NFL Stars Highlight Hall of Fame Class
Long-time NFL standouts Mike Rucker, Kyle Larson and Danny Woodhead headline a list of six players, including four Huskers, who will be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
This year’s Nebraska Football Hall of Fame class will celebrate together with an induction dinner on the University of Nebraska campus on Friday, Sept. 14. The class will be introduced prior to Nebraska’s football game with Troy at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Rucker, a major contributor on Nebraska’s 1995 and 1997 national championship teams, went on to an All-Pro selection in his nine-year career as a starter at defensive end with the Carolina Panthers. Rucker recorded 17 sacks and 40 tackles for loss during his career as a Blackshirt, before notching 55.5 sacks among his 421 career tackles in the NFL.
Larson, one of the top punters in Nebraska football history, claimed first-team All-America honors for the Big Red as a senior in 2003. A three-time All-Big 12 selection, Larson was one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award in 2003. Larson, whose 195 punts are a Nebraska record, went on to a five-year career as an NFL starter with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Joining Rucker and Larson in the group of four Husker Hall of Famers, are offensive linemen Dan Schmidt and Bob Sledge. Schmidt was an honorable-mention All-American and an All-Big Eight pick at left guard for the Huskers as a senior in 1975. Sledge was a first-team All-Big Eight choice as an offensive tackle for the Huskers in 1988, when he helped Nebraska to an NCAA rushing title and a conference title.
Chadron State greats Danny Woodhead and Casey Beran add an impressive state college presence to the 2018 induction class. Woodhead was a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy (2006, 2007) as the nation’s top player in NCAA Division II and a two-time first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American during his career at Chadron State. He went on to a nine-year NFL career as a running back with the Jets, Patriots, Chargers and Ravens. He received an automatic selection into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2008, but will be formally inducted this fall.
Beran was the first Chadron State Eagle in history to earn both All-America and CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in the same season. He also joins Woodhead as one of just three Eagles in history to be named the Omaha World-Herald’s Nebraska State College Athlete of the Year. Beran won that award in 2000, following his dual All-America season in 1999.
The Hall also will recognize Bill and Ruth Scott of Omaha with its Clarence E. Swanson Meritorious Service Award, while Jim and Mary Abel of Lincoln will be honored with the Lyell Bremser Special Merit Awards.
The Nebraska Football Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Nebraska Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. The College Football Hall of Fame opened its headquarters in Atlanta in 2014. Prior to 2015, players must have been either an All-American or first-team all-conference selection to make the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame ballot. Beginning in 2015, Huskers who earned second-team all-conference honors dating back to the expansion of the Big Eight to the Big 12 (1996) and now the 14-team Big Ten, will be eligible. Players are not eligible for the ballot until after a 10-year waiting period from the end of their collegiate careers. Major national award winners earn automatic induction. Active NFL players are not on the ballot.
Nebraska Football Hall of Fame 2018 Inductee Biographies
Dan Schmidt (1974-75-76) - An Associated Press Honorable-Mention All-American at left guard as a senior for the Huskers in 1976, Dan Schmidt was an All-Big Eight selection as a senior. Schmidt was a two-year starter and three-year letterman for the Big Red at guard for Coach Tom Osborne. Schmidt helped protect All-America quarterback Vince Ferragamo in 1976, allowing the Huskers to lead the Big Eight in passing offense and rank second in the conference in total offense. The 6-2, 222-pounder from North Platte helped the Huskers to a 28-8-1 record in his three seasons on the field, including trips to the Sugar, Fiesta and Astro-Bluebonnet bowls. Before joining the Huskers, Schmidt was an all-state player at St. Patrick’s High School in North Platte.
Bob Sledge (1986-87-88) - A first-team All-Big Eight offensive tackle for the Huskers as a senior in 1988, Bob Sledge was a two-year starter and three-time letterman for Coach Tom Osborne and the Huskers. He helped Nebraska to the NCAA rushing title with 382.3 yards per game as a team in 1988, while the Huskers also won the Big Eight title before finishing an 11-2 season in the Orange Bowl. In his three seasons on the field at Nebraska, the Huskers went 31-6 and played in Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls. A second-team All-Big Eight choice as a junior, Sledge helped the Huskers rank second in the nation in total offense with 489 yards per game in 1987, including 373.5 yards per game on the ground. In addition to ranking third in rushing offense, the Huskers also ranked third in the country with 38.5 points per game his junior season. Sledge was an all-state defensive tackle at Omaha Gross High School in 1983, before beginning his college career at South Dakota. The 6-2, 270-pounder transferred to Nebraska after the 1984 season and redshirted at NU in 1985. Sledge was a business administration major at Nebraska.
Mike Rucker (1995-96-97-98) - A rush end on Nebraska’s 1995 and 1997 national championship teams for Coach Tom Osborne, Mike Rucker was a second-team All-Big 12 choice as a senior before a long NFL career. Rucker was a four-time letterman and a full-time starter during his senior season when he recorded 53 tackles, including nine tackles for loss. As a junior for the 1997 national champion Huskers quarterbacked by Scott Frost, Rucker recorded 15 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks on his way to honorable-mention All-Big 12 accolades despite starting just two games. As a sophomore, Rucker also notched 15 TFL, including seven sacks. In 45 career games, he recorded 17 sacks among his 40 tackles for loss. He also caused five fumbles and four interceptions to go along with 36 quarterback hurries. Rucker was a second-round pick (38th overall) of the Carolina Panthers in the 1999 NFL Draft. He spent nine seasons as a disruptive defensive force with the Panthers, recording 421 tackles, including 55.5 sacks and forcing 16 fumbles. He also recovered seven fumbles and grabbed one interception in his 139 career NFL games. In 2003, Rucker earned a bid to the Pro Bowl while leading the Panthers to an NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. He was named the NFL Alumni Defensive Lineman of the Year that season after recording a career-high 12 sacks. Rucker came to Nebraska after an All-America career at Benton High School in St. Joseph, Mo. Rucker earned his bachelor’s degree as a sociology major from Nebraska in December of 1998. He co-founded Ruckus House, a child development and learning facility, with Carolina teammates Mike Minter, Stephen Davis and Muhsin Muhammad. Rucker also founded Vision Group Realty, and he has served as a commentator for the Panthers Television Network.
Kyle Larson (2001-02-03) - One of the best punters in Nebraska history, Kyle Larson claimed first-team All-America honors as a senior for Coach Frank Solich in 2003. A three-time All-Big 12 selection who earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior, Larson was one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award in 2003. He averaged a then-school record 45.12 yards per punt as a senior, which ranked No. 7 nationally. In the final six games of 2003, he averaged 48.5 yards per punt with 16 punts of 50 yards or more, including a career-long 80-yarder against Texas - one of only three punts of 80 yards or more by any player in Nebraska history. His 195 career punts are a Nebraska record, while his 43.67-yard career average ranks third in school history. Off the field, Larson was also a three-time second-team Academic All-Big 12 choice. After signing a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2004, Larson spent five NFL seasons as the starting punter in every game for the Bengals. He averaged 42.0 yards over 379 career punts, including a career-long 75-yarder. The native of Funk, Neb., who attended Kearney High School, joined the Huskers as a walk-on in 1999 after earning all-state honors as punter while also playing center and linebacker for the Bearcats. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Nebraska with a degree in business administration in May of 2004, and he currently works as a sales representative for NMC Cat in North Platte. He and his wife, Lindsay, have four sons.
2018 Nebraska Football Hall of Famers from the State College Ranks
Casey Beran (Chadron State, 1996-97-98-99) - Casey Beran left his mark as one of the greatest players in Chadron State history when he completed his career as a consensus NCAA Division II All-American and a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American for the Eagles in 1999. The first football player in Chadron State history to earn All-America honors both on and off the field, Beran was one of only three Eagles in history to be named the Omaha World-Herald’s Nebraska State College Athlete of the Year. He won that award in 2000 following his All-America season as a senior in 1999. A native of Sargent, Neb., Beran was a first-team All-American by the Football Gazette and USA Football in 1999, and a second-team choice by Daktronics and the Associated Press that same season. He was a three-time first-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection and was named the RMAC Outstanding Defensive Player in 1999. Beran recorded 182 tackles, including a Chadron State-record 35 sacks in his career, despite missing most of his sophomore season in 1997 with an ACL tear. He also caused seven fumbles in his career and recorded 38 quarterback hurries. In addition to his prowess on defense, Beran scored 11 touchdowns as a fullback in goal-line situations for the Eagles, including seven as a junior and four as a senior. He was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2013, and in 2014 was named one of the top 12 defensive players in RMAC history during its Centennial Celebration. Beran earned his bachelor’s degree from Chadron State as a human biology major in May of 1999. He graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2004 and is an orthopedic surgeon with CHI Health at Creighton University. His wife, Molly, is an obstetrician.
Danny Woodhead (Chadron State, 2004-05-06-07) - Danny Woodhead is being honored with his formal induction into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2018, after earning his automatic place into the Hall in 2008 as a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner (2006, 2007). The two-time NCAA Division II Player of the Year, Woodhead ended his career as the NCAA all-time, all-division rushing leader with 7,962 yards on 1,135 carries for an average of 7.0 yards per carry. He added 101 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 181 rushing yards per game in his 44-game career, including 19 games with 200 or more yards. He also scored at least one touchdown in 37 consecutive games - an NCAA all-division record. He added 1,417 career receiving yards on 119 receptions with eight more scores to finish with 9,480 career all-purpose yards. He finished with 654 career points, an average of 14.9 points per game. The first recipient of a full athletic scholarship in Chadron State history in 2004, Woodhead rushed for 1,840 yards as a true freshman, before adding 1,769 yards on the ground as a sophomore. He also had 367 yards receiving in his second season. As a junior, Woodhead rushed for 2,756 yards, which was an NCAA all-division record. He finished with 3,159 all-purpose yards in 2006. He added 1,597 rushing yards and a career-best 484 receiving yards a senior. At North Platte High School, Woodhead finished as the all-time leading rusher in Class A history with 4,891 yards from 2000 to 2003. Although undrafted out of college, Woodhead signed a free-agent contract with the New York Jets in 2008, but did not play in the 2008 season because of injury. He rejoined the Jets in 2009 and opened his nine-year NFL career with 10 games in 2009. He caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLVI as a member of the New England Patriots to cap the 2011 season. In 2013 (1,034) and 2015 (1,091) with the San Diego Chargers, Woodhead enjoyed his most productive campaigns with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in both seasons. In all, he played in 101 NFL games with 14 starts, amassing 2,238 career rushing yards with 15 touchdowns and 2,698 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns. He retired from the NFL on March 17, 2018. Woodhead was a math education major at Chadron State. He and his wife, Stacia, have four children.