Profile Details

Tom Osborne

Tom Osborne


  • College Football Hall of Famer
  • University of Nebraska

Tom Osborne grew up in Hastings, Nebraska. He was all-state in football and basketball, won the state discus throw in track, and was named the state's High School Athlete of the Year in 1955. He attended Hastings College, where his grandfather, class of 1901, and father, class of 1930, had graduated. He was in the class of 1959, quarterbacked the football team and was named the state's College Athlete of the Year.

Osborne played three years of pro football as a flanker for Washington and San Francisco. He joined Bob Devaney's staff at Nebraska in 1962 and for 11 years was graduate assistant, receiver's coach, then offensive coordinator. In that time he obtained a master's and a doctorate in educational psychology.

He became head coach in 1973, retired after the 1997 season, and set these marks: 25-year record, 255-49-3, percentage .836 -- highest percentage of any active coach in division 1-A. 25 bowl games. 13 conference championships. 3 national championships. (1994, 1995, 1997) Record 60-3 last 5 years. Coach of the Year, 1994. Coached 46 Academic All-Americans, a record. Had graduation rate of 84 percent among his players. 3-0 record in Kickoff Classic. There were big wins in a 13-0 season in 1997 -- 69-7 over Oklahoma for Osborne's 250th career victory; 54-15 over Texas A&M for the Big 12 playoff; 42-17 over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. And there was a close 45-38 overtime win over Missouri. Osborne served his community.

He taught Sunday school at a Methodist Church, he made speeches for the American Heart Association and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The National Football Foundation gave him its Distinguished American Award in 1995. The governor of Nebraska designated January 1998 as "Tom Osborne Month" in the state. Tom and his wife Nancy formed the Osborne Foundation to assist youth education.

The northwest pillar of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium carries this inscription: "Courage, generosity, fairness, honor -- in these are the true rewards of manly sport." Osborne echoed this in his book, "More than Winning." He wrote: "Success, as far as I'm concerned, cannot be measured in terms of wins. It's more than winning. To make an effort to win in a manner that reflects well on the university. That has a positive effect on young people." Osborne was born Feb. 23, 1937. He was 60 when he retired.

For 22 years, Tom Osborne has been head football coach for the University of Nebraska.

For 22 years he has coached winning teams. His .826 percentage, 229-47-3, going into this season's final game, is the nation's best winning average for any coach with at least ten years on the job.

And last year, his Husker team claimed the grand prize; the National Championship, after a steady, yet stunning, come-from-behind 24-17 victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl. In addition, Osborne and the Huskers were presented the National Football Foundation's MacArthur Bowl as the No. 1 team in the country.

But even more than the major marks he has left on the field, Tom Osborne has left his unique stamp on his players and his community as a gifted teacher and a compassionate citizen. Osborne has guided a Nebraska Academic program that has graduated 84% of its football players.

In the community, Osborne and his wife Nancy underwrite the Osborne Foundation for Youth which established a Husker Teammates program that sees players work with young people in a big-brother relationship, encouraging them to pursue their education. Nebraska players reach more than 50,000 students annually through this outreach effort.

It is for his commitment to community, as well as his commitment to football excellence, that the National Football Foundation presents Tom Osborne with the 1995 Distinguished American Award.

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, whose Seminoles barely beat the Huskers 18-16, in the 1994 Orange Bowl, paid Osborne the highest compliment when he said, "No football program in the nation can surpass the University of Nebraska when it comes to quality. You take the three big aspects of physical, mental and spiritual, and Tom Osborne's guidelines cover it all. It's too late for my sons, but I hope my grandsons can attend Nebraska."

Nebraska's 1993 Butkus Award winner Trey Alberts said of his coach, "Tom Osborne is what college football is all about, helping student-athletes develop into young men who will be successful on the field, in the classroom and in life. He stands for all the right things and helps players set their priorities."

As an undergrad, Osborne was an outstanding athlete in several sports. He was star quarterback for four years at Hastings (Neb.) College and was the first person named Nebraska Athlete of the Year in both high school and college. After college, he played three years in the National Football league as a flanker: two with Washington and one with San Francisco.

In 1962, Osborne wanted to go back to school to study for advanced degrees, but he also wanted to stick with football. He caught his break when Nebraska hired coach Bob Devaney. Devaney promptly hired Osborne as a graduate assistant. Osborne, thus, kept his hand in football while earning his master's degree. He then became a teacher and a part-time coach while working on a doctorate in educational psychology, which he received in 1965. In 1967, Osborne decided coaching was to be his career and he became full-time receivers coach for Devaney.

It was last year that Devaney stated to the Miami Herald, "Tom Osborne saved my job." It seems that after two mediocre 6-4 records in 1967 and 1968, Devaney was under fire. Devaney added, "I turned the offense over to Tom and he installed the I-back option attack. After that we won back-to-back championships."

When Devaney retired as head coach in 1972, he hand-picked Osborne to succeed him.

It's been 22 years and 22 Bowl games. All of those post season contests have been against nationally ranked teams and the last ten pitted the Huskers against teams ranked in the top five. His own teams have ranked in the top ten 14 times during Osborne's tenure and have won at least nine games every season.

As talented as his players have been on the field, many of them have been equally brilliant in the classroom. Last year, Rob Zatechka was Osborne's first student-athlete to graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Zatechka was awarded the National Football Foundation Draddy Award as the nation's top football Scholar-Athlete. He was also CoSida Academic All- America and two of his teammates, Terry Connealy and Matt Shaw also earned CoSida Academic All-America honors.

His dedication to education as well as to football has led Osborne to decline at least two pro football coaching opportunities.

"I like that in college you're seeing things happen besides winning and losing," he has said. "You see guys get an education. You see guys get on track from where they came from . . . get a larger vision of life."

  • The 1995 Distinguished American Award recipient

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