Skinny 14-year-old Ken Geddes left his father, eight brothers and eight sisters in Jacksonville, Florida, and arrived at Boys Town in 1962.
"I was miserable my first month there; I was so homesick," said Geddes, who was sent to Nebraska after his mother died. "I wrote my father and said if he didn’t send for me I would kill myself. Dad never wrote me back. It was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Geddes had played football just once before arriving but took such a beating in a sandlot game against older players that he didn’t plan to play again. But Boys Town coach Skip Palrang spotted him and talked him into giving it a try. He eventually thrived and helped the Cowboys win a state title.
Geddes also started for two straight state championship basketball teams and ran on the state championship mile relay in track. He also was chosen prom king and served as a councilman for the school's "city government."
"My sisters ask me why I still call Boys Town home," he said years later. "If it wasn't for Boys Town, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Moving on to the University of Nebraska, he played defensive back for coach John Melton's freshman team. He immediately caught Bob Devaney's eye after moving to linebacker as a sophomore and saw playing time in his first varsity game.
By the start of Big Eight play, the 6-foot-3 211-pounder had impressed assistant coach George Kelly and earned a Blackshirt.
"He's not a timid soul, but neither is he just an alley player," Kelly said. "He reads keys and reacts really well to what he sees."
Geddes finished the season among the team's tackling leaders and had three interceptions.
As a junior, he finished second in tackles with 75, earning him a spot on the All-Big 8 team chosen by coaches.
But after two straight disappointing 6-4 seasons, the Huskers revamped their defense ahead of Geddes' senior year in 1969, forcing a position change.
Defensive line coach Monte Kiffin, who went on to a successful coaching career in the NFL, moved Geddes from linebacker to nose guard.
"He was quick as a cat," Kiffin said. "He was so explosive."
The move worked, and the 224-pound Geddes repeated as an All-Big Eight pick as the Huskers rebounded for a 9-2 season that served as a launching pad for two national titles.
At a banquet after his playing days, Geddes was described by Devaney as the best all-around athlete he ever coached.
"You couldn't block him," NU teammate Al Larson said. "He had an engine that never stopped."
Geddes was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round in 1970, but did not make the team. So he returned to Nebraska and finished his degree.
After a year away from football, he signed with the Los Angeles Rams to launch his NFL run. He played five years at linebacker for the Rams, then went to the Seattle Seahawks in the 1976 expansion draft and played three more seasons before retiring.
Played for: Boys Town High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Fullback Dick Davis of Omaha North, an All-Big Eight selection at NU
Best moment as an athlete: Late in the 1975 regular season, he intercepted a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers to preserve a victory for the Rams.
Early sign of greatness: After a game at Sioux Falls (S.D.) O'Gorman his junior year at Boys Town, the O'Gorman coach said Geddes was the best athlete who ever played on their field.
Geddes was No. 90 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »