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He grew up with Lynn Senkbeil and is still great friends with John Kirby. Both Nebraska football "legends" from the 1960s, in fact, were at Memorial Stadium this fall when Carel Stith was formally inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. An All-Big Eight defensive tackle that played on three straight Bob Devaney conference championship teams (1964-65-66), Stith can now say what he's always believed.
"I know how shocked people were when we joined the Big Ten," he said, "but if you want to know the truth, I was really shocked that we didn't make that connection a lot sooner than we did."
Before you fall off your chair, consider this. Mike Devaney, the late Bob Devaney's son, was Stith's pledge father in a University of Nebraska fraternity, so he spent a lot of time in the Devaney home, playing poker and bridge and shooting the breeze about why he played against Minnesota twice in his first two years at Nebraska and why he played against Wisconsin twice in his last two years as a Cornhusker.
Devaney Loved Big Ten; Osborne Honored Legacy
"I knew Coach Devaney's background at Michigan State and how much he loved the Big Ten," Stith said. "He would have been so proud that the man he selected to succeed him found a way to get us into that conference. Coach Devaney left the legacy, but my hat's off to Tom Osborne for adding his touch to Nebraska football and for honoring the Devaney legacy like he has."
Stith says Nebraska's maiden voyage in the Big Ten, however, goes well beyond two Hall-of-Fame coaches that built Nebraska into such a traditional power that it became a cornerstone in the nation's oldest collegiate athletic conference.
"The reason I say I'm shocked we weren't in the Big Ten sooner is because of all the players that Devaney and his staff recruited to turn a losing program into a Big Eight power and a national power," Stith said. "You should check out all the players Devaney recruited almost 50 years ago. You'd be shocked how many are from Big Ten states."
44 Teammates from Big Ten Conference States
Well, we did, and the defensive tackle who led Nebraska with 82 tackles as a senior (including 42 solo stops), was on track with his thinking. In his senior season, Stith had 44 teammates who were natives of Big Ten Conference states - 10 each from Illinois and Pennsylvania, eight from Michigan, six from Ohio, four from Iowa, three from Wisconsin, two from Minnesota and one from Indiana. Remember, team rosters then were much smaller than they are today.
Now an attorney who's married to a judge, Stith lives in Houston, where so many Big 12 fans live and work. "I played with Texas players like Rudy Johnson," he said. "We'll still get great players from Texas, but our base will be what it used to be. The Big Ten is the right conference for Nebraska, believe me. I live down here, and it's a whole different philosophy."
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