was in the FBI. I see Mike Riley as the same kind of leader. He really cares about his players, and all the players knew it. He’s a tremendous ambassador for Nebraska, and I hope that he’s very successful.”
Stejskal recounted how Nebraska graduate assistant coach Barry Alvarez was destined for greatness as a coach and a director of athletics. “I remember a time when someone stole a vending machine after we played McCook Junior College,” Stejskal said. “Barry and Denny Morrison made everyone take the vending machine back to the gas station. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on that, so I don’t mind sharing the hijinks that sometimes happened.”
Remembering Devaney Making Entire Varsity Team Watch Freshman Team
Those were the days. In the 1968 freshman team photo above, Stejskal (No. 70 in the third row, second from left) is sitting next to Tagge (No. 11). He remembers how Devaney made the whole varsity team sit in the North stands to watch the Huskers' freshman team. “I remember playing Missouri with about 5,000 people watching a freshman game,” he said.
“Our varsity had its pregame walk-through Friday afternoon, then watched us play," Stejskal said. "I was playing right tackle in an unbalanced line. I did a hook block on a defensive end, and Jeff ran for a touchdown. My claim to fame was making the block so he could score the inaugural touchdown of his college career. People are impressed until I tell them it was a freshman game. I guess you could say that it was all downhill from there.”
The good news was how three years of football, followed by three years of academic rigor, became the escalator for the rest of his life. An Omaha Central High School graduate, Stejskal remains as appreciative as ever for the opportunity to combine his competitive experiences back-to-back. Even though he could have kept his athletic scholarship and stayed on the team, Stejskal chose to pay his way through law school.
“I have often wondered that if I had been more successful at football back in that time, where would I have ended up?” Stejskal admits. “Would it had been the same place?”
His answer? “I think so,” he said. “Football was a great experience. I met some great people and when you are in a program like Nebraska, you realize the essence of teamwork. What I really took away from my three-year experience were the values. It was a humbling experience, but it made me realize that I had to prove myself.
“I was not able to prove myself on the football field, and that was disappointing to me for a while,” Stejskal said. “Then I realized that football, like all sports, is designed to be a metaphor for life. I took away values that I needed and life lessons that you are supposed to get when you compete. To me, and most of the people I played with, we see football as the quintessential sport where you can learn a lot about life, and I did.
“I blame myself for not doing better on the football field, but I came to a realization at a certain point,” Stejskal said. “I was on a football team that won a national championship in 1970. Just because you don’t make it at Nebraska doesn’t mean you weren’t a good football player. I realized you had to be exceptional to play on those teams.”
Even though he did not make the grade as a football player, the experience helped Stejskal make it to law school. “I went to law school with the idea of going into the FBI,” he said. “I had definitive goals and I knew how to work hard and meet those goals. However you look at the experience, you have to know that it worked out well.”
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