By Randy York
Cory Schlesinger is 39, married and has two daughters with wife Karen - Natalie, 13, and Leah, 11. They live in Deerborn, Mich., hometown of Henry Ford, and the Duncan, Neb., native enjoys the laid-back, small-town lifestyle that sits right next to a bustling Detroit metropolis. He teaches computer-aided design and home repair and is the strength and conditioning coach at nearby Allen Park High School.
Writing the final chapter of his senior Nebraska season as an Orange Bowl star, Schlesinger helped put Tom Osborne on the map of national championship coaches with a 15-yard touchdown burst with 7:38 left in the game and then five minutes later, ripped off a nearly identical 14-yard touchdown to seal a 24-17 Nebraska victory over Miami. The favored Hurricanes tired down the stretch, even with a couple of NFL superstars on defense - Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp.
After that upset, Schlesinger spent 12 years in the NFL as the fullback and chief body guard for Barry Sanders, one of the greatest NFL backs of all time. The pride of Columbus (Neb.) High School has seen it all and now has one more important notch on his resume ... role model ... a tag that Jeff Jamrog believes in so strongly that NU's assistant athletic director for football operations asked Schlesinger to share 60 to 90 minutes of his wisdom one night last August as the Huskers began fall camp.
So what did Schlesinger do with that precious time, all by himself, in front of Bo Pelini's fourth Husker team and first Nebraska squad to compete in the oldest conference in college football? He shot straight from the heart, talking about the biggest lessons he learned at Nebraska ... about passion and balance, humility and hunger and certain things to embrace and avoid.
Nebraska Was All About Team, Team, Team
"Mostly," Schlesinger said, "I talked about leadership and mindset and how we were different than Miami and why we beat them. Our team ended up winning every game because we had such passion for the game and never stopped until that last tick on the scoreboard. Miami was about individuals. It was all me, me, me. We were different. It was all team, team, team. We played together, depended on each other and picked each other up when we were down. We didn't celebrate. We didn't get full of ourselves, and we respected every opportunity we had.
"We have the best coaches, the best facilities, the best work ethic and the greatest fans in college football," Schlesinger said, knowing full well that the Huskers will be playing in the Big House in Ann Arbor Saturday, giving him the opportunity to make the drive and see if the team he addressed can handle one of the toughest road venues in college football.
"I think they will," Schlesinger said. "I like the way Rex Burkhead plays and the leadership he shows. He's just a workhorse and inspires others to work hard. He knows how to ignore the distractions, play physical and put the team ahead of everything else. That's how we won and why they'll win. It's part of our tradition."
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