Ask people for their memories of Joseph Orduna’s football career and they’ll almost without fail bring up his running style.
“He had a very high knee action when he ran,” said Jeff Kinney, a teammate on Nebraska’s 1970 national championship squad.
“Joe was such a high stepper,” said Jerry Murtaugh, another NU teammate.
Orduna brought that running style from the track, where he was a state champion hurdler in 1966 at Omaha Central in addition to being a gold medalist in the long jump and 880 relay. Orduna also lettered twice as a hurdler at Nebraska. And he was strong enough to qualify twice at Central for the state wrestling tournament.
“He was a good-sized guy. But he wasn’t muscle-bound,” said Al Larson, another former NU teammate. “The kind of players they have now would be lucky to touch their toes. He had a lot of movement in his hips and legs.”
Orduna lettered at running back for the Huskers in 1967, ’68 and ’70, running for 1,968 yards and 26 touchdowns. The 6-foot 196-pounder alternated with Kinney at I-back in 1970, when he received honorable mention All-America honors. Orduna ran for 897 yards and caught 11 passes for 85 more. Kinney ran for 694 yards and caught 20 passes for 206 yards.
“I think we made each other better,” Kinney says.
Orduna went on to play three seasons in the NFL, spending two with the New York Giants and one with the Baltimore Colts. He moved to California after his playing days, first pursuing a business career. Orduna later taught secondary science classes and coached wrestling in Orange County before retiring from teaching in 2012.
He pronounces his last name or-DOON-ya, not or-DOON-uh, as he was known in his Husker days. And he goes by Joseph, not Joe. “Joe Orduna is a person somebody else created,” he says. “I am Joseph, man of God, one who loves God passionately.”
Played for: Omaha Central High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, New York Giants and Baltimore Colts
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: George Hicks of Omaha North, a state champion hurdler in 1967. He died in 2003. "He had more moves on the football field . . . I feel he rivaled Johnny Rodgers," Orduna said of Hicks.
Best moment as an athlete: One was his 135-yard game in 1970 against USC. "Bill Cosby came into our locker room and shook my hand. He specifically asked for me."
Orduna was No. 66 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »