By Randy York, The N-Sider
When Lincoln’s weather reached 75 degrees Wednesday, I was not the only one wondering if Tom Osborne had gone fishing.
Nebraska Athletics administrator Keith Zimmer and Husker social media guru Kelly Mosier were so emphatic that T.O. had gone fishing, both encouraged me to get it straight from the legendary coach/congressman/A.D. before he turned 80 on Thursday.
“I went fishing earlier in the afternoon,” Osborne told me. “I only caught one small bass. I had a chance at a big bass, but couldn’t land it because it broke too high.”
Osborne’s punctuation mark for such an ordinary day before enjoying a meaningful birthday was simple and modest – one small bass and one big laugh.
Before I could ask how he would celebrate Thursday’s milestone, Osborne pointed out that he celebrated his birthday with his son and a granddaughter last Sunday. Since they had birthdays on Feb. 18th, 19th and 23rd, “we did all three of us at the same time,” Osborne said with another laugh. “That’s behind us. We don’t celebrate birthdays twice.”
Undeterred, I asked the patriarch what he would do Thursday. “Go to my office and try to recruit mentors,” he said. “That’s what I do.”
Osborne: I Really Enjoy Seeing High School Athletics Again. It’s Been Fun
Osborne admitted he’s enjoyed watching a grandson play basketball for Lincoln East this winter. “I really enjoy seeing high school athletics again,” Osborne said. “It’s been fun.”
Unseasonal weather triggered another chuckle. “Looks like spring will be right back to winter in a few days, but I’m glad to see the moisture because it’s been awfully dry,” Osborne said.
Nebraska’s powerful, popular native son said he enjoyed signing autographs with Eric Crouch recently at the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation in Lincoln.
The Foundation named its football exhibit to honor Osborne, who was inducted into the NHSS Hall of Fame as a 1955 graduate of Hastings, Neb., High School, where he was an all-state quarterback, a starter on the Class A state championship basketball team and the state champion in the discus throw and state runner-up in the 440-yard dash.
Osborne is looking forward to being keynote speaker at a Friday night benefit at the Millard Social Hall in Omaha to honor Anthony “Slick” Steels, a former Husker wingback who has Stage 4 prostate cancer.
“A lot of players will be there,” Osborne said. “I want to do whatever I can to help Anthony and his family. It’s been good to stay in touch with so many guys. Some have faced tough issues but bounced back. It’s hard to turn your back when players need help, and it’s encouraging to see teammates remain loyal to each other, even when they’re a long ways away.”
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: Happy Birthday Coach!
Despite Coach Osborne's limit on celebrating birthdays, it was fun to watch a hall-of-fame coach stand up from his desk at the Teammates headquarters on Lincoln’s 66th and O Streets and greet three unexpected Nebraska athletic staff members shortly before noon today.
Chris Anderson, Nebraska’s associate A.D. for community, governmental and charitable relations, asked Osborne’s former players to write a birthday letter to help celebrate a meaningful milestone. More than 130 individuals seized the opportunity, giving Anderson the chance to package their genuine respect and heartfelt wishes in a hard cover, spiral-bound notebook.
T.O. was his usual appreciative self, greeting all three Nebraska athletic staff members with his grateful, characteristic smile. I know I speak for Husker Nation and Husker World when we deliver a three-word message to authenticate our joint global wish – Happy Birthday Coach!
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Tom Osborne (carried off the field above) was head coach for three Nebraska national championship football teams in 1994, 1995 and 1997. He was the Huskers' offensive coordinator for two more national title teams under Bob Devaney in 1970 and 1971.