Tom Osborne as an Athlete
Legendary Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne grew up in Hastings, Nebraska. Although he was a standout athlete, he attended Hastings College in his hometown rather than the University of Nebraska.
He played both football and basketball in college. He played football well enough that the San Francisco Forty Niners drafted him in the 19th round of the 1959 NFL draft.
He never played a regular season game for San Francisco, but he played for the Washington Redskins in 1960 and 1961. Catching a 60-yard touchdown pass against the St. Louis Cardinals from quarterback Norm Snead in 1961 likely stands as his biggest career highlight.
How Tom Osborne Started at Nebraska
People are often surprised that coach Tom Osborne was also an exceptional athlete who even made the NFL. That’s likely because his coaching career puts him on the short list of the greatest college coaches of all time. His coaching career started with a fairly obscure assignment. The year was 1962. Nebraska just hired Wyoming head coach Bob Devaney to take over the football program. They finished the previous season 3-6-1 and hoped that Devaney would turn things around.
Osborne shared how he got hired onto Coach Devaney’s staff on The Game Before the Money Podcast.
“I had been playing in the NFL and came back to Nebraska,” Coach Osborne said. “I went over to talk to (Devaney) and asked him if I could help coach spring ball to really kind of ease my way out of athletics. He said he had all the coaches he needed, but he wanted me to move in with some kids that were in a dorm that were causing trouble and told me if I would keep those guys in line that he would give me free meals on the training table.
“So I did that. And then it apparently went well and when spring ball came around he said he’d like to have me as an assistant coach. And so I was a graduate assistant for a couple years. I was doing graduate work and also teaching. One thing led to another and he hired me full time.” Coach Bob Devaney and Coach Tom Osborne both had tremendously successful careers as the head coach of Nebraska football. Both coaches won multiple national championships. The pair combined to build one of the winningest football programs in college football history. The Cornhuskers tallied an amazing 40 consecutive winning seasons, with the vast majority of those seasons under either Coach Devaney or Coach Osborne.