Tecumseh (Class of 1971)
Tony Davis’ hard-nosed running style churned up yard after yard and touchdown after touchdown for the Tecumseh Indians. A four-year starter, Davis rushed for more than 5,000 yards, including 1,700 yards his junior and senior seasons. The leading tackler on defense, he also returned punts and kicks. He earned all-state and All-American honors in 1969 and 1970, averaging more than 10 yards per carry both years. He started in basketball and was a state qualifier in track as a hurdler. In college, he started at I-back and fullback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, earning MVP honors in the Cotton Bowl in 1973 and Sugar Bowl in 1974. A fourth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, he left the Cornhuskers as their all-time leading rusher. He played six seasons in the NFL and one in the USFL.
Contributor. Competitors and spectators alike came to the Nebraska High School Track and Field championships to see the action, but for 40 some years, they also reveled in the distinctive voice of the announcer, Joe di Natale of North Platte. His booming reports of the action added a special cachet to the atmosphere of the state meet. If someone ran the 100-yard dash in ten seconds flat, his feat would be reported by di Natale as being run in a time of “TEN SECONDS E-E-E-EVEN.” He was a pioneer broadcaster of Cornhusker football. Deservedly honored with many awards, he was inducted into the Nebraska Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Any athlete who ever competed at the state track meet during his era likely will never forget the most interesting announcements by Joe di Natale.
Athlete. From the heartland of America, this bright and successful high school and college athlete, three times an academic college All-American, graduated from Bertrand High School in Phelps County south of the Platte River in 1982. A four-year high school star in basketball, track and volleyball, she was all-state in both basketball and volleyball and the state champion in the l00-meter low hurdles in both 1981 and 1982. She was the all-class gold medal winner in the l00-meter lows in 1981. In volleyball, her knack for blocking the opponent’s slams created some unprecedented statistics, a trend which held true in college as she led the Nebraska volleyball team in blocks four consecutive years. In college, she was twice as All-American and the college player of the year in 1986. She completed her athletic career with success in professional volleyball.
Karen Dahlgren played a key roll in Nebraska’s 1986 national runner-up finish. A two-time All-American, Dahlgren was honored as a Honda-Broderick Award winner in 1986 after being named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America team three straight years. She is also Nebraska’s only player to be named all-conference all four years. One of the best blockers in school history, Dahlgren holds school records for solo blocks in three- and four-game matches. She also holds the top two single-season solo block marks as well as NU’s career solo block record. She ranks third on the all-time total blocks chart with 550. The Bertrand native is also second in school history with a career hitting percentage of .386. She is the only player to lead the Huskers in a statistical category (blocks) all four years. She also led the team in hitting percentage for three years.
Coach. As a teacher coming to Omaha Central in 1967, her first assignment was cheerleader sponsor which she handled for 20 years, plus organizing Central’s Pom-Pom Squad in 1968. With the surge of girl’s sports in Nebraska, JoAnne was in line for a number of firsts: Central High’s first girls golf coach (’71), first girls track coach (’71) and the first girls soccer coach (‘86). Her track teams were State Meet Champions seven times ’74,’79, ’80, ’81, ’83, ’84, and ’85. They were State Meet Runners Up five times ’75,’76, ’77, ’78, and ’82. The track teams had an undefeated string of wins for six years until the 1982 State Meet. Her other honors include Nebraska Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1984, three times Nebraska Coaches Association Girls Track Coach of the Year in 1979,1980 and 1981. Her other involvements include Greater Omaha Sports Committee Scholar Athlete Committee from 1977 to 2001 serving as Chair Person the last ten years. She also served the Cornhusker State Winter Games Committee for six years. Greater Omaha Sports Committee Service to Sports Award in 2000.
Athlete. A 1952 graduate of Omaha Holy Name, James lettered four years on football teams that went 31-0-1. The lone tie was against Creighton Prep. He led the city in scoring for two years racking up 96 points in 1950 and 136 in 1951. Among his football honors were all-class all-state in 1951, Class B football player of the year 1951 and outstanding back of the All-Catholic All-American High School Football team. In basketball James was a starting guard for three Holy Name state tournament teams in 1950, ’51, and ’52. With a 15 point per game average, James was selected to the 1952 all-class all-state basketball team. He also played baseball for four years in pretty tough competition since Holy Name had to compete in Class A. Jim racked up the stats playing at second base and shortstop which culminated in Holy Name winning the Class A state championship his senior year. He accepted a full ride to Santa Clara College in football and baseball. When Santa Clara dropped football after his freshman season he moved on to UCLA where he was the starting wingback on on the co-national championship team. His teammates voted him the Rookie of the Year as he led the country with 10.3 yards per carry. He kicked the winning field goal in the last 17 seconds against Washington that put the Bruins in the 1956 Rose Bowl. He was selected to the Pac 8 All-Conference team as a defensive back and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. James passed up the Rams’ offer and signed with Edmonton of the Canadian League. His pro career was cut short with a career-ending injury in a preseason game. Football wasn’t his only sport for the Bruins. He lettered three years in baseball, being selected team captain and All-Pac 8 in 1956.
Athlete. Robert attended Omaha Holy Name from 1946 through 1950 excelling in football, basketball, and baseball. At 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, he was renowned for his athleticism and fierce competitiveness. His successes contributed to Holy Name being recognized as a small-school powerhouse. Bob was varsity starter all four years in football and basketball. As a running back in football, he made the Class B all-State team in 1947, 1948, and 1949, World-Herald star of the week twice in each of those three years and and Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce outstanding athlete of the year in 1948 and 1949. He led all scorers in the Omaha area from 1947 to 1949 and was the leading scorer for Nebraska in Class B in 1947 and 1948. In basketball he was on teams that were twice state champions and was consensus Class B all-state in 1948 and 1948 plus being selected World-Herald star of the week five times from 1947 to 1950. Holy Name started baseball in 1949 but had to compete against a predominately Class A schedule and managed winning seasons with Bob at shortstop. He really shined in Legion baseball where he made all-city shortstop and hit .429 his last season. He was then picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and assigned to the Audubon (Iowa) Cardinals. Given a full ride to UN-L for football, he lettered his sophomore year as a defensive back and punt returner doing well enough to be given honorable mention in The Associated Press All-Big Seven selections. In baseball he made All-Big Seven and All-District 5 teams playing third base. He left Nebraska after two years and enrolled at Santa Clara, which dropped football the following year. He then transferred to Tulsa where he led the football team in total offense and rushing and was selected All-Missouri Valley at quarterback, a position he rarely played.
The Lincoln Journal-Star and Omaha World-Herald’s 1970 athlete of the year was All-class all-state in football in 1969. Also was a 3-year starter in a great era of high school basketball and starred in baseball (two-time all-city) for the Rockets. Northeast won basketball state championships his sophomore and senior years. In 2004, he still ranked fourth in the all-time LNE scoring chart in basketball. The fullback lettered in football at Nebraska from 1971 (national championship year) to 1973 and played two years for the New England Patriots.
Athlete: A 1933 graduate of Seward High School, he attended Staplehurst through the 10th grade. He started at end on Seward’s state champion football team of 1931 that went 9-0 and outscored its opponents 320-2. At the University of Nebraska, he competed in football, basketball, track and baseball, earning 11 letters, the most of any Husker athlete. He won the Big Six 60-yard high hurdles in 1934 and was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1938.
Athlete. For years Nebraska high school milers ran in the footsteps of this famous track star. Gil Dodds was graduated from Falls City High School in 1937. In his final spring he ran a mile in a record time of 4:28.1. The state record time lasted until well after World War II. He never lost a race in high school competition, winning the mile at the boys state track meet his sophomore, junior and senior years. Later, he became nationally known as a runner and in 1948 when he was 29 years old set a blazing pace, winning an indoor race in Madison Square Garden in 4:05.3, then a record time.
Dodds ran at Ashland (Ohio) College and became known world wide while running for the Boston Athletic Club, setting the world indoor mile record three different times and winning the Sullivan Award in 1943 as the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete.
There was an amusing article in the newspapers sometime back. It was about America’s premier mile runner of the 1940s, Gil Dodds. Dodds was known as “The Flying Parson” because he was an ordained minister. Dodds usually signed autographs along with a scripture reference. This was his way of setting an example. Not all of his fans knew what the notations meant, though. When he wrote “Phil. 4:13” as a shortened form of Philippians 4:13, one fan thought that was Dodds’ phone number. Another mistook it for Dodds’ performance in a race at Philadelphia. Dodds spent one summer running against Swedish great Gunder Hagg, and the promoters switched distances. They were supposed to run one mile. They ended up running two. So Dodds accompanied his autograph with “Matthew 5:43,” which reads: “Whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two.”
Key Bible Verse: Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress (Hebrews 12:1). Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:1–4
Runner Gil Dodds was once preparing for a race. After a series of stretching exercises, Dodds ran several warmup laps around the track. Just before the race began, he quickly changed into some other track shoes. One of the onlookers asked why he was changing shoes. Dodds tossed to the inquirer one of his warmup shoes. Then one of his racing shoes.
The man was still puzzled. There was no detectable difference in the two shoes. Both looked the same. Both seemed to weigh the same. Dodds explained. There was indeed a difference. The warmup shoes were slightly heavier than his racing shoes. Though only a small difference, saving even that much weight for the race could spell the difference between victory and defeat.
Coach. Gary DeBoer coached winners on and off the football field. In a coaching career that included one year at Maywood and 42 years at Nelson and Lawrence-Nelson, DeBoer’s teams qualified for the playoffs 21 times, winning state championships 1975, 2001 and 2002 and acquiring three runner-up trophies. Starting in 1999, his teams made four consecutive state championship game appearances. Equally successful in 8-man and 11-man, he retired with 319 victories, which ranked second in Nebraska history. A winner of several coach of the year awards and named to several all-star coaching staffs, DeBoer was known for instilling in his players a work ethic, personal responsibility and the knowledge of how to deal with adversity.