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By Randy York
In Nebraska's countdown to its showdown with Michigan State Saturday at Memorial Stadium, we offer up a tidbit that shows how much former Michigan State assistant Bob Devaney valued the state of Michigan as prime recruiting territory in his 11-year Hall-of-Fame reign as Nebraska's miracle worker head coach. Meet Freeman White Jr., a first-team All-America split end on Devaney's 1965 team that won all 10 of its regular-season games before losing to Bear Bryant-coached Alabama, 39-28, in the Orange Bowl. White was a 6-foot-5, 220-pound recruit from Detroit's Chadsey High School, where he won four letters in both football and basketball and three letters in track and baseball.
At 68, with two knee replacements, a hip replacement and back surgery, White is enjoying his retirement in Kansas City and says he feels blessed to have played for two of the best coaches in college football history - Devaney and Tom Osborne, his position coach. White remembers how he and fellow first-team All-American Tony Jeter decided to flip a coin to see who played tight end and who played wide receiver. White moved to split end and still has the two longest touchdown catches in Nebraska football history - a 92-yard reception from Bob Churchich in a 14-7 win at Kansas in 1964 and a 94-yard scoring catch from Chicago native Fred Duda in a 38-13 romp over Colorado in 1965.
The 92-yarder was a down-and-in where White worked his way between a safety and a corner, giving Churchich time to throw the ball about 50 yards. He broke his own school record in 1965 on an inside curl pattern where a corner missed trying to knock down Duda's pass, allowing White to outrace a CU safety the last 65 yards before scoring.
Devaney knew White was a winner when he caught a 56-yard touchdown pass to give Nebraska a 7-3 halftime lead the previous year at Oklahoma. The Sooners prevailed, 17-7, handing the Huskers their first loss in 10 games. Arkansas then beat Nebraska, 10-7, in the Cotton Bowl. A ninth-round NFL draft choice, White played four years for the New York Giants and one year in the Canadian Football League. He was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
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