The two-platoon star who was a bright spot while Nebraska football struggled coming out of World War II, Tom Novak had arguably one of the best nicknames in any sport: Train Wreck.
The Huskers won only 11 games from 1946 through 1949, but you couldn’t tell it from Novak. Making his biggest mark as a linebacker and center, the 5-foot-10, 206-pounder out of Omaha South was all-conference all four years and All-American as a senior.
The World-Herald series "The Nebraska 100" had this description: "‘Train Wreck’ was known for wiping out all that stood in his path as a bruising two-way player, wearing a sponge rubber pad on his chest to help cushion blows."
Novak’s sophomore season included a dominating effort on defense in a loss to Notre Dame; the Fighting Irish put him on their all-opponent team for the season.
Novak never played football again after a 1950 all-star game in Chicago. He was the first Husker to have his number (60) retired.
The Tom Novak Award goes annually to the Nebraska senior who "best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds."
Novak was paralyzed after a 1976 fall at his Lincoln home and died in 1998.
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