Hall of Fame announces inductees an award winners
Recipients of the Nebraska Chapter, National Football Foundation Hall of Fame and Recognition Awards were announced on Tuesday by Chapter President, Irv Veitzer.
Former Huskers voted into the Hall by Chapter membership are:
STEVE MANSTEDT Defensive End 1971-72-73
DALE KLEIN Place-Kicker 1984-85-86
BILL WEBER Defensive End 1981-82-83-84
AHMAN GREEN I-Back 1995-96-97
JOSH HESKEW Center 1995-96-97-98
DEJUAN GROCE Corner Back/Punt Returner 1999-00-01-02
Players from the Nebraska State College/University four-year level of play voted into the Hall by Chapter membership are MITCH JOHNSON and JIM IRWIN both of whom played at Kearney State College/University of Nebraska, Kearney. Johnson was a defensive back/punt returner in 1973-74-75-76. Irwin was a receiver in 1960-61-62-63.
By chapter decree, FRANK SOLICH, former head football coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, is recipient of Nebraska Chapter, National Football Foundation Hall of Fame coaching award and enters the Hall of Fame.
The CLARENCE E. SWANSON MERITORIOUS SERVICE AWARD goes to DAN and CARA WHITNEY. The Chapter's LYELL BREMSER SPECIAL MERIT AWARD recipients are RON and JEANIE CARSON of Omaha, Nebraska.
Induction and award ceremonies will be held Friday evening, September 21, 2012 at the Nebraska West Stadium Club, Level 3, inside Memorial Stadium (6:00 p.m.). On-field pre-game recognition will be extended to all honorees at the Nebraska-Idaho State game on Saturday, September, 22nd. Coach Solich, who will be unable to attend due to his commitments as the head coach at Ohio University, will be inducted in absentee on Sept. 21 and will be honored in Memorial Stadium as soon as his schedule allows.
Nebraska Football Hall of Fame 2012
SPECIAL MERIT AWARD WINNERS
Clarence E. Swanson Meritorious Service Award -- Dan and Cara Whitney
Dan (Larry the Cable Guy) and Cara Whitney have been named the winners of the Clarence E. Swanson Meritorious Service Award given by the Nebraska Chapter of the Football Hall of Fame.
Inaugurated by the Nebraska chapter in 1972, the Clarence E. Swanson Meritorious Service Award honors a person "for outstanding contributions to the University of Nebraska and the Husker Athletic Department through personal service, personal support of athletic department programs and dedication to the Husker football program and intercollegiate athletics."
Dan and Cara, who reside in Nebraska with their two children, son Wyatt and daughter Reagan, are avid Husker fans of all sports and particularly football. His signature camouflage hat has the Nebraska "N" emblazoned on it as he proudly promotes the Huskers nationally and internationally. Dan and Cara rarely miss a Husker football game and generously donated to build and equip the Nebraska Football Recruiting Lounge. They also made a significant contribution to the Championship Drive in 2006 to help build the Osborne Athletic Complex and the North Stadium addition. They also support other Husker sports programs, including the Nebraska baseball and basketball programs.
A former radio personality, Cara is the driving force behind the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. When their son, Wyatt, was born with hip dysplasia, Cara recognized the need for more information. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI) grew out of Cara's desire to help others avoid the problems she and her husband faced. Cara and her husband, Dan, are the major benefactors for this program through the Git-R-Done Foundation. In 2010, the Git-R-Done Foundation donated $5 million to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for further development of the IHDI. The Hospital opened a new wing called the "Wyatt Whitney Wing" of the hospital. The construction was completed in May 2012. The Git-R-Done Foundation has also made local donations of $1.2 million to The Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln and $1 million to the Nebraska Child Advocacy Center. The Git-R-Done Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by Dan and his wife, Cara, as a focal point for the family's philanthropy in 2009. The foundation's mission is to provide assistance to charitable organizations that have experienced hardships beyond their control, with an emphasis on children and veterans.
The Whitneys also donated money to buy new theatrical equipment for the local high school in Dan's hometown of Pawnee City, NE.
Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy) is a multi-platinum recording artist, Grammy nominee, Billboard award winner and one of the top comedians in the country. He has his own line of merchandise and continues to sell out theatres and arenas across the United States. Larry has created The Git-R-Done Foundation, which was named after Larry's signature catchphrase, and has donated more than $7 million to various charities.
Currently, Larry is the host of Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy for The History Channel, which has been ordered for a third season. The show premiered in 2011 and was a huge ratings success. In each episode, Larry visits various sites across the country revealing bits of real history while immersing himself in new and different lifestyles, jobs and hobbies that celebrate the American experience.
Lyell Bremser Special Merit Award Ron and Jeanie Carson
Ron and Jeanie Carson have been named the recipients of the Lyell Bremser Special Merit Award. Ron and Jeanie reside in Omaha and have three children. They enjoy spending time with their family, golfing, flying, and are avid Nebraska Cornhusker fans.
Long-time season ticket holders for football and men's basketball, the Carson's have been generous contributors to Husker Athletics for many years, not only with monetary support but also with personal service. Ron initiated the Husker Football Air Force Fund and annually contributes use of his plane to assist the Husker football coaches in recruiting. He has also encouraged others to contribute in this manner, helping the group to grow and enabling the NU football staff to more efficiently visit the best recruits across the nation.
Ron Carson is founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group, a comprehensive wealth management firm, and founder of Peak Advisor Alliance, a consulting program for financial advisors, both based in Omaha, Neb. Ron began in business in 1983 while attending UNL.
Ron enjoys serving other financial advisors through his consulting business and the investing public through his wealth management firm. Most recently, Ron co-authored the New York Times best-selling book Avalanche.
Jeanie is very proud of her Nebraska roots, having grown up on a farm near Decatur, Neb. Jeanie enjoys giving back to the community by having been very involved throughout the years in the Elkhorn schools. Jeanie spent several years as a member of the Elkhorn Public Schools Foundation Board and has chaired events for the Child Saving Institute and the Salvation Army. Jeanie is also the Managing Director of the Carson Family Giving Foundation.
Coach Frank Solich, University of Nebraska Assistant Coach 1979-1998, Head Coach 1998-2003
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Alma Mater, Nebraska (1966)
Inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame as a player in 1992
Inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame as a coach in 2012
NOTE: Coach Solich will not be able to attend the Hall of Fame Banquet on Sept. 21, or the game on Sept. 22, because of his head coaching duties at Ohio. However, he will be honored in Memorial Stadium as soon as he is free to attend a Husker home game.
The Nebraska Chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, by Board decree, presents its 2012 Coaching Award to the Cornhuskers' 29th Head Coach, Frank Solich. The 29-year veteran of the Nebraska football program, four as a player and 25 in the coaching ranks, was associated with three national titles, 13 conference titles, a share of two other titles and teams that played in a bowl game in each of his 29 years. Solich is the first person to achieve Hall of Fame status both as a player (1962-65) and head coach (1998-2003).
A part of the NU coaching staff for 25 years, Solich was named Tom Osborne's successor at Nebraska on Dec. 10, 1997. As head coach from 1998 to 2003, he guided NU to a 58-19 record (.753 winning percentage).
While head coach of the Cornhuskers, Solich was twice named Big 12 Coach of the Year, and placed three teams in the final AP top 10. His Huskers won the Big 12 Conference North Division twice, tied for another and beat Texas for the league crown in 1999. He sent teams to the Rose, Holiday, Fiesta, Independence and two Alamo Bowls. His Huskers went outside the league to beat Notre Dame twice, while also downing Penn State, California, Washington and TCU.
After a 9-4 record in his first season as head coach in 1998, Solich's 1999 team went 12-1, beat Texas for the conference title, and downed Tennessee 31-21 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish with a No. 2/3 final ranking in the coaches/AP polls. After going 10-2 in 2000 and finishing No. 8 in the AP Poll, Solich led the Huskers to an 11-2 record in 2001, a share of the Big 12 North Division title and an appearance in the BCS title game in the Rose Bowl against Miami. The 2001 Huskers featured the nation's top college player - Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. While Crouch captured a Heisman Trophy on the field in 2001, Kyle Vanden Bosch earned the nation's highest academic honor in 2000, capturing the Vincent dePaul Draddy Award. Following a 7-7 split of his 14-game schedule in 2002, Solich added current Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini as his defensive coordinator. The Huskers responded with a 10-3 season in 2003, Solich's final year at Nebraska.
A product of the Nebraska football program first as a player (1962-66 different years than listed above), then as an assistant coach (1979-98), Solich's career at Nebraska spanned 41 seasons. He spent 13 years as a high school head coach in Nebraska before joining the Husker coaching staff as an assistant in 1979.
Solich's first assignment on Osborne's staff was head freshman coach, and Solich finished his four years as freshman coach with a 19-1 record, before taking over as running backs coach in 1983. Noted as one of the nation's top assistant coaches, Solich was tabbed Athlon Magazine's Assistant Coach of the Year before the start of the 1993 season.
In nine of Solich's 15 seasons as running backs coach, Nebraska led the nation in rushing, and finished in the top four every year. In the same period, the Huskers led the conference in rushing 13 times, including each of the last 10 seasons, and finished second in 1986 and 1987. In fact, NU churned out more than 350 yards per game while Solich guided the running backs.
Solich recruited and coached 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. He also produced at least one all-conference running back in 13 of the 15 seasons he tutored that position. In Solich's 19 years as an assistant, the Huskers captured three national championships, all with Solich as assistant head coach. Nebraska also won 11 league championships, earned 19 postseason bowl bids and had 15 teams finish the season ranked in the nation's top 10.
In his final game as NU's assistant head coach and running backs coach, Solich helped the Huskers to a third national championship in four years with a resounding 42-17 win over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, helping Osborne go out as a reigning national champion, the only Division I-A coach to do so.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Solich was a member of Bob Devaney's first recruiting class in 1962. As a fullback, Solich earned All-Big Eight honors in 1965 and was the first Husker to rush for 200 yards in a game. His playing career earned him induction into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1992.
Solich's name can also be found in the Husker record book. As a standout fullback for the Huskers in the mid-1960s, Solich lettered in 1963, 1964 and 1965.
Nebraska running backs succeeded by developing the same work ethic that made Solich a standout fullback. Solich was an All-Big Eight fullback and co-captain of the Huskers' 1965 team and still holds the NU single-game rushing record for fullbacks with a 204-yard outing against Air Force in 1965.
In fact, that performance stood as the Husker game record by any player for 10 years. He rushed for 444 yards as a junior in 1964 and was second on the team in 1965 with 580 yards.
The teams Solich played on started the winning tradition Nebraska has enjoyed for the last four decades. The Huskers posted records of 9-2, 10-1, 9-2 and 10-1 while Solich was on the roster, won three conference titles and played in four straight bowl games. The 1965 Husker team completed the regular season unbeaten and in position for a national championship, but lost 39-28 to Bear Bryant's Alabama team in the Orange Bowl.
Solich prepped at Cleveland's Holy Name High School where he earned all-state, All-America and all-scholastic honors. After his playing days, Solich began his coaching career in the Nebraska prep ranks. He was the head coach at Holy Name High School in Omaha, in 1966 and 1967. After two seasons in Omaha, Solich moved to one of the state's top high school programs at Lincoln Southeast. With Solich at Southeast, the Knights compiled a 66-33-5 record in 11 years while capturing back-to-back Class A state titles in 1976 and 1977. For his efforts, Solich was named the Lincoln Journal Star Nebraska Boys Prep Coach of the Year in 1978.
Serving as the head coach at Ohio University in 2005, Solich has posted a seven-year record of 50-40 at Ohio and a 13-year career record of 108-59 at Ohio and Nebraska. He guided the Ohio Bobcats to a 10-4 record, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Division title and a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2011-the school's first bowl victory. He also led Ohio to an 8-5 record and an appearance in the New Orleans Bowl in 2010, to an overall record of 9-5 with an appearance in the MAC Championship as well as the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2009, and to the MAC East Division title and a berth in the GMAC Bowl in 2006.
After posting a 4-7 record in his first year at the helm of the Bobcats in 2005, Solich earned MAC Coach of the Year honors in 2006. The Bobcats' 46 wins since 2006 are the most victories by any school in the Mid-American Conference during that period. He was named to the AFCA Board of Trustees in 2008.
Solich received his bachelor's degree from Nebraska in 1966 and his master's degree in Education from Nebraska in 1972. He and his wife, Pamela, have two children, Cindy Dalton and Jeff Solich.
Ahman Green, Omaha, Neb., IB, 1995-96-97
A two-time all-conference running back from Omaha, Ahman Green played a big part in Nebraska's unbeaten national championship seasons in 1995 and 1997. At 6-0 and 215 pounds, Green won three letters (1995-96-97) while the Huskers went 36-2 during his career. He ranks second on the Husker career rushing list with 3,880 yards and scored 42 touchdowns on 574 career carries. He closed his career ranked third at NU with 4,280 all-purpose yards, including 300 receiving touchdowns and three scores on 35 receptions. As a junior in 1997, he was the nation's No. 2 rusher and produced the second-best rushing total in Nebraska history with 1,877 yards, while adding 22 touchdowns. Green reeled off 12 consecutive games of 100 yards or more, including three 200-yard efforts, in 1997. He finished his three-year stint in the NU backfield with 20 career 100-yard games, including five 200-yard performances. He capped his collegiate career by rushing for a then-Nebraska bowl record 206 yards to earn MVP honors in Nebraska's 42-17 national championship game victory over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 1998. The second-team All-American rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter alone. Green was slowed by injury in 1996, but still amassed 917 rushing yards. In 1995, he captured Big Eight Freshman-of-the-Year honors by rushing for 1,086 yards and 13 touchdowns to help carry the Huskers to their second straight national title. Green chose to enter the NFL Draft following his junior season, and he was a third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1998. After playing for Seattle in 1998 and 1999, Green spent his next seven seasons starring in Green Bay. In 2003, he set the Packer record with 1,883 rushing yards and he was named an All-Pro on two occasions. He was also a four-time Pro Bowler in his 148-game NFL career that spanned 12 seasons. He played for the Houston Texans in 2007 and 2008, before returning to Green Bay to close his NFL career in 2009. He finished as Green Bay's all-time leading rusher with 8,322 yards in eight seasons. His final NFL totals were 9,205 rushing yards and 60 touchdowns. In 2010, he played for the Omaha Nighthawks entry in the United Football League.
DeJuan Groce, Garfield Heights, Ohio, CB, 1999-000-01-02
DeJuan Groce came to the Cornhuskers from Garfield Heights, Ohio, to play cornerback and return kicks. At 5-10 and 190 pounds, he lettered four seasons (1999-2002) and earned first-team All-America honors in 2002 as a return specialist. Groce was a team captain in 2002 and earned All-Big 12 honors at both cornerback (second team) and kick returner (first team) en route to being selected as the Guy Chamberlain Award winner. Nebraska went 40-12 in Groce's career, winning the Big 12 title in 1998 and reaching the BSC National Championship game in 2001. He recorded 142 career total tackles, including a career-high 15 stops against Texas in 2002. He is second in school history with 41 pass breakups, including a school-record 17 in 2000. He also holds single-season records in punt return touchdowns (four), yards (732) and returns (43). As a senior, he tied an NCAA record with two punt-return touchdowns in a game, breaking off returns of 83 and 72 yards against Troy State. Groce holds two of the top-10 longest punt returns in school history, including a career-best 89-yard score against Missouri. After appearing in 13 games as a freshman, Groce set NU's record for pass breakups as a sophomore, including five at Iowa State. He started 11 games in helping the Huskers to a share of the Big 12 North title as a junior, including a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl against Miami. He totaled 61 tackles from his cornerback position as a senior, including a team-high four interceptions. Following his career, he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He played four seasons in the NFL, with the Rams (2003-05) and New Orleans Saints (2006).
Josh Heskew, Mustang, Okla., C, 1995-96-97-98
Two unbeaten seasons, two national championships, two bowl starts, two conferences, two head football coaches, two injuries and competing at center behind two All-Americans mark Josh Heskew's career as a Nebraska Cornhusker. Heskew, at 6-3 and 290 pounds, came from Mustang, Okla., and earn four letters (1995-1998), piloting Big Red lines that went a combined 45-6 in his time at Nebraska. He helped the Big Red to unbeaten national championship seasons in 1995 and 1997, and a pair of conference crowns during his career. He played in two Orange Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl and the Holiday Bowl at Nebraska. A two-time all-conference performer, Heskew played in 47 games and made 27 starts and was selected as a team captain in 2008. Heskew helped lead NU to the Big Eight's best total offense average of 556.3 yards-per-game his freshman year and led the nation in 1997, averaging 513.7 yards per game. NU topped the nation in rushing offense three times in Heskew's career, including 399.8 yards-per-game in 1995 and 392.6 in 1997. NU was also the best in their league in scoring in 1995 and 1996. In his freshman year, Heskew played in nine games behind All-American Aaron Graham. As a sophomore, after playing nine games behind All-American Aaron Taylor, Coach Tom Osborne moved Taylor to guard for the Virginia Tech Orange Bowl game and Heskew started at center for the rest of his career. As a junior, he started all 13 games that 1997 championship season despite a foot injury suffered in the winter. Coach Frank Solich took over the Husker reins in 1998, Heskew's senior year. He had back surgery but came back to retain his center post. Strong and quick, Josh logged 116 "pancakes" during his career, getting his best game with 17 at Texas A&M and had double-figure pancakes in five other games en route to first-team All-Big 12 honors. Postseason play took the Oklahoma product to the Hula Bowl following his senior season.
Dale Klein, Seward, Neb., PK, 1984-85-86
Seward, Neb., High School sent 6-1, 195-pound Dale Klein to Nebraska, where he became a member of its distinguished place-kicking corps. A 1982 walk-on and 1983 redshirt, Klein went on to gain three letters (1984-85-86). He was first-team All-Big Eight in 1985 and earned academic All-America honors in 1986 after earning academic all-conference honors in 1985-86. He is currently ranked 11th in the Husker top 50 career scoring leaders as he booted home 196 points with 115 of 118 PAT's and 27 of 41 field goals. Klein hit a perfect 38 of 38 PAT's as a junior, missed two as a sophomore and hit 51 of 52 as a senior. He tied the school record with a team-leading 77 points his junior season. His teams went 29-7, played in two Orange Bowls with a pair of wins over LSU, and bowed to Michigan in the Fiesta. In a 28-10 win over the Tigers at the 1985 Orange Bowl, Klein tied the school bowl game record, shared with Hall of Famer, Paul Rogers, by hitting 4-of-4 field goals. He got a memorable field goal on Oklahoma State late in the fourth quarter in 1984 to tie it up 3-all in a 17-3 Husker win. His junior season, 1985, saw his peak career game performance. On a wet field at Columbia, he paced the Husker's 28-20 win with a Big Eight record of 22 most-points-kicked-in-a game with an NCAA-record 7-of-7 field goals and one PAT. He became the second collegian to hit on seven field goals in a game with an NCAA record of five coming in the first half. Two weeks later, Dale booted a career-long 50-yarder in a 41-3 Husker win over Kansas State. As a senior in 1986, Klein saw his string of consecutive PAT's come to an end at 60, just eight away from the Husker record, in Nebraska's 48-14 win over Oregon. He played in the postseason 1986 East-West Shrine game.
Steve Manstedt, Wahoo, Neb., DE, 1971-72-73
Steve Manstedt, at 6-2 and 210 pounds, came from Wahoo, Nebraska High School without a scholarship offer and lettered three years, 1971-72-73, at defensive end for the Cornhuskers. Under Coach Bob Devaney, Manstedt played 168 minutes on the unbeaten,13-0, national championship team of 1971. He earned a starting spot for Devaney at defensive left end the next season and again in 1973 under the Huskers' new head coach, Tom Osborne. Manstedt gained All-Big Eight and honorable-mention All-America laurels from United Press International. Nebraska went 31-4-2 over his career; won three Big Eight titles along with the national crown; and played in two Orange Bowls and a Cotton Bowl, beating Alabama, Notre Dame and Texas. Manstedt totaled 145 tackles in his career, 17 for losses, with 77 in his senior season. The Blackshirts led the conference in 1971 and 1972 in total defense with a best of 219.2 yards-per-game in his junior year. NU was tops in rushing defense in his sophomore year, yielding 85.9 yards-per-game and had the best conference pass defense all three of his seasons, recording a national best of 39.9 yards-per-game in 1972. A dream play for a defensive lineman to remember for his grandchildren came Manstedt's way in 1974 against Texas in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas. Manstedt picked off a Longhorn fumble in mid-air and ran it back 65 yards to the Texas 8-yard line to set up a first half field goal in a 19-3 Cornhusker victory. After a postseason trip to the Hula Bowl, he was a fourth-round draft pick by Houston in 1974. Manstedt went on to play for Birmingham in the WFL in 1974-75 for and with the Washington Redskins in 1976.
Bill Weber, Lincoln, Neb., DE, 1981-82-83-84
From his All-America high school career and being named as Nebraska's Athlete Of The Year, Lincoln Southwest grad Bill Weber gained four letters as a Husker defensive end (1981-1984). At 6-1 and 210 pounds, Weber played in a great period of Husker football as his teams went 43-7. They won three Big Eight titles and tied for another; had a pair of consecutive 12-1 seasons; played in three Orange Bowls and at the Sugar Bowl; and beat Penn State 44-6 in the 1983 Kickoff Classic. Weber made All-Big Eight his senior year; two-time academic All-Big Eight honoree in 1982-83; and a CoSIDA Second-Team Academic All-American in 1982. He logged 129 total tackles in his career. Those helped the Blackshirts to a national best of 100.1 yards per game passing in 1981; and 203.3 total yards per game and 9.5 points per game in 1984. Weber also assisted the Huskers to Big Eight bests in total defense, yielding 240.5 yards-per-game in 1981 best rush defense in 1982, allowing 125.5 yards-per-game. Weber made 14 total tackles as a freshman and came back with 40 as a sophomore when he took over at left end after three games. Nebraska beat Kansas State 42-13 as he had six tackles and sacked the Wildcat quarterbacks twice. His sack of a Colorado quarterback led to a Husker fumble recovery and eventual field goal in Nebraska's 40-14 win. In Nebraska's 28-21 win at Oklahoma in 1983 with 43 seconds to play and the ball on the Cornhusker 2-yard line, Weber downed the Sooner quarterback on the 6 and the secondary batted down a pair of OU passes to end the game. Weber had six unassisted stops that day, three for losses. During his senior year, Weber was part of a Nebraska defense that held Iowa State's offense to just 53 total yards as he intercepted a pass to set up a touchdown in Nebraska's 44-0 win.
Jim Irwin Kearney State College (University of Nebraska-Kearney), 1960-63, End
Jim Irwin, of Genoa, Neb., was a four-year letterman in football (1960-1963) at Kearney State College/University of Nebraska-Kearney who earned honorable-mention NAIA All-America honors as an end his senior year while leading the Antelopes to their first NAIA playoff appearance. They lost 20-7 in the 1963 national semifinals against Prairie View A&M of Texas. The team, coached by Hall of Famer, Al Zikmund, had a regular season record of 9-0 and was ranked third in the National NAIA standings. Irwin was twice named NCC All-Conference and made the Omaha World Herald Nebraska All-Conference teams in both his final two seasons of play. This despite his missing three games that senior season due to a broken hand. His skill in receiving saw Irwin set game, season, and career school records. His career included 79 receptions for 1,333 yards and 20 touchdowns at 16.87 yards per catch. Those 20 career TD's put Irwin tied for sixth in the school's standings. He's the only Antelope among the top 10 who played before 1987. Irwin shares the school record for receiving three touchdowns in a game with four others, catching that trio in 1963 against Wayne State College. His play gained him a contract with the Los Angeles Rams in 1964. He competed with the Antelope's track and field weights group and gained three letters throwing the discus. In 1988, KSC/UNK inducted Irwin into its Athletic Hall of Fame.
Mitch Johnson -- Kearney State College (University of Nebraska-Kearney), 1973-76, defensive back/punt returner
Mitch Johnson, at 6-1 and 185 pounds, was a standout athlete at Kearney State College/University of Nebraska-Kearney in football and baseball. His versatility earned him the honor of being selected as Nebraska's College Athlete of the Year in 1977. The Central City, Neb. product was a four-year letter winner and a four-year starter from 1973 to1976, at defensive back/ punt returner and as an outfielder for the Antelopes. In football, as a junior and as a senior, he earned honorable-mention NAIA All-America honors; was three-time NAIA All-District 11; and gained all-conference defensive laurels from the Nebraska College Conference. Johnson capped his gridiron career in 1976 by being the first of only four athletes in KSC/UNK history to earn American Football Coaches Association Kodak College All-America honors. His teams posted a 28-9 record; won two NCC titles; and tied for a pair. And, in 1976, along with the NCC title, they also tied for the Central States Intercollegiate Conference crown, recording a 9-1 record. Johnson was the leading punt-returner, highlighted with 291 yards as a junior and 215 as a senior. In his career, he hauled back 66 punts for 592 yards. As a junior, he led in pass interceptions with eight, tying him for second place for most in a single season. He stands third in career all-time interceptions with 18. On the baseball diamond as an outfielder, he posted career numbers of .322 at the plate with 11 home runs and 75 RBI's. As a senior, he hit .417, including six homers with 37 RBI's and was named honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Johnson was inducted into the UNK Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.
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