All-Big 8 offensive guard Donnie McGhee had the perfect number: No. 70 to honor Nebraska's first national championship in 1970.
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47 Years Later, HOF Honor 'Awe-Inspiring' for Donnie McGhee

By NU Athletic Communications

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Hall-of-Famer Theiss Proud to Be Part of Huskers’ Lore

New Hall-of-Famer Chad Kelsay Eager to See Blackshirts

By Randy York

For Donnie McGhee (1968-70), Friday night’s Nebraska Football Hall of Fame induction inside NU’s West Stadium Club “has not really soaked in yet,” he told me. “In fact, it all seems surreal, and I feel like I’ll wake up Friday evening when we’re all enshrined.”

A Flint, Mich., native, McGhee is excited about his impending induction and the celebration of a milestone “that has a tremendous meaning to me,” he said. “It means that I did something so long ago but it still has meaning. It also says there is an appreciation for something that I did. As a family, this honor is awe-inspiring.”

The awe is not just for McGhee but his entire family. “My son, Roland, was a world-class long jumper and had the opportunity to travel and compete all over the globe,” McGhee said. “He’s a Hall of Fame inductee for track and field at Middle Tennessee State University. His children are athletic and competitive in a host of academic and sports endeavors. I would love to think that a tad bit of that is because they saw and heard about what the "old man" did.”

The “old man” was an All-Big Eight offensive tackle who helped Nebraska win its first of five national football championships in 1970. The Huskers’ only blemish on that trailblazing national championship team was a 21-21 tie at third-ranked USC early in the season.

McGhee vividly remembers the grit and grime in the prime time of Nebraska’s 17-12 Orange Bowl win over LSU, a night game that followed top-ranked Texas and second-ranked Ohio State losing their respective bowl games.

The Michigan native also vibrantly recalls Bob Devaney’s comments before the Huskers took the field that night in Miami. With two monumental upsets that happened on that historic New Year’s Day, “Coach Devaney told us that there was no way we could be denied as national champions if we won the Orange Bowl,” McGhee said.

Nebraska’s legendary head coach was right. When the Nos. 1 and 2 teams went down, the No. 3 team had the championship mindset to win its first national title.

Husker Offensive Guard Donnie McGhee Learned Early on That There is NO Place like Nebraska

McGhee’s entire collegiate experience went well beyond his greatest expectations. “When my wife Ruby and I lived in Lincoln, we lived in a very inclusive environment,” he said.  “We never met a stranger. Lincoln had such a friendly atmosphere. It was instantaneous that we both realized early on that there is NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA.”

Truthfully, growing up in Flint, Michigan, “I never really gave serious thought to attending college,” McGhee said. “Flint was a General Motors community and the biggest desire of most of my school mates, and me, was to get a job in one of the 10 to 12 local plants.”

Fortunately, “even though my grades were mediocre, they were sufficient for college entrance,” McGhee said. “I had to work very hard to adapt to college work. From the athletic standpoint, I came from a sports system that was highly competitive. We competed in the Saginaw Valley Conference and played some great high school teams.

“I was prepared for the rigors of Nebraska and Big 8 football,” McGhee said. “You always want to do the best, and we all seek recognition for what we do. Being All-Big 8 is an honor that any player would strive for and I did.’

For McGhee, team honors always go well beyond individual honors on a national championship team. “My fondest highlights involve and continue to involve the exploits of my children and grandchildren,” McGhee said. “I enjoy traveling to their games, meets and other athletic competitions, so we can cheer them on. That gives me pleasure.”

No need to ask McGhee about the other priorities of major college football. “Academics were and still are very important at Nebraska,” he said. “I had to adapt to the educational environment while I was there. I was the first in my immediate family to attend college, and I was ready to take on the challenge."

Being a Good Role Model Helped the McGhee Family’s Two Children Go on and Earn College Degrees

“That was my motivation – to be a good role model and example of what could be done with a lot of effort and a lot of hard work,” McGhee said. “It seemed to work out because both of my children are college graduates. Who knows the path they would have taken if I didn't stress the importance of academics?”

Living in Lincoln made it easy. “Lincoln was a big as well as a small city when Ruby and I lived there,” McGhee said. “We all came together and there was a true feeling of community whether we lived on North 26th Street or at the Lincoln Air Park West,” McGee said. “I believe in present athletes communicating with future athletes and sharing their experiences. It becomes a great catalyst to attract future world-class athletes. As long as these lines of communication are kept open, the pipeline will not dry up.”

Even though his parents did not attend college, “both were proponents of the theory that you can do whatever you want if put your mind to it,” McGhee said. “If you think you can't do a certain task, then you are more than likely right. My advice to anyone falls along that idea.”

Eddie, Donnie’s older brother, inspires him. “He’s a paraplegic and has had to ambulate with the aid of crutches ever since I’ve known him,” McGhee said. “Every time I see Eddie, the determination he displays shows why he’s never going to let his condition hinder him from the pursuit of happiness. My brother truly inspires me. I learn something from him every day. If he won't give in to the forces surrounding his condition, I sure as heck am not going to either.”

After using his Elementary Education degree to teach, McGhee worked for the General Motors Institute before joining Honda of America in Ohio, using the Master’s Degree he earned in Personnel Management from Central Michigan University. McGhee retired from Honda in 2009 after a 21-year career and says it is “super cool” to be in the same room Friday night with the legendary Tom Osborne attending the Nebraska Football Hall-of-Fame ceremony.

Landscaping became McGhee’s avocation after his retirement. “I drive my pickup to local rock quarries and pick flagstone that I use as mulch and flower bed borders,” he said, pointing out that he also lays walkway pavers for friends and family. “Anything concerning outside reshaping of the land is my forte now,” McGhee said.  “The great thing about what I do now is the fact that I can do it on My Time!”

The father of two children, four grandchildren and one great granddaughter is happy, content and very proud to be a Husker Hall-of-Fame member almost half a century after he played.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include city, state)

Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider

 

 

 

 

 

 

Husker Offensive Tackle Donnie McGhee Learned Early on That There Really is No Place like Nebraska

McGhee’s entire collegiate experience went well beyond his greatest expectations. “When my wife Ruby and I lived in Lincoln, we lived in a very inclusive environment,” he said.  “We never met a stranger. Lincoln had such a friendly atmosphere. It was instantaneous that we both realized early on that there is NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA.”

Truthfully, growing up in Flint, Michigan, “I never really gave serious thought to attending college,” McGhee said. “Flint was a General Motors community and the biggest desire of most of my school mates, and me, was to get a job in one of the 10 to 12 local plants.”

Fortunately, “even though my grades were mediocre, they were sufficient for college entrance,” McGhee said. “I had to work very hard to adapt to college work. From the athletic standpoint, I came from a sports system that was highly competitive. We competed in the Saginaw Valley Conference and played some great high school teams.

“I was prepared for the rigors of Nebraska and Big 8 football,” McGhee said. “You always want to do the best, and we all seek recognition for what we do. Being All-Big 8 is an honor that any player would strive for and I did.’

For McGhee, team honors always go well beyond individual honors on a national championship team. “My fondest highlights involve and continue to involve the exploits of my children and grandchildren,” McGhee said. “I enjoy traveling to their games, meets and other athletic competitions, so we can cheer them on. That gives me pleasure.”

No need to ask McGhee about the other priorities of major college football. “Academics were and still are very important at Nebraska,” he said. “I had to adapt to the educational environment while I was there. I was the first in my immediate family to attend college, and I certainly not going to blow the opportunity presented to me.

Being a Good Role Model Helped the McGhee Family’s Two Children Go on and Earn College Degrees

“That was my motivation – to be a good role model and example of what could be done with a lot of effort and a lot of hard work,” McGhee said. “It seemed to work out because both of my children are college graduates. Who knows the path they would have taken if I didn't stress the importance of academics?”

Living in Lincoln made it easy. “Lincoln was a big as well as a small city when Ruby and I lived there,” McGhee said. “We all came together and there was a true feeling of community whether we lived on North 26th Street or at the Lincoln Air Park West,” McGee said. “I believe in present athletes communicating with future athletes and sharing their experiences. It becomes a great catalyst to attract future world-class athletes. As long as these lines of communication are kept open, the pipeline will not dry up.”

Even though his parents did not attend college, “both were proponents of the theory that you can do whatever you want if put your mind to it,” McGhee said. “If you think you can't do a certain task, then you are more than likely right. My advice to anyone falls along that idea.”

Eddie, Donnie’s older brother, inspires him. “He’s a paraplegic and has had to ambulate with the aid of crutches ever since I’ve known him,” McGhee said. “Every time I see Eddie, the determination he displays shows why he’s never going to let his condition hinder him from the pursuit of happiness. My brother truly inspires me. I learn something from him every day. If he won't give in to the forces surrounding his condition, I sure as heck am not going to either.”

After using his Elementary Education degree to teach, McGhee worked for the General Motors Institute before joining Honda of America in Ohio, using the Master’s Degree he earned in Personnel Management from Central Michigan University. McGhee retired from Honda in 2009 after a 21-year career and says it is “super cool” to be in the same room Friday night with the legendary Tom Osborne attending the Nebraska Football Hall-of-Fame ceremony.

Landscaping became McGhee’s avocation after his retirement. “I drive my pickup to local rock quarries and pick flagstone that I use as mulch and flower bed borders,” he said, pointing out that he also lays walkway pavers for friends and family. “Anything concerning outside reshaping of the land is my forte now,” McGhee said.  “The great thing about what I do now is the fact that I can do it on My Time!”

The father of two children, four grandchildren and one great granddaughter is happy, content and very proud to be a Husker Hall-of-Fame member almost half a century after he played.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include city, state)

Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider

 

 

 

 

 

 

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