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The Good Ol’ Days

1969.  Nebraska was selected to play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia.  No big titles on the line, no history book story lines from this match-up, but some might argue December 20, 1969 marked THE BEGINNING.

“We beat Georgia really badly,” remembers Jeff Kinney.  “Vince Dooley (Georgia’s then Head Coach) said neither one of us should’ve been in the bowl game.  They should’ve been in a better one, we should not have been in a bowl game.  But I think at that point, you could just really see things turn around.”


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Kinney was a sophomore running back at Nebraska that year, the Big 8 Sophomore of the Year in fact in a conference that would later claim the #1, #2, and #3 ranked teams in the country.  Kinney’s Huskers had tough years in the seasons leading up to that game, but followed up that Sun Bowl victory with Nebraska’s first two national football championships in 1970 and 1971.

Those Huskers were nothing short of legendary.  Jeff Kinney was an integral part of it.


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics.


Kinney grew up in McCook, Nebraska.  His memories of Nebraska football mirror thousands, if not millions of others spanning generations of Husker fans.  Families, tuning in to the radio or television every Saturday, ears and eyes glued to every moment.

“I was a fan before I was ever a player,” Kinney recently told KETV’s John Oakey.  “I knew that side of it, I knew how important it was and how much fun it was.”

As a Husker, Kinney was an offensive machine. In 1970, Kinney rushed for 684 yards, caught 20 passes for 206 yards, and scored five touchdowns… all of these numbers despite splitting time with another Husker great, Joe Orduna.  Fast forward to 1971, Kinney set the career rushing record with 2,420 yards, and he set a new Husker career touchdown record with 35.


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics.

Kinney had arguably the biggest game of his college career with 55-million people watching, the Game of the Century versus Oklahoma in 1971.  Kinney set a new season best rushing mark of 171 yards and scored four touchdowns, one of those putting Nebraska ahead of the Sooners with just minutes left to play.

Click here to watch highlights from the Game of the Century, thanks to HuskerTapes.com!

“Every play in that game had to happen for us to win.  Richie Glover, had he not played, we wouldn’t have won the game,” said Kinney.  “That particular season and that particular team just continues to live on.”

Especially when those dynastic teams seem like a distant memory at times.  Kinney, now living and working in Colorado, says it’s been discouraging sometimes watching parts of the program deteriorate.

“Every program goes through that.  It takes some retooling to get back up,” said Kinney.  “I’m really excited what they’ve got going on right now.  I love the coach, I love the athletic director, I really look forward to some good things happening.  May take two or three years, but I think the foundation is being laid, just like what we talked about, how WE started to get better after some tough seasons.”

Funny how teams and times can seem so different, and yet sometimes, seem so much the same.  Will Nebraska ever have a team like Kinney’s 1971 Huskers?  I don’t know.  Some things, though, will never change.

“This gal walks up to me and says ‘Mr. Kinney, I just want you to know you’re my Dad’s favorite player’,” Kinney described.  “She said, ‘he passed away about a month ago, but my fondest memories were riding on the tractor, every Saturday, he’d have the radio up full blast listening to the game.’  That scenario plays out a million times every Saturday in Nebraska.’


Win or lose, Husker Nation will still wear red every Saturday.  We’ll still pack Memorial Stadium waiting to let go of our balloons after that first touchdown.  We’ll still turn out in droves to meet and get an autograph from legends like Jeff Kinney.

Perhaps THAT is why we can debate what was the beginning of the Nebraska Football dynasty, but there is no end.

“I just loved playing football at Nebraska,” said Kinney.


Click here for more on #35 Jeff Kinney, courtesy Nebraska Athletics!



For a full list of KETV’s Throwback Thursday Huskers, click on the Throwback Thursday index at the top of the page!

Hail To The Chief

One of the coolest things about this Throwback Thursday Husker series we’ve been sharing this football season is seeing how many different paths these former players have taken since leaving Lincoln.  I’m not sure why I’m so surprised.  Think of the people in your graduating classes from high school and college and ask yourself, where are they now?  Of the 100+ players on the roster every season at Nebraska, there are bound to be any number of careers and futures these young men pursue.

Today’s featured Husker didn’t dream of or plan for the career he ended up in, but he calls it ‘great’, and has risen to one of the highest ranks in his department.

john mccormick

Assistant Fire Chief John McCormick (thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!)

By our guess, there are seven or eight men on the Omaha Fire Department who played football at Nebraska.  Ironically, the highest ranking member of that small club has kept his time as ‘Captain’ a secret at work.

“Most don’t know,” McCormick told me in a recent interview.  “Most of the guys on the fire department weren’t even a twinkle in their dads’ eye when I played.”


1987, John McCormick was in his senior season, his third year starting as Nebraska’s right guard.  That year, he was named Team Co-Captain, First Team All-American, First Team All-Big 8 and an Academic All-Big 8 player.  McCormick’s Huskers earned respect by playing some of the biggest names in football that season.

“Arizona State, UCLA, South Carolina, big power teams,” said McCormick.  “But all the hype was usually around Oklahoma.  That was always a big rivalry back then.”

87 nu ok

Screen grab from our friend Jake Jacobsen at HuskerTapes.com; watch his clips of the 1987 NU vs OK game here!

McCormick, an Omaha native and graduate of Gross High School, is still passionate about today’s Huskers.  His favorite: Nebraska’s star running back Ameer Abdullah.

“I think he’s a quality person, he has good character,” said McCormick.  “And he’s a very good running back.  I think he’s going to do well in his life.”

So has McCormick, who is now saving lives as an Omaha firefighter.  A quick search of the KETV archives shows McCormick was one of the first responders at Molotov cocktail fires, at 2-alarm house fires, at scenes where firefighters risked their own lives to save strangers.

January 20, 2014 was no exception.

international nutrition collapse

Then Battalion Chief John McCormick was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the International Nutrition plant minutes after the building collapsed, trapping workers inside.

 “We had to rely on training and on our experience throughout our career to do the best we could,” said McCormick.  “We were able to get a few people out.  Sad that we couldn’t get everybody out.”

Two men died that day.  Firefighters rescued at least nine others who were hurt, but survived.  I remember anchoring our coverage that day while reporters Kyle Gravlin and Amanda Crawford reported from the field, and none of us knew how many were trapped or lost inside.  We did know firefighters were inside, trying to find them, NOT knowing how stable the plant was or what could happen around them at any moment.

Just last month, seven of those firefighters were given Medals of Courage and/or Lifesaving Medals for their heroic efforts that day.  At the same ceremony, Battalion Chief John McCormick was promoted to Assistant Chief.

“I consider it to be a lot like football in that it’s a team sport,” said McCormick.  “It’s a team job.  You need to accomplish a lot by using other people.  The old cliché, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

And as the Huskers are hopefully gaining strength during this bye week, preparing for new Nebraska rival Wisconsin, McCormick offers this advice.

“This is such an important part of their life, but it’s only a short part of their life,” said McCormick, now a married father of eight in addition to his duties with the fire department.  “Play hard, practice hard, prepare well and leave everything out on the field.”

To read more about #61 John McCormick, check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics!


Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Jammal Lord!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. the Class of 2003, Brett Lindstrom!

Forever Young

Think back to something you did when you were 17 years old.  How about 18?

When I was 17, I was in Grease at Papillion-La Vista High School (along with Adrian Whitsett!).  At 18, I saw my first Atlanta Braves game in person at Chase Field in Arizona.

At 17, Monte Anthony became one of Nebraska football’s leading rushers, a rare true freshman starting at a perennial powerhouse.  He did all of that while taking 27 credit hours worth of classes at Nebraska, according to national broadcasters during the 1974 Sugar Bowl.

<jaw drops>


Monte-Stock Photo

Hard to imagine the pressure this man faced at such a young age.  KETV’s Andrew Ozaki asked Anthony about it a few weeks ago, when Anthony was inducted into Bellevue East High School’s Hall of Fame.

“It was fantastic,” said Anthony.  “Actually, Coach Osborne, I see as a father figure.  He taught me perseverance, team work, and that you can get out there and get it done if you want to get it done.”

The night before the Sugar Bowl, Coach Osborne also taught Anthony a tough lesson about responsibility.  Anthony told me he was out with his family and missed curfew.  He still clearly recalls what Coach Osborne told him.

“You’re a freshman, you can’t do that!” said Anthony.  He remembers running laps and then riding the bench in the first half of that big bowl game.

It had to be torture watching this one from the sidelines.  At the half, Florida had shut out Nebraska 10-0.  Coach Osborne came out of the locker room with a new plan.

“Tom called upon me,” said Anthony.  “I was totally shocked and stunned.”


Photo courtesy of HuskerMax.com!

Anthony was ready to deliver for his team and in the 4th quarter he had his chance.

“Tony Davis (Husker fullback) took me by the face mask when the play was called and said ‘we are taking this in’,” described Anthony.  “You knew the entire team was one.”

Anthony dove into the end zone and scored Nebraska’s only touchdown of the game.  It was enough; that drive sparked two more field goals and Nebraska beat Florida 13-10.

Click here to watch Anthony’s 1974 Sugar Bowl highlights, thanks to Jake Jacobsen & HuskerTapes.com.

One of my favorite parts about these highlights, aside from the SMASHING 1974 broadcast journalist attire, is the commentary.

“Many college football players are fine students, but few if any can equal the dual performance of Nebraska’s Monte Anthony on the field and in the classroom,” said ABC’s Don Tollefson.  “In the classroom, he was piling up 27 semester credits while excelling in different courses like calculus, chemical engineering and computer science.”

“I actually received 10 hours of calculus credit my first semester by taking the 3rd semester math course,” Anthony told me.  “In reality,  I was only physically taking 17 hours and got credit for 27.”

If you’ve been in college, you know 17 hours is STILL an incredible commitment for any student, let alone a student athlete.  But THAT is part of the message Monte Anthony wants high school and college athletes to take away from his time at Nebraska.

“I would say make sure you’re prepared.  Not only physically, but mentally,” said Anthony.  “Really, it starts in high school.  Align yourself with good people.  Make good decisions and your first couple of years, really get the program down as far as academics.”

Anthony was pretty darn good ON the field as well as off.  He was Nebraska’s leading rusher from 1974-1975, racking up 1,310 yards in just two seasons.  He was drafted in the 8th round in 1978 by Baltimore.  Still, it was ultimately that academic foundation that would come to use in his career, as he came back to Omaha when his playing days were over.  Anthony is now in project management at First Data.  He has two daughters and speaks to young kids about the lessons he’s learned and his favorite moments as a Nebraska Cornhusker.

“Of course, I wish we would’ve had a lot bigger linemen as they do today!” Anthony joked.  “It was really the experience, the fans, the team.  But scoring is always the best.”

And while Monte Anthony can certainly look back at that 17 and 18 year old Husker with pride, he’s not living in the past by any means.

“Just loving Omaha, loving Nebraska and living the good life!” said Anthony.



CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Class of 1971, Larry Jacobson!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday.. Class of 1998, Jay Foreman!