When the KETV Sports Team signed off on the idea of a Throwback Thursday Huskers edition, I started compiling a list of potential players we could catch up with. Players I remember the most, players that have been Husker Nation favorites over the years, and the legend, the names and faces that are synonymous with the storied history of Nebraska Football.
One of my ‘long shots’ was a guy named Larry Jacobson. Arguably one of THE BEST in Husker history. Nebraska’s first Outland Trophy winner. One of the stars of the Game of the Century in 1971. A starting tackle on the 2-time national champion team. I tracked him down, half expecting I would never hear back if I left a message.. I mean, he’s LARRY JACOBSON.
Larry was one of the FIRST to call me back. Hilarious, outgoing, HUMBLE. Proud to be a Husker and so grateful Husker Nation remembers him.
Photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics & UNL Photographic Services
At one point in our phone conversation, I think I asked, ‘is this THE Larry Jacobson?!?’
Jacobson is now retired, enjoying his time reading, hunting, fishing and spending quiet evenings on the Platte river with his beautiful wife, Kathy. This fantastic couple welcomed us to their home a few weeks ago to talk football.
Photographer Dave Hynek and I pulled up, and the first thing I saw was an older model porsche with the license plate 71 OUTLN.
AWESOME, and just a preview of what we would see. The first thing that greets you upon walking into the Jacobson home is an enormous Outland Trophy displayed on the fireplace mantel. AN OUTLAND TROPHY. And it has company.
“And this, I just got two years ago, the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award,” said Jacobson, who then picked up a photo. “The #1 overall pick of the draft this year was JaDeveon Clowney. He was a classy guy; we had a good time with him two years ago.”
Jacobson, on the right, accepting the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award in 2012. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics, Randy York & NU Media Relations.
Jacobson wasn’t bragging and he wasn’t arrogant in showing off his collection. It was almost like he was just as much in awe of all of the hardware and moments as we were!
He then led us upstairs to his ‘man-cave’ if you will.. a room he’s painted red and nearly every inch of space decorated with a Nebraska football memento. (I believe his wife, Kathy, gets much of the credit for that 🙂 There’s a collage featuring all eight of Nebraska’s Outland Tropy Winners, all signed. You see photos of Jacobson alongside some of the most talented college football players of the last 40 years. Hanging on one wall, tickets to the Game of the Century in 1971 signed by Devaney, Osborne, Switzer, Fairbanks. The room is A MUSEUM of Husker memorabilia, each item cooler than the last, and Jacobson has a story for every piece.
Take the football, signed by Bob Devaney, who coached Nebraska in that epic game against Oklahoma.
“You say, sometimes you wish people could have the feeling once in their life that we had after that game,” said Jacobson. Then, laughing: “we brought our own food down because we were afraid they were going to poison us!”
Turn to a black and white photo of the ’71 Huskers with President Richard Nixon.
“We were drafted while we were at the White House,” said Jacobson. “When we came out from visiting in the Oval Office with Nixon, they handed us a piece of paper. I went to the Giants and Jeff [Kinney] went to the Chiefs.”
Hard to imagine the excitement a young Jacobson must have had about his future. Little did he know, less than four years later, his playing days would be over.
One play. A nasty injury. (“My ankle did a ‘280’ on me,” said Jacobson, comparing it to Sean Fisher’s leg break in 2010.) Still in his 20’s, Larry Jacobson was forced to retire from football.
Jacobson, an Academic All-American at Nebraska, became a stockbroker, a career he would devote his life to for about 30 years until his retirement.
“I saw, as I was working, too many of my clients that worked and worked and worked, finally would retire and within two or three years, they died,” said Jacobson. “I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
Jacobson and his wife, Kathy, at an Angels Among Us fundraiser in 2010. Photo courtesy of Angels Among Us and Mike Downey.
Jacobson now follows the Huskers from his season ticket seats in the south end zone, prompting a popular question from many Husker fans, ‘uh, his name is DISPLAYED ON MEMORIAL STADIUM. Why does he need tickets?!?’ Jacobson just laughs.
“You look up, and you can’t believe it’s there,” said Jacobson. “You know, my Dad lived a good life until he was 85. I wish he would’ve lived a couple more years so he could see it up there.”
And maybe Dad could’ve weighed in on the debate that seems to present itself every time another team makes a run at repeat national titles. Would any of today’s teams have beaten the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers?
“There are a lot better athletes now, but as far as an organization, as far as a team, I don’t think there’ll ever be one like the ’71 Cornhuskers,” said Jacobson.
They were the only team to beat the #2, #3, and #4 teams in the country in the same season. 25 of the men on that team went on to play professional football. The Sporting News named their team the BEST EVER.
Jacobson, who still keeps in touch with many of his teammates, calls himself ‘fortunate’ to have been a part of it all.
“People remember Johnny Rodgers. They remember Jerry Tagge, Jeff Kinney, Rich Glover and a lot of times, they remember me,” said Jacobson. “And that really makes me feel good.”
To read more about #75 Larry Jacobson, check out his bio courtesy of Nebraska Athletics.