John Adkins still looks like he could track you down like a heat-seeking missile and tackle you before you even think about getting any momentum going.
Monte Johnson still has that lovable bald head and that friendly smile that belies the terror he was able to unleash as what many consider to be the best middle linebacker in the history of the Oakland Raiders, even though he never started a game at Nebraska.
Woody Cox looks exactly like you would expect a director of the world's largest health club to look like.
And Bob Newton? What can you say about a man who is still inspiring people 40 years after he was an All-American offensive lineman on a team that just happened to be the first national champion in Nebraska football history?
It's been a week since nearly 86,000 Big Red football fans honored Nebraska's 1970 national championship team, but we thought you might enjoy reading about four players who remain living, breathing ex-Huskers who continue to be vibrant, thriving people four decades after one of the greatest accomplishments any of them ever experienced.
John Adkins, Who Followed His Father's Advice
Adkins grew up in Lynchburg, Va., and he still remembers the advice his father gave him since he was old enough to understand - while you're growing up, make a college education your No. 1 goal.
Last weekend, when Adkins made his first trip in 39 years to a Nebraska football game in Lincoln, that voice and that message still resonated against the acoustics in the Wick Alumni Center when Nebraska's 1970 team was honored at a 40-year reunion banquet.
"I knew growing up that a college education was more important than playing college football," said Adkins, who joined Willie Harper as the starting defensive ends on that '70 championship team.
"My parents couldn't afford to send me to college, so I always saw football as a means to an end," Adkins said.
When Bob Devaney traveled east to meet the parents and recruit the athlete, Adkins will never forget the first words out of the hall-of-fame coach's mouth: "If you come to the University of Nebraska, you're going to get a great education."
"And that's what I got," said Adkins, who became a Third-Team Academic All-American at Nebraska before graduating from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Known as "Spider" - a two-year Blackshirt starter on a pair of national championship teams - Adkins is now Dr. John Adkins, MD, an emergency medicine physician who practices primarily out of Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore, Md. He is also licensed to support two nearby Army hospitals and a hospital at Andrews Air Force Base.
"I'm proud that I ended up at Nebraska and proud that my father - from day one as a kid - told me to get my degree," Adkins said. "He didn't have a degree, and he wanted me to get mine no matter what. I had to do it for him. He's the one who pushed me to dream big and make that degree my top priority."
While his former teammates traded updates at an upbeat reunion, Adkins had an immediate answer for his most memorable moment as a Nebraska Cornhusker: "Getting that degree," he said. "It surpassed every meaningful memory I experienced on the field, and when you're on two national championship teams, there are many, many wonderful memories."
Adkins is proud to see that Nebraska's Medical Center is ranked 17th among 144 primary care hospitals across the country by US News & World Report. "I was proud to complete my degree in 1979 and get my residency," he said, "and I've been practicing since 1982."
Last Saturday's loss to Texas may have been Adkins' first live view of a Husker game in Lincoln since he left, but he did attend a 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma reunion two years ago in Norman.
"I was asked two years ago what I thought about Coach Osborne being back as athletic director, and what I said then is still true now: 'He's a winner, and he's going to find a winner.' Now, everyone knows he found a winner in Bo Pelini. I'm proud of Coach Osborne, proud of Coach Pelini and proud to be a graduate of the University of Nebraska."
Monte Johnson, Who Was Greater in the Pros than College
All Nebraska football stories are relevant, but this one is in a league of its own.
It's about a player from Bloomington, Minn., who turned down scholarship offers from Minnesota, Notre Dame, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin to play for Bob Devaney in 1969 - a player who never once started a game at Nebraska, yet went on to start six years for the Oakland Raiders, including one Super Bowl championship team.
Meet Monte Johnson, a successful 58-year-old Atlanta businessman who made the number 58 so famous in Oakland that he was recently named the middle linebacker on a popular publication's All-Time Oakland Raiders' Defense.
Johnson can't help but wonder how Monte Kiffin, his defensive coordinator at Nebraska, might view such an accolade.
When the Raiders drafted Johnson in the second round, "it was a shock to everybody, but probably most of all to Coach Kiffin," Johnson said. "He used to tell me: 'Monte, everybody has skeletons in their closet, and you're my skeleton because you're out walking around where everyone can see you.'"
A 6-5, 245-pound defensive end with 4.7 speed in the 40, Johnson lettered on Nebraska's national championship teams in 1970 and '71 before deciding that he'd had enough backing up Outland Trophy winner Larry Jacobson as a sophomore and Bill Janssen as a junior.
"I thought seriously about leaving the program," Johnson said, admitting that he had, in fact, made up his mind to leave before Jim Walden, then a Nebraska assistant, talked him out of it.
Fortunately, he returned as a more mature and more determined senior and ended up leading the Huskers that season in tackles on a team that punched out Notre Dame, 40-6, in the Orange Bowl.
Whatever ignominy Johnson might have felt for spending three consecutive seasons without starting was replaced by his desire to play on every special team Nebraska had. Once he finally realized that he was infinitely better on Saturdays than he was in daily practices, he used his backup role as a source of inspiration - for himself and others.
Johnson converted his personal disappointment into dramatic growth and saw the doors open to his greatest opportunities. Days after Devaney's last official game as a head coach in the Orange Bowl, he brought the career non-starter with him to the All-America Bowl in Tampa.
In a pivotal practice for that game, Johnson was asked to "pretend" to be a linebacker in an "arm-shield" offensive drill. Ron Wolf, the chief architect of Oakland's best Super Bowl teams, watched Johnson show his ability to read, react and move while Al Davis, the Raiders' head coach, was standing next to Wolf.
The Raiders' brass saw a diamond in the rough, drafted him in the second round, and Johnson went quickly to the top of the NFL, becoming - in the process - one of Nebraska's most surprising success stories ever.
Woody Cox, Who is Still Going Full-Speed Ahead
Almost all of Tom Osborne's football recruits say they never could keep up with their former coach's relentless pace, a work rate that he still maintains as Nebraska's athletic director.
There may be one exception in Bellevue, Washington. At age 58, Woody Cox, a starting split end that Osborne recruited and then coached for Nebraska's back-to-back national championship teams in 1970-71, is a bundle of energy who's still going full-speed ahead and like Osborne, shows no signs of slowing down.
Still 5-9 and at his 178-pound football playing weight, Cox continues to build on a competitive resume that would make your head spin. He also has one of the most unique jobs anywhere as senior vice president of operations, overseeing a staff of 850 at the largest, single-location health club in the world.
It's called The PRO Sports Club, and it's a doozey with 48,000 mostly corporate members and 300,000 square feet of program space. Located across the street from Microsoft Corporation headquarters, the facility has five swimming pools, four full-sized NBA basketball courts, squash/racquetball and tennis courts, a full salon like you'd find at a five-star resort hotel, three restaurants, a grocery store, auto detailing, dry cleaning, five doctors on staff, 13 psychologists, 12 registered dieticians, 24 physical therapists and 112 personal trainers who have degrees in exercise science and national certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine.
No wonder Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spends three to five days a week in the facility. So do execs and employees from Nintendo, Google and Honeywell. "It's a corporate perk and the reason why we're so huge. We're also deluxe, deluxe, deluxe," says Cox, who is busy, busy, busy even when he's not ordering 183 of the Rolls Royce of treadmills and 72 new elliptical trainers at the same time.
"All of our staff members are trained by the same people who train Disney and Ritz Carlton," Cox said, "so everyone who comes into this place walks away shaking their heads, thinking how amazing it is and what an experience it was."
Cox could say the same thing about life after his Nebraska football career. In addition to rising in the health club ranks, he teamed up with Ted Turner on Captain Outrageous in the yachting world, competed in 12 Honolulu Marathons and completed more than 60 triathlons before discovering what really cranks him up ... cycling.
"It's one of the few sports that can serve as both a training tool and a leisure activity," said Cox, who cycling as the cornerstone of his own fitness program and feeds his passion to compete.
At age 46, Cox set a new world record in the 3,000-meter time trial, and he hasn't stopped racing since. He has 36 U.S. national championships and 16 world titles, achieved mostly in England and throughout Europe.
"At my age, I'm still a Category I cyclist," he said. "I compete with a lot of Olympians and still drive them crazy," he said. "Thanks to smarter training and better nutrition, I'm actually faster and better physically on my bike now than I was 15 years ago."
But, he admits, still crazy after all these years.
Bob Newton, Who is Still Inspiring People 40 Years Later
He's spoken in front of a roomful of NFL players, including the legendary Dick Butkus. He's addressed Congress on a subject he knows as well as anyone. And last August, Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini both asked him to talk to Nebraska's football team.
Forty years after his All-American season in Nebraska's offensive line that culminated in the Huskers' first national football championship, Robert "Bob" Newton is as relevant as ever. He is also as quiet, humble and unassuming as ever, just like Osborne, a man he considers to be a personal and spiritual mentor.
Newton, you see, has one of the most important jobs in the world. He is the lead counselor for the extended care program at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He's been there 23 years and is effective both as a counselor and a motivational speaker because he's been where others are and wants to help all of them find a better life.
In 1983, after 11 years in the NFL - five with the Chicago Bears and six with the Seattle Seahawks - Newton was ready to come clean from his alcohol and drug use, so he wrote a letter to Osborne.
"He wrote me back immediately and told me I was making the right decision to seek help and offered to help me get through it," Newton said last weekend when he flew from his native California to join his Husker teammates at their 40-year national championship anniversary celebration.
Osborne offered Newton a two-pronged opportunity - return to Lincoln, and he could 1) join the Nebraska coaching staff as a graduate assistant and help with the offensive line; and 2) return to class at Nebraska and get the degree he didn't get when he went to the NFL.
"Coach Osborne has been a major influence in my life," Newton said. "He recruited me, taught me the value of education and inspired me to finish, even after a 13-year absence."
Because of Osborne, Newton earned his bachelor's and his master's degrees and became director of development at Betty Ford Center before deciding to concentrate on teaching others about substance abuse with a moving personal account of how he got through the rigorous 12-step process to recovery.
Last August, Newton told Husker players how easy it is for alcohol to "sneak up on you" and how quickly "one night of drinking can destroy your life."
At Nebraska, Newton said, "life skills are important, and today's student-athletes know better."
But it never hurts to remind them what can happen when they don't make the right choices.
Respond to Randy
Voices from Husker Nation
I just read your piece on Bob Newton, Monte Johnson, Woody Cox, and Dr. John Adkins. Another great piece of work! It's amazing to learn what impacts former Nebraska grads and attendees have on the world! Jerry Wood, Valrico, Florida
I understand why Jerry Murtaugh and his teammates were such great fans of the late Ed Periard, the middle guard on that 1970 national championship team. But if I remember right, Willie Harper was the Defensive Player of the Game in the Orange Bowl win over LSU, and he was only a sophomore at the time. I'm surprised Harper didn't come back for the '70 reunion. Here's hoping that he makes it back for the 40-year reunion of the 1971 team next year. Surely, the Athletic Department plans to honor what many of us still consider to be the greatest Nebraska football team of all time. Ed Carter, Scottsdale, Arizona
I enjoyed the column on Adkins, Johnson, Cox and Newton - all very successful people four decades after they gave so much to the University of Nebraska, on and off the gridiron. Since that 1970 team will always be remembered as the first Husker team ever to win a national championship, I am interested in knowing if any other members of that team besides Ed Periard are now deceased. Thanks for whatever information you can provide. Steve Thomas, Seattle, Washington (Editor's note: Other deceased members on that '70 champion team were Phil Harvey, Bruce Hauge, Joe Henderson, Jerry List and Rex Lowe)
One of the highlights for me flying in from the West Coast was seeing so many members from the first national championship team on the field at halftime. I enjoyed watching the vintage video before they were introduced. You could tell styles were different 40 years ago than they are now, but one thing hasn't changed - Nebraska is still a team you have to consider as a potential national championship contender. And with Bo Pelini at the helm, those expectations will not change. Ri Edwards, Yuba City, California
As someone who knew very little about this trail-blazing Nebraska team, I must admit it's impressive to read about how players have gone on to succeed in life after football. Tom Osborne and the entire Nebraska coaching staff are always talking about how important the classroom is, and stories like these reinforce the point, even when former recruits get well into their 60s. I would like to think that today's recruits can read these stories and see why Nebraska is such a good place to be. Seems to me that you learn how to compete in all kinds of different ways. Donna Curtis, Omaha, Nebraska
Thanks for the outstanding article on 1970 success stories. I so enjoy reading about the players and how they turned out. Thanks for pointing out how getting an education is the key. It is so great when these players come back and finish. Great story and keep doing them. Kay Peters, Juniata, Nebraska
GREAT story about the former Huskers (John, Bob, Woody, and Monte) and would enjoy hearing more in the future. Jeff Crist, Marysville, Kansas
These features are such great reads. I just hope you are able to provide updates on many of the other players on that historic team in the months and year ahead. I am particularly interested in reading about Joe Orduna, Keith Wortman and Bob Terrio - three players who didn't make it back for the celebration. I remember them as great people, on and off the field. Bill Thomas, Phoenix, Arizona
The article on some of the players from the 1970 national championship team was great. I just wish they could have been individually recognized at halftime. There are too many Husker fans who do not even know who these players are, and they need to be aware of how much these players gave to the University of Nebraska and the football program. Here's hoping plans to honor the 1971 national championship team can be expanded. Keep up the great work. Larry Travis