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This is part one of a two-part series with Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. Coach Osborne talks about growing up in a small-town in Nebraska and working under legendary coach Bob Devaney. Part two of the series is located here. You can subscribe to The Game Before the Money Podcast on all major podcast apps.

You probably know Tom Osborne as the legendary head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Did you know that he was a tremendous athlete as well? He even played in the NFL!

This episode of The Game before the Money Podcast sits down with Coach Osborne as he talks about his hometown of Hastings, Nebraska and reviews his time as a high school, college, and professional athlete. He also tells us how he got a job as an assistant coach at Nebraska under the great Bob Devaney and the back-to-back National Championships that the Cornhuskers won with Devaney at the helm. Coach Osborne also takes us onto the sidelines for the 1971 Nebraska Oklahoma Game of the Century.

You can listen to the podcast on the player below or on your favorite podcast listening app. You can also scroll through the transcription on the player below.

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Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Welcome to The Game before the Money Podcast. Brought to you by NB Autographs .com . That’s N as in Namath, B as in Biletnikoff – NB Autographs .com.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The Game before the Money Podcast.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Celebrating pro and college football history. One legend at a time.

Introduction

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Hi everybody, welcome to The Game before the Money Podcast. I’m Jackson Michael, author of The Game for the Money and writer director of We Were the Oilers. The Luv Ya Blue Era.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Very special episode today as we celebrate Nebraska football coaching legend Tom Osborne and the rich tradition of Nebraska football. This is part one of two parts that will focus on Coach’s early life, the early years of Nebraska football and Tom Osborne’s time as an assistant when the great Bob Devaney was head coach at the University of Nebraska. Many people affectionately refer to Bob Devaney as the Bob-father of Nebraska football. But for many of us, coach Tom Osborne symbolizes Nebraska football. Nebraska’s rich tradition, however, dates back to the late eighteen hundreds. Their star player at the time was George Flippen, who was one of the first African-Americans to play college football. Nebraska went through several team names, including the Bugeaters — after hardy Nebraska farmers who needed to eat bugs to survive an early 1890s economic depression. The team was also known as the Antelopes and Old Golden Knights before becoming the Cornhuskers in nineteen hundred. Nebraska rapidly carved out a nationally competitive program with teams powered by future NFL pioneer and Hall of Famer Guy Chamberlain. The 1920s brought wins over the famed Notre Dame Four Horsemen teams in two out of three games. They even shut out Red Grange’s famous Illinois powerhouse in 1925, coaching legend Dana X, Bible coached in Nebraska for eight seasons and won six conference championships. Nebraska stood as a premier football school when the Cornhuskers reached the nineteen forty one Rose Bowl, and in their first 50 years, the school’s football program suffered only three losing seasons. Nebraska then slipped a few notches during World War Two and the 1950s.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Oscar Wilde wrote that life imitates art far more than art imitates life, and indeed, Coach Tom Osborne’s life’s story is kind of like a novel or a movie in some ways. He was born in a small Nebraska town in the late stages of the Great Depression. Along the way, he would become an outstanding athlete and a legendary college football coach, winning multiple national championships in his home state, a state that would eventually elect him to Congress. Again, that might sound like a great movie or a great novel, but it’s the true story of coach Tom Osborne.

Early life in Hastings, NE

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Osborne was born in Hastings, Nebraska, in 1937. At that time, the town’s population was about 15000. A few years before that, a man named Edwin Perkins invented a powdered drink in Hastings, Nebraska, that you likely enjoyed as a kid called Kool-Aid. During World War 2, Hastings became home to an important naval ammunition depot which produced a substantial percentage of the U.S. Navy’s artillery during the war. But we’re not here to talk about kool aid. World War Two, or even politics. We’re here to talk about football and the life story of coach Tom Osborne. Osborne’s hometown is a little over 100 miles from Nebraska’s Mecca of college football, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. And like you’d see in a movie or read about in a novel. Coach Osborne remembers going to games there as a kid.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Oh, I think I was probably in sixth or seventh grade I went to maybe one Nebraska football game a year. They had something called the knot hole section where you could get in for twenty five cents. At that time, Nebraska wasn’t particularly good, but 21 years or between 1941 or so and nineteen sixty two they only had three winning seasons. Oklahoma pretty much dominated the conference during that time.

High School/College/NFL

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
As Osborne garnered his own memories of Nebraska football. He helped generate memories for his hometown. In high school, he helped his team win a state basketball championship. He won the discus event at the state track meet and placed second in the 440 yard dash. Did I mention that he was All-State in both football and basketball? Not only that, he was named Nebraska’s High School Athlete of the Year by the Omaha World Herald in 1955. His outstanding high school athletic career recently landed him in the National High School Hall of Fame. Even his Legion baseball team won a state championship. In fact, he sparkled on the baseball diamond enough to earn a pro baseball contract offer. He chose to go to college instead and attended Hastings College in his hometown. 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 sixty yard touchdown pass against the St. Louis Cardinals from quarterback Norm Snead in 1961 likely stands as his biggest career highlight. 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 is 1962, Nebraska just hired Wyoming head coach Bob Devaney to take over the football program. They finished the previous season 3, 6 and 1 and hoped that Devaney would turn things around.

Hired as an assistant

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I had been playing in the NFL and came back to Nebraska.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
University of Nebraska to go graduate school. He had just been hired at Nebraska from the University of Wyoming in January of 1962. So, I went over to talk to him and asked him if I could help coach spring ball to really kind of ease my way out of athletics. And he said he had all the coaches he needed, but he wanted me to move in with some kids or 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.

Bob Devaney’s impact

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Coach Osborne fills us in on Bob Devaney’s immediate impact.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
He certainly changed the culture. I think the preceding year in nineteen sixty one, they had won three games and lost six and his first year they went nine and two. So, a tremendous turnaround.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Bob, Devaney indeed turned things around for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They when their first six games under Devaney finishing 1962 with a 9 – 2 record and a bowl game victory over Miami. In 1963, Devaney raised the stakes and the prominence of Nebraska football. The Huskers ran the Big Eight table, topping rival Oklahoma and defeating Auburn in the Orange Bowl. They finished sixth in the AP poll. The team’s first top 10 finish since 1940, the season that led them to the Rose Bowl. In 1964, 1965, and 1966. Nebraska won at least nine games and played in either the Cotton, Orange, or Sugar Bowl. Although they lost all three of those bowl games the Cornhuskers were among college football’s elite and Devaney stood as one of the most respected coaches in the country. Osborne tells us what he thinks some of Devaney’s strengths were as a head coach.

Bob Devaney’s strengths

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
He had a good feel for people. He related with other people, had a good sense of humor. He brought a staff with him, maybe brought five or six coaches with him and kept a couple from the preceding staff. And these guys all pretty much understood each other. Bob advocated a very physical approach to the game.

Osborne’s new ideas as asst.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The team slipped in 1967 and 68 and finished six and four both years. Devaney lost some of the popularity that he had gained among Nebraska’s faithful. He promoted Osborne, who had been working for him as an assistant coach at this point, to offensive coordinator before the 1969 season. Osborne made two significant contributions that would help lift Nebraska football to new heights. The first was to install the I Formation offense. The second was to convince Bob Devaney to start a weight training program for Nebraska football. Most coaches in the 1960s thought weight training slowed athletes down and limited their dexterity. Devaney approved the weight training program despite being somewhat skeptical. Both the weight training and the new offense provided immediate results. The Cornhuskers nailed down a 9 and 2 record in 1969 and subsequently thrashed Georgia in the Sun Bowl forty five to six. They ended that year, ranked 11th in the AP poll.

Nebraska’s 1st championship

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
That was just the beginning. In 1970, Nebraska trounced Wake Forest in Week 1, then tied third ranked USC on the road in Week 2. The Huskers won their next three games by a combined score of 84 to 17 and then racked up over 100 points over their next two games. They duplicated that feat later in the season. At the end of the regular season, the Huskers stood 10, 0 and 1 and ranked number 3 in the AP poll. They faced a dangerous LSU squad in the Orange Bowl. Coach Osborne remembers the game for us.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
It wasn’t a very high scoring game. We played well on defense. They had a quarterback named Bert Jones, who later played in the NFL, and they had some good players. But we kind of worn down a little bit and went ahead in the fourth quarter. We didn’t blow them out — that’s for sure.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Bert Jones went on to become an outstanding NFL quarterback for the Baltimore Colts in the 1970s. Meanwhile, the 17-12 Orange Bowl victory launched Nebraska into the AP poll’s top ranking — earning Nebraska their first ever national championship. Back then, before both the College Football Playoff and the BCS, National Championship titles were often split when voting polls didn’t agree. In 1970, Texas won the UPI National Championship and Ohio State won the National Football Foundation poll, Both the UPI and National Football Foundation polls were decided before bowl games, however, and both Texas and Ohio State lost their bowl games. The AP poll and ranked Texas and Ohio State number one and two respectively, in the weeks leading into the bowl games. But Nebraska vaulted over both with their Orange Bowl victory to claim the AP title.

1971 Nebraska football

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska entered the nineteen seventy one season, ranked number two in the preseason poll. After week one, however, they jumped to the top spot. Quarterback Jerry Tagee masterfully guided the offense. Johnny Rodgers, nicknamed Johnny the Jet Rodgers for his tremendous speed and agility, led the big eight in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. The Husker defense, led by 1971 Outland Trophy winner Larry Jacobson and future Outland Trophy winner Rich Glover on the line, crushed their opponents.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The line also featured Willie Harper and sophomore John Dutton, who had long NFL careers ahead. Going into week 10, Nebraska had outscored opponents 345 – 47. That’s nearly a 300 point margin. Nebraska held on to the top spot throughout the season and looked like possibly one of the greatest teams of all time.

1971 Nebraska Oklahoma

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
While Nebraska clobbered their opponents, their biggest rival, Oklahoma, posted even higher point totals. The Wishbone offense installed by their offensive coordinator, Barry Switzer in 1970 had been perfected by quarterback Jack Mildren and star running back Greg Pruitt. The Sooners scored over 40 points in six of their first nine games, including scores of fifty five, fifty six and even seventy five points in a single game. All of the domination that both teams showed led to a showdown on Thanksgiving Day at Oklahoma between number one, Nebraska and the number two Sooners. Both teams had held those positions for several weeks after OU climbed to number two in mid-October. The 1971 Nebraska Oklahoma matchup was one of the handful of games that sportswriters dubbed “The Game of the Century” in the week leading up to it. Other games hyped as The Game of the Century, such as a scoreless tie between Army and Notre Dame in 1946, and the 1966 Notre Dame – Michigan State matchup that ended in a 10 10 tie, arguably didn’t live up to their pre-game hype.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The 1971 Nebraska Oklahoma game, however, well that one really might stand as The Game of the Century. I’ll take a moment to place some perspective on this. For those of you who don’t remember the pre-BCS and College Football Playoff era in college football. Having the top two teams play each other late in the season was a big deal. Rarely did that ever happen. And then add to the fact that at that time, Nebraska and Oklahoma were the bitterest of rivals. We’re talking Ohio State/Michigan bitter. Alabama/Auburn bitter. Maybe even Hatfield and McCoy bitter. And a lot of Nebraska and Oklahoma fans to this day still have a great disdain for the other school. Nebraska entered Oklahoma’s Owen Field with a twenty nine game unbeaten streak. The Cornhuskers had the nation’s top ranked defense and the Sooners the number one offense. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day and at that time garnered the largest television audience ever for a college football game.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska forced O.U. To punt about four minutes into the game. Johnny the Jet Rodgers fielded the punt at the Nebraska 30, amidst a swarm of tacklers. He made a couple of exciting cuts and even ran backwards to escape. He broke into the open field and raced into the end zone for the game’s first score. I highly recommend searching for that play online. It’s a bit like the famous Marcus Allen touchdown in Super Bowl Eighteen. Johnny Rodgers’ touchdown would give Nebraska a seven to nothing lead. The Cornhuskers built a fourteen to three lead before Oklahoma nudged ahead late in the first half with two touchdowns. The second came with just seconds left in the first half and capped a four play drive that covered over 70 yards. Oklahoma led 17 to 14 at the half. It was the first time Nebraska trailed their opponent at any point during the 1971 season.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Oklahoma had some great players on that team. The biggest problem was the wishbone. That was the first time we saw the wishbone and it was such a different type of offense that it caused our defense some problems.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
After halftime, Nebraska literally pounded out two 3rd quarter touchdowns by running back Jeff Kinney, his second and third touchdowns of the game. Those touchdowns put the Cornhuskers ahead 28 to 17. But Oklahoma pressed closer as O.U. Quarterback Jack Mildren scored his second touchdown of the game to cap a seventy two yard drive as the clock dwindled to less than 30 seconds left in the third quarter. The scoreboard read twenty eight – twenty four in Nebraska’s favor. Soon afterwards, however, Oklahoma rumbled sixty nine yards and eleven plays. The Sooners scored on Mildren second touchdown pass of the game to John Harrison.

Nebraska’s game winning TD

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Oklahoma led thirty one to twenty eight with seven minutes left. The Huskers took the ball on their own Twenty six. On third down, Jeff Kinney broke three tackles to pull Nebraska to midfield. The Sooners then forced the third in eight as the clock dipped under the five minute mark. Johnny Rogers made a tough catch on his knees to convert the first down at the Sooner thirty five. Runs by Kinney and Rogers pulled Nebraska to the fifteen as the game’s hourglass sifted under the three minute mark. Jeff Kinney, wearing only half of a shredded jersey in the frosty Thanksgiving afternoon, punched the ball in the end zone with slightly over 90 seconds left for his fourth touchdown of the game, giving Nebraska a thirty five – thirty one lead. Coach Osborne fills us in on Nebraska’s game plan during that critical 12 play scoring drive,.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
They were playing a six one defense. We eventually began to run a counter dive which meant the fullback went off the right guard and then the I-back off the left guard or vice versa and that really neutralized that middle linebacker. He pretty much had to stay in place and couldn’t flow. The center was able to get out and block him. As a result, we ran the ball, I think, all but one play on the last drive. Jeff Kinney had a very fine ballgame and Johnny Rodgers caught a key third down pass.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
As the clock ticked down under overcast skies, Oklahoma gathered itself for a final drive On third down, Nebraska’s Larry Jacobson sacked Mildren for a substantial loss, pinning the Sooners back to their own fifteen. As Oklahoma’s season rested on the outcome of one last fourth down gasp, the Huskers’ Rich Glover crashed down upon Mildren like a tidal wave, knocking the ball backwards and into the hands of Larry Jacobson, ensuring Nebraska’s victory on the Oklahoma turf. Jacobson would be named that year’s Outland Trophy winner. Rich Glover would win the prestigious award the next year. Osborne says that Glover made a huge difference in The Game of the Century win over Oklahoma.

Rich Glover — huge asset

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
We were playing an odd defense. We had Glover on the center’s nose. In those days they didn’t do a lot of zone blocking where the center and the guards work together on a nose guard. Their center was a guy named Tom Brahaney, who was a good player, but to have the center block Rich Glover one on one was very difficult. And as a result, Rich made a huge number of tackles. He was a former high school wrestler — wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, probably 200 pounds, but he had great mobility and strength and he really was a major asset for us in that game.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Glover’s 22 tackles. Jeff Kinney’s four touchdowns and one hundred and seventy one yards rushing. Johnny Rodgers amazing punt return and clutch receptions. Those performances and more cast a legendary bronze upon this game in Nebraska folklore. Two days later, Bear Bryant’s undefeated Alabama squad trounced previously unbeaten Auburn and 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan. That set up an Orange Bowl between two giant unbeatens: Nebraska and Alabama. The pre-game hype and the game drama didn’t match that of the Thanksgiving Game of the Century. Nebraska pulverized the Crimson Tide Thirty eight – six to claim the Cornhuskers second straight national championship. This one by a clear consensus in the polls.

3 starters from same HS

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Coach Osborne pointed out an interesting fact. Three players who contributed greatly to Nebraska’s success, including quarterback Jerry Tagee, went to high school together in a small Midwestern town known for football, although located outside of the state boundaries of Nebraska. The town of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
We had an assistant named George Kelly, who recruited that area before and knew about Jerry. And I think actually we had three starters from that same high school up there on some of our best teams. We had Jerry Tagee at quarterback, we had Dave Mason and Jim Anderson who were defensive backs. So it was pretty phenomenal to have one high school produce three starters on our national championship team.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska head coach Bob Devaney returned in 1972, hoping to claim a third straight national championship. Johnny Rodgers won the Heisman Trophy. Rich Glover won the Outland Trophy, but the team lost its opener at UCLA as future NFL kicker Efren Herrera booted a game winning field goal with 22 seconds left. Nebraska ended the season 9-2-1, far outside of the national championship race, despite dominating Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. After the season, Bob Devaney stepped down from his head coaching role and handed the reins to Tom Osborne.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Football Coach (25 years), College Football Hall of Fame, Former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I was with him for eleven years and he stepped down and said he’d like to have me be the head coach. That was in nineteen seventy three.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
From keeping an eye on things in the dorm to revamping the Cornhuskers offense, Tom Osborne proved himself worthy of a chance at leading his home state Nebraska football team into its next generation of greatness. We’ll chat with Coach Osborne about his head coaching career and what he’s up to today in part two. In the meantime, please visit The Game before the Money’s Facebook page and Web site.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Thank you for listening to Part 1 of The Game before the Money Podcast featuring Nebraska coaching legend Tom Osborne.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Thanks to our sponsor NB Autographs .com .That’s N as in Namath, B as in Biletnikoff – NB Autographs .com.

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Also thank you to our transcription partner, Sonix. Sonix Dot AI (Sonix.ai).

Narrator: Jackson Michael — Author of THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Any opinion expressed on this program doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else, including our sponsors.

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