THE NEBRASKA 100




No. 74
No. 72


73. Tom Osborne

Football, Track & Field, Baseball, Basketball / Hastings / Born: 1937

QUICK FACTS:


Played for: Hastings High, Hastings College, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins

Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Osborne admired Bobby Reynolds but never played against the Grand Island star, who was six years older. Of those Osborne met on the field, he remembers Doane's Bill Lovercheck of Clay Center.

Best moment as an athlete: Osborne led Hastings College to the Mineral Water Bowl as a sophomore quarterback in 1957. "It wasn't much compared to the Orange Bowl, but it was a big deal for us." Hastings lost to William Jewell. But an official at the game told his brother, who worked for the San Francisco 49ers, about Osborne. That day helped lead to Osborne's short NFL career.

Before he won 255 games in 25 seasons as the most accomplished football coach ever at the University of Nebraska, Tom Osborne spent years making other coaches look smart. "I played every sport," he said. "Athletics were my whole life."

And he was good. Still just one of two men to win The World-Herald's high school (1955) and state college (1959) athlete of the year awards, Osborne said he knew his skills were better than average as a grade-schooler.

"I don't know if there was ever a light bulb that went on," he said. "I just went out and played. But from an early age, I was doing pretty well at just about everything."

In high school, Osborne was not forced to pick a sport. He was all-state in football and basketball in 1954-55, helping Hastings to a state title on the hardwood. In track, he placed second as a senior in the 440-yard dash at the state meet and won the discus.

The future coach and congressman also stood out on the baseball diamond. He was even offered a professional baseball contract before settling on hometown Hastings College, where he played basketball and football.

"I really loved both sports and could have played either at Nebraska," he said. "But (basketball coach) Jerry Bush didn't think I had time to play football. (Football coach) Bill Glassford wanted me, too, but he didn't want me to play basketball.

"Nebraska, at that time, was struggling somewhat athletically. Hastings College was a natural choice, because I had grown up across the street."

Osborne played quarterback for four seasons in college before moving to wide receiver with the 49ers and Redskins.

His NFL playing time was limited, so Osborne returned to his home state as a graduate-assistant football coach under Bob Devaney in 1962.

You probably know the rest.

-- Mitch Sherman


QUICK FACTS:


Played for: Hastings High, Hastings College, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins

Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Osborne admired Bobby Reynolds but never played against the Grand Island star, who was six years older. Of those Osborne met on the field, he remembers Doane's Bill Lovercheck of Clay Center.

Best moment as an athlete: Osborne led Hastings College to the Mineral Water Bowl as a sophomore quarterback in 1957. "It wasn't much compared to the Orange Bowl, but it was a big deal for us." Hastings lost to William Jewell. But an official at the game told his brother, who worked for the San Francisco 49ers, about Osborne. That day helped lead to Osborne's short NFL career.