1999 – Tom Osborne

Tom Osborne has a lifetime full of extraordinary achievements. Tom grew up in Nebraska and was an exceptional athlete. By his senior year, he played on the State High School Basketball Championship team, made All-State in football, placed in the 440-yard dash and won the discus. And at the end of 1954, Tom Osborne was named Nebraska High School Athlete of the Year. Tom went on to play football and basketball at Hastings College, the only college to recruit him. As a sophomore, junior and senior, he was an All-Conference quarterback. Tom made All-Conference in basketball as a sophomore and junior. He was named Nebraska College Athlete of the Year and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. He was honored with the Bronco Award for his overall contribution to the school. Tom went on to play three years of professional football, first with the 49ers and then with the Washington Redskins. After injuries and some soul-searching, Tom went back home to Nebraska, earned a Masters and PhD in Education, and started teaching.

During his first years teaching at the University of Nebraska, Tom volunteered to help head coach Bob Devaney. At the age of 28, Tom was made an assistant coach. During his first full time year, Nebraska won the Big 8 title and the Sugar Bowl. In 1973, Tom was named the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and an era of excellence was about to begin. All 25 of his Husker teams won at least nine games and went bowling, while 15 won ten or more games. Tom’s last five Nebraska teams put together the best five-year run in collegiate football history with an amaxing 60-3 record, including five consecutive 11-win seasons. Nebraska compiled thirteen conference crowns and three National Championships, including back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. Tom Osborne ended his coaching career in 1997 with a glossy 255-49-3 record, fifth all time among Division 1 coaches. He went “out” with a final victory in the 1998 Orange Bowl, where he was the first coach in college football history to retire as a reigning national champion. The College Football Hall of Fame immediately inducted Tom Osborne, waiving the three-year wait.

Tom Osborne was committed to making a difference in the lives of his players, staff and community. Over his last six coaching years, 63 percent of his players left Nebraska with degrees in hand. His program led the nation in virtually every academic honor available to student athletes. Coach Osborne and his wife, Nancy, also have developed the Husker Teammates program which matches Nebraska football players and mentors in the community with local junior high school students in big brother/sister relationships.

In 2000, Tom Osborne was elected and currently serves in the House of Representatives.

A few career highlights:

  • Three National Championships: 1994 (Defeated Miami 24-17), 1995 (Defeated Florida 62-24) and 1997, shared title with Michigan (Defeated Tennessee 42-17)
  • Twelve Big 8 Championships and One Big 12 Championship
  • Career 255-49-3 record as head coach
  • 25 seasons with at least nine victories
  • 1994 Giant Steps Award
  • 1995 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Distinguished American Award
  • College Football Hall of Fame

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Rotary Club of Tulsa

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