I had a conversation with former Husker All-America quarterback Dave Humm (1972-’74) recently after hearing Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant brought Joe Namath to Humm’s home in Las Vegas during the recruiting process in 1970.
Namath as most sports fans know is a former ’Bama quarterback from the early ’60s who went on to play professionally for the New York Jets from 1965-’76. He added to his luster before the 1969 Super Bowl when he predicted his upstart AFL champion Jets would defeat the favored NFL champion Baltimore Colts coached by Don Shula. Namath and company got the job done 16-7.
A few months later Namath showed up at Humm’s doorstep with the Bear in hopes of convincing Humm to take his football talents to Alabama instead of to one of the many other prominent college football programs including Nebraska that were pursuing him.
So Hummer, how did it go? “Joe was just cool.” Humm said, “he was a few months off of his Super Bowl win and he just said, “Welcome to Alabama, the Bear wants you. He couldn’t have been nicer.”
Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian, UCLA coach Tommy Prothro, Colorado coach Eddie Crowder as well as Bryant, Bob Devaney and Husker assistant coach John Melton were among prominent college football coaches trying to get Humm’s commitment.
“The recruiting process was never-ending.“ Humm said. “I took 12 trips on 12 straight weekends and met hundreds of people. There were stacks of mail and coaches would show up during the week and take my family to dinner and to Vegas shows.
“It was just an amazing time,” Humm said.
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The BTN bus pulled up in Lincoln a few days ago and off stepped the Big Ten Network whiz kids ready to put their analysis on the Cornhuskers of Nebraska. It was the eleventh stop on their 12-team tour and their purpose was to see how the Big Ten Conference stacks up for the coming season.
Bo Pelini greeted the travelers with his customary gracious smile and then whipped his charges into shape for a Monday afternoon practice that impressed the BTN crew.
I apologize if you’re offended by my gratuitous portrayal of Coach Pelini’s demeanor. When talking to reporters it would just be nice to see him with a look on his face that projects warmth, friendliness and cooperation.
Bo has a way to go to be a top tier head coach and I don’t think he’s the best recruiter in the Big Ten by far. It will surprise me if Nebraska wins a Big Ten championship anytime in the next several years.
However, next year when they re-align the conference following the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, Nebraska will fall into the West Division while Michigan and Ohio State will dominate the East. Nebraska’s competition in the West Division will be Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin and probably Purdue.
It will never be easy but Nebraska will have a little better opportunity to win their division and in my opinion will face Ohio State most of the time in the championship game. I think Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is a prolific recruiter and Nebraska has far too many disadvantages in the recruiting game to keep up with him.
Back to the BTN bus stop. Hear this from BTN expert Gerry DiNardo: Nebraska “is the most improved team talent and depth wise from spring that we’ve seen in 11 stops.” That’s certainly encouraging.
Some will surely disagree with me but I look for the Huskers to have a decent offense with a veteran offensive line, a group of promising athletes in the offensive backfield, a limited group of experienced defensive backs and I think their defensive line is coming along better than most Husker fans think.
It looks like the kicking game will be okay and that leaves one scary thought to ponder. Can Taylor Martinez stay healthy? A dual-threat quarterback is always more at risk than one that hangs in the pocket but a dual-threat QB is always more fun to watch so for Taylor Martinez I say go for it man, lay it all out there and have a great senior season.
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It’s curious how this works: Sports Illustrated named their top 25 college football teams and Nebraska’s nowhere in sight but 4 Husker foes are on the list in UCLA, Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan.
Then, AP offers their top 25 and they rank Nebraska #18 and Michigan #17 with UCLA and Northwestern down the list. Michigan State doesn’t even show up on the AP list but they earn a very respectable #15 spot on the SI list.
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Butch Rasmussen is the retired, former owner of the Touchdown Club in North Platte. He has been a Nebraska booster for several decades and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.