The first thing Husker players see on their Tunnel Walk: A prominent Blackshirt historical display.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

50 Blackshirts, 50 Years: Who Were the Best?

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York's N-Sider

In this the 50th anniversary season of one of Nebraska’s most sacred football traditions – the highly coveted and greatly celebrated Blackshirts – the N-Sider is asking Husker fans everywhere for your input and inspiration. We’ve come up with 50 Blackshirts to represent 50 years, and we need your help to determine the all-time top eight players who pulled that black jersey over their heads.

Eight has nothing to do with the league the Huskers were in when Blackshirts became a vital part of our folklore. Eight is the magic number for one simple reason – to give our fans the voting power to decide your eight all-time favorites, so Nebraska Athletics, in collaboration with First National Bank, can honor one Blackshirt at each of our eight home games this season.

Blackshirt 50th Season LogoVoting Process Includes Write-in Candidates

The voting process is as simple as we can make it. Each fan will have the opportunity to pick your top player, second favorite and on up to eight players in the alphabetized lists. That format is the best way for us to rank and define the top eight Blackshirts in the fairest and most orderly fashion we can. It also gives fans the opportunity to write in your own favorite Blackshirts who are not on this exclusive list of 50.

How did we come up with 50 elite names spanning 50 remarkable years? We went to the same source we asked to write The History of the Blackshirts for Fortunately, Nebraska football historian Mike Babcock was smart enough to suggest a formula that already includes comprehensively critical analysis. Thirty-four names on this list earned All-America recognition of some sort. “I emphasize some sort because I think the All-America recognition that matters most is consensus and unanimous,” Babcock told me. “But I didn’t distinguish which ones were consensus or unanimous because I don’t think that matters when you’re asking fans for their all-time favorite Blackshirts.”

Tackle Leader Barrett Ruud Makes the List

Babcock is right, of course, not to mention fair-minded. We should point out, however, that 14 of the remaining 16 players on this list were at least two-time, first-team all-conference selections. The last two players on the list, all-time tackle leader Barrett Ruud and fellow linebacker Demorrio Williams, edged three other single-season all-conference players because they were multiple all-league, single-season recipients.

The list you see in this voting process includes 23 defensive linemen, 16 defensive backs and 11 linebackers. They were all outstanding players and all worthy of recognition. So are countless others, and you have the next two weeks to come up with your personal favorites to write in and vote for. We believe there’s a reasonable balance now because there were five linemen on the field for decades of defenses that included a middle guard in the “50” front. “At that time, there were only two linebackers,” Babcock pointed out.

Coming This Fall: All-Time Blackshirt Team

The bottom line is to vote for your top eight Blackshirts. Football purists, rest assured, should know this: By the home season finale, we will use this same process to determine an 11-man All-Time Blackshirt Team. Voting ends on Thursday, Aug. 22. Use your heart, use your mind and here’s the best news of all – feel free to vote every day if you’re so inclined.

Just have fun and Git'R'Done!

Vote for Top Eight Blackshirts Here

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