Jay Novacek has been to pro football’s mountaintop, winning three Super Bowl rings as a starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s.
The 1981 Gothenburg High graduate was named to five Pro Bowls and finished his professional career with 422 receptions, 4,630 yards and 30 touchdowns.
But what stands out most in a diverse athletic career that also included All-America football and track and field honors at the University of Wyoming?
“My highlight was my senior year of high school football at Gothenburg,” Novacek said. “It was the best sports time I’ve had. I would place it above winning Super Bowls. The guys from that team are still my best friends.”
The 6-foot-4 Novacek was an all-state quarterback for that 1980 Gothenburg team that was coached by his father, Pat Novacek. Unlike his time with the Cowboys, Novacek didn’t win any championships with the high school Swedes.
“We went 7-1 and didn’t make the playoffs,” he said. “Lexington beat us. I missed a couple of field goals, and we got beat 7-6.”
After a 12-year NFL career that ended after the 1996 season, Novacek didn’t venture far from Gothenburg. He owned a 3,500-acre hunting ranch south of Brady, Nebraska, the Upper 84 Ranch. He sold the ranch in 2006 and has returned to the Dallas area.
In 2008, Novacek was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in the same class as his Dallas quarterback, Troy Aikman.
Played for: Gothenburg High, Wyoming Cowboys, St. Louis-Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Tom Rathman, a San Francisco 49ers fullback who graduated from Grand Island High. "The things he was able to do for the San Francisco 49ers were pretty spectacular. He and our Cowboys fullback, Daryl Johnston, were outstanding. They blocked well, and they were involved in the running game and passing game. Tom Rathman was really, truly one of the great athletes.''
Novacek was No. 37 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »