The image of Cory Schlesinger barreling into the end zone for the winning touchdown in the 1995 Orange Bowl burns brightly in the memories of Nebraska football fans. Schlesinger did some barreling in his day, but prided himself on being a bruiser.
That trait served him well, especially in his 12 years with the Detroit Lions. He was such a fearsome blocker that he had more than 200 broken face masks.
“I kind of like that reputation,” Schlesinger said near the end of his NFL career. “I might not get in the news all the time, but I know there are a few guys that will be talking someday and say, ‘You know what? That Cory Schlesinger hit me so dang hard.’
“I know there are several scars on guys’ bodies from blowing out shoulders and things like that that they’re going to remember me by, which is always nice.”
In high school at Columbus, Schlesinger lost a combined three wrestling matches his junior and senior seasons and won two 189-pound Class A titles.
He didn’t carry the football in high school until his senior season — he ended up with 1,504 yards, second in Class A.
Schlesinger wasn’t a bad linebacker, either. “I’ve seen guys play offense with the same intensity as Schlesinger, and I’ve seen guys play defense with that same intensity,” former Omaha Central coach William Reed once said. “But I’ve never seen a guy play with as much intensity on offense and defense as Schlesinger did.”
Schlesinger had all but 16 of his 127 career carries in his final two varsity seasons at Nebraska. He totaled 706 yards (5.6 per rush) and six touchdowns. He was second on the team in rushing with 456 yards and had four TDs in his senior year –— which he capped with two fourth-quarter scores against Miami in that Orange Bowl victory that delivered the 1994 national championship, coach Tom Osborne’s first.
Schlesinger’s favorite take from that game? Flattening a Miami wedge-buster on the opening kickoff. “He was knocked out cold laying there,” Schlesinger said. “That was a play I said, ‘This is going to be a good game.’”
The 6-foot, 247-pound Schlesinger had to show the Lions he was a good blocker early — his first four pro seasons were Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders’ last four. Schlesinger never had more than 49 carries in a pro season, although he did catch 60 passes in 2001.
In recent years, Schlesinger has taught high school industrial arts in Allen Park, Michigan.
Played for: Columbus High, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Detroit Lions
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Ahman Green
Best moment as an athlete: Schlesinger, who scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including the game-winner in the 1995 Orange Bowl that clinched Tom Osborne's first national title, opted for the opening kickoff, when he flattened a Miami wedge-buster. "He was knocked out cold laying there," Schlesinger said. "That was a play I said, 'This is going to be a good game.'"
Schlesinger was No. 61 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »