Huskers Share Thoughts about 127 Years of Football
By Randy York
Since Nebraska’s N Club is celebrating its 125-year anniversary, I thought it might be interesting to ask some former players for their view of Husker football’s legacy and overall impact. Fortunately, six letterwinners gave me heartfelt responses that define all the right things, describe the passion they all have and detail thoughts that are near and dear to their hearts. Take the time to read all six. It’s quick, easy and interesting.
Tom Heiser (1972-73-74-75): An Academic All-America wingback and a 1975 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship recipient, Heiser believes Nebraska Athletics is a byproduct of the people who live in the state. “The foundation was set by hard working, competitive young people, who were supported by appreciative residents throughout the state,” Heiser said. “Through the years, the support has not wavered and has spread across the country as people have moved on in the normal course of life. The athletes recognize this and relish it. Players appreciate when they go on the road and see one-fourth to one-third of the crowd in Husker Red. This is why we are truly Husker Nation!”
Bob Martin (1972-73-74-75): A First-Team All-America defensive end, Martin says Nebraska’s facilities are so updated, it almost looks like a different place. “It brings back a lot of memories and reminds you how far we’ve come,” he said. “I can remember coming into the old Field House that had six to eight toilets. There were no walls, just porcelain and concrete. We’ve come a long way from that. They’re doing a great job to enhance recruiting. Everything they do they do right. You got to keep up with the Joneses, even though we may have been one of the first Joneses who did it right.”
Tom Ruud (1971-72-73-74): The Co-Big Eight Athlete of the Year, first-round NFL draft pick and 1997 inductee to the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame, Ruud calls his alma mater's facilities state-of-the-art. "Everything you see is really impressive, and I’m really happy for the kids who get to train and play in this kind of environment,” Ruud said. “They’re not cutting costs, and that’s the mindset you need to win today. It’s really important to honor seven or eight generations of football fans. They laid the groundwork, so it makes sense to honor those who built this place. They have to be part of who and what we are to this date, so I’m really happy to see what I saw Saturday.”
Bill Kosch (1968-69-70-71): An Academic All-American and honorable mention All-America safety who started on two national championship teams, Kosch believes that Nebraska football “could be compared to the hardworking individuals that have worked this land since the 19th Century. We have had our periods of bountiful harvests and times that have tested our resolve,” Kosch said. “We do not quit. We always return to plant the seeds of a new year with hopeful anticipation that our new crop will flourish. For 125 years, many young boys of the soil have grown as rugged as the land they inhabit. They respect and love this state. In my mind, being a Husker and representing the people of Nebraska is the ultimate honor. It’s even chiseled in stone…in the deed, the glory. That's important.
“Nebraska is an unlikely state to contend for national championships,” Kosch said. “We’re under populated, isolated, and basically rural. We do not tell that to our populace. It has long been in their temperament to compete against all odds. Husker players, whether native Nebraskans or those who chose to move and play here, demonstrate their character by being honest with themselves and others, by practicing hard and playing harder, and by giving credit and respect to their opponents. That’s who we are.”
Steve Taylor: (1985-86-87-88): An All-America quarterback and the 1988 Sugar Bowl MVP, Taylor says it’s “truly a blessing and an honor to be part of an institution that is so steep in tradition and rich in its athletic programs. As the years fly by and you age with grace, you come to realize that you were part of something very special,” Taylor said. “That feeling will never subside and will only grow with great pride and appreciation. Kudos to what UNL is doing with class and respect.”
Tom Carlstrom (1978-79-80-81): An offensive guard from Polk, Neb., Carlstrom left his small rural town and headed to Nebraska to begin an incredible journey of being a student-athlete under the leadership of what he calls a super coach named Tom Osborne. "In those days, there was a freshman team and later a JV team and the varsity team,” Carlstrom said. “Hundreds of players worked hard to earn playing time. Things are different today with those sorts of situations but one thing stays the same – there are thousands of die-hard Big Red fans who have supported the Huskers through thick and thin.”
Carlstrom remembers how former head coach and athletic director Bob Devaney often said the greatest decision he ever made was to hand over the reins to Coach Osborne.
“It’s been 35 years since my last game,” Carlstrom said, adding that he recently had a great opportunity to meet a Husker fan in Kearney. “He was able to show me a collection of Husker momentos, which had been growing for generations. The passion of being a Husker fan was so evident. We visited and told stories. Before leaving his house, he introduced me to his wife, and we chatted a while. She enjoyed holding my Orange Bowl ring. A few months later, I received a really nice thank you note from him. He said his wife had recently passed away and expressed his appreciation for my taking the time to visit with them.”
The experience moved Carlstrom emotionally. “There's a special relationship between passionate fans and current and former players,” he said. “I think that’s what makes the Nebraska experience so special. There's no place like it.”
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