Max Kurz-Millard West

Coach

Max Kurz’s 47-year coaching career was dotted by championships. As a boys cross country and track coach and a girls cross country coach at Millard, Millard South and Millard West, his teams won three state championships, finished second nine times and in the top four 21 times. His boys track team claimed one state title and seven top-four finishes. He was named the Metro Conference track and cross country Coach of the Year 14 times before his retirement in 2017.

Richard Knaub-Scottsbluff

Scottsbluff (Class of 1954)
The Nebraska High School Athlete of the Year in 1954, Knaub was a four-year letterman in track and a two-year letterman in football and basketball, earning all-conference and all-state honors. On the track, he established three state records and won all-class gold medals in the pole vault his sophomore and junior seasons and in the long jump his junior year. Knaub won the state pentathlon as a senior, but was injured at the state track meet. He helped UCLA win the NCAA championship in 1956 and won two conference long jump championships. He competed in the 1956 Olympic Trials in the long jump.

Kerry Karst – Lincoln East

Athlete

The Lincoln Journal-Star athlete of the year in 1978 and a two-time all-class all-state girls basketball player, she was a junior starter when Lincoln East won the first Class A girls state championship in 1977. In volleyball, she was all-state as a senior, helping the Spartans to the 1978 Class A title. In track, set a school record in the 200 meters. Her athletic success continued after high school: Newcomer of the Year as a starter on Wisconsin’s women’s basketball team; three-year starter at St. John’s where she transferred including co-captain her senior year.

Don Knauss – Gering/Omaha

Coach.

A 30-year basketball coaching career started in Gering in 1957, continued (in 1966) for 15 years at Omaha Benson and finished with five years with Omaha Central’s girls. He was 118-51 at Gering, 199-98 at Benson with six district titles, two state tournament runner-up finishes, seven Metropolitan Conference championships and four Metro Holiday titles. Class A runner-up finish in 1981 and 57-48 with Central. The 1951 Bridgeport graduate earned nine letters in football, basketball and track in high school and seven letters in football and track at Chadron State.

 

Nile Kinnick – Omaha Benson

Athlete–One of the most nationally known of all Omaha high school graduates, this Benson High product (Class of 35) became a football legend. His athletic skills were abundantly clear, for he starred in track & field, was named all-state in football and helped Benson nearly reach the top in Class A basketball.

Attending college at the University of Iowa, Nile Kinnick was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 1939 for his outstanding efforts on behalf of the Hawkeyes. In his acceptance speech at the Heisman dinner, Kinnick reflected the prevailing isolationist mood of the country, saying he thanked God he had been born in America “where they have football fields instead of in Europe where they have battlefields.” And he added that he knew “the football players of this country had rather battle for such medals as the Heisman Trophy than for such medals as the Croix de Guerre and the Iron Cross.” Sadly, he was lost while a Naval flier during World War II. Today several gridirons in both Nebraska and Iowa bear his name as a true competitor and

Nile Kinnick is said to be one the Hawkeyes’ greatest football players. In his football career gained 1,674 yards. In his senior year, he completed 31 passes for 638 yards; over three years were good for 2,834 yards, an average of 39.9 yards per kick. His return of kickoffs and punts totaled 604 yards, and he made 11 of his 17-drop kick attempts.

Nile was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1951.

Nile Kinnick, Halfback  Iowa, 1937-1939

Much stock has been put into the legendary aspect of the player and what he meant to his school and to college football. No player in college football history meant more to a whole state than Nile Kinnick meant to Iowa becoming its most popular hero and is still today its most revered icon. If you want the ultimate model of what a student/athlete should be, Kinnick was it as a Heisman winner on the football field and a honor student and class president off of it.

The Iron man of Iron Men: Iowa football wasn’t exactly a power in the world of college football in the 1930s as its neighbor to the north, Minnesota, was busy owning the Midwest. After going 2-13-1 and scoring a total of 82 points in 1937 and 1938, Dr. Eddie Anderson took over the head coaching job and Iowa went on to have a season for the ages winning games in dramatic fashion with a group of two way players outlasting several big-time powerhouses with specialists on offense and defense. 

Kinnick had a flair for the dramatic making the game-winning play against Indiana choosing to throw for a fifteen yard touchdown pass rather than try the game-tying field goal. After an early 27-7 loss to Michigan, he took care of Wisconsin on a late touchdown pass for 19-13 win. Losing player after player to injury, Iowa had only 14 healthy players late against Purdue in the 4-0 win. Iowa upset No. 1 Notre Dame 7-6 using only 15 players with Kinnick punting 16 times for 731 yards including a 63-yard boot under a heavy rush pinning the Irish on the six-yard line late in the game. Many still consider it the greatest clutch punt in college football history. Kinnick also scored Iowa’s only touchdown. The following week the “Iron man” team of Iowa upset the might Minnesota squad 13-9. 

The Iron Man of the Iron Man team played 402 consecutive minutes before getting knocked out of the Northwestern game with a separated shoulder. Kinnick was the star of the show all year throwing for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 31 passes and ran for 374 yards. In his career he gained 1,674 yards returning kickoffs for 604 yards. As a kicker, Kinnick punted 71 times in his career for a 39.9 average and hit 11 of 17 drop kicks. In 1939, Kinnick was involved in 16 of the 19 touchdowns (11 passing, 5 rushing) Iowa scored and responsive for 107 of Iowa’s 130 points.

The Heisman speech: In perhaps the most eloquent Heisman speech ever given, Kinnick finished with this epic passage. “If you will permit me, I’d like to make a comment which in my mind is indicative, perhaps, of the greater significance of football, and sports emphasis in general in this country, and that is, I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest, and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country, would much more, much rather struggle and fights to win the Heisman award, than the Croix de Guerre.”

The “big” man on campus: Along with being the star of the football team, Kinnick was senior class president, a Phi Betta Kappa and a member of the national scholastic honor society.

The World War II fighter: Following his Iowa career, Kinnick chose to go to law school and join the Naval Air Corps Reserve. In 1943, Kinnick’s fighter plane went down in the Caribbean sea on a training flight. In 1972, the University changed the name of Iowa Stadium to Kinnick Stadium to honor their hero.

Honors:

  • College Football Hall of Fame – 1951
  • Heisman Trophy – 1939
  • Walter Camp Award – 1939
  • Maxwell Award – 1939
  • All-America – 1939
  • Big Ten MVP – 1939
  • No. 24 Iowa jersey retired
  • Selected the greatest player in Iowa history by the fans – 1989

John Kroeker – Henderson


Athlete  (1984)

Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star 1983
athlete of the year was All-class all-state in football in 1983 and a
three-time all-state pick in Class C-2. Henderson won state titles in 1981
and 1983. In 2004, he still held the 11-man state records for career scoring
(672) and touchdowns (94). His 42 touchdowns and 311 points in 1983 ranked
in the top 10 in the nation. In basketball, the two-time all-stater
helped Henderson to a 25-0 state championship season in 1984. Henderson won
the Class C state track title in 1983 as he ran on a state record-setting 400
relay. Punted three years for Nebraska.

 

Nancy Kindig Malone – Hastings St. Cecilia

NANCY (KINDIG) MALONE, Athlete–High school athletics for girls in Nebraska was formally revised in the early ‘70s. One of the big stars in the revival was Nancy Kindig, who graduated from Saint Cecilia High School of Hastings in 1977. For four years as a track & field competitor, she led the Blue Hawks to state titles in Class C, contributing efforts in the long jump, hurdles and relays. Her best marks in the long jump (18-11) compare well with today’s girl athletes. Her true grit and determination was a part of St. Cecilia’s 66 straight basketball victories and the 1977 State Championship in Class C. She won gold medals in the hurdles, long jump and relays.

Perhaps the biggest cheers for her came when she was not at her best.  She suffered a broken leg in the relay at the state meet, hobbling but still finishing the race and leading her team to gold.  Later, she returned to the track, after receiving medical attention, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation.

Her track and field prowess earned her a National Junior Olympic team spot and she beat the Russians in the pentathlon in a dual meet between US and Russia all-stars. Later as a University of Nebraska college athlete, she won several Big Eight Conference titles in the heptathlon and pentathlon events.

Teacher and coach.

John Kirby – David City St. Mary

Athlete. A prep All-American in football in 1959, John Kirby earned all-class and Class C all-state honors in football his junior and senior years. In 1960, Kirby was a Shrine Bowl captain. He also started for two years on the David City St. Mary basketball team that in those two seasons accumulated a record of 34-8. In track Kirby scored in five events at the state track meet. In 1960, he had the best discus throw in the state in all classes. Kirby chose to play football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and was a 1963 captain. In 1964 he played in the Senior Bowl game and was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings. After playing with the Vikings from 1964 to 1968, Kirby played for the New York Giants from 1969 to 1971

 

Tom Kropp – Aurora

Athlete–Those who witnessed the Shrine Bowl after the 1971 graduation of this young man from Aurora High School in 1971, may well believe he was the greatest Nebraska high school football player ever. He was dominating, not only in that all-star setting but in each and every game he played. Sizable at 6’3” and 225 pounds, he was a formidable fullback and yet had surprising speed and quickness on the basketball court, scoring 45 points in a great game played against Fairbury in the state tournament. He was all-state in both sports, and athlete of the year as a senior. While in high school, he had discus throws of record-breaking distance, Truly a fine athlete for all seasons and all sports, and perhaps the best Nebraska has had.

Now here’s the other half of the story:  One of Nebraska’s greatest athletes became one of the most respected basketball coaches in the nation.  In 12 seasons as head coach of the University of Nebraska Kearney, he posted a 245-105 record, a winning percentage of 70 percent. 

Kropp is the only player in UNK history to average a double double over his career (20.7 ppg, 11.2 rpg). As a senior, Kropp tallied 51 points in a win over Central Missouri State, still a record for points in a game by a Loper. During his career, Kropp guided the Lopers to a 67-30 record.

After completing his collegiate career, he was drafted in the eighth round by the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, in the third round by the ABA’s Denver Nuggets, and in the third round by the NBA’s Washington Bullets. He signed with the Bullets and was traded to the Chicago Bulls after his rookie season. He completed his second season with Chicago but was waived after one game of his third season in the NBA. He culminated his playing career by playing in Belgium from 1979-1983.

Sports Illustrated named him one of Nebraska’s 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century.  He was been as Nebraska’s Greatest Athlete for the decade of 1970-1980, and has been inducted into both the UNK and the Nebraska Football Halls of Fame. He is also a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame in 1995.

Ray Knaub – Scottsbluff



Athlete
. Ray Knaub’s athleticism helped make Scottsbluff High School a threat in statewide competition and his track exploits put his name on the all-time charts as he dominated the high school Big Ten Conference. He won state track meet gold medals in the 100- and 220-yard dashes and ran on gold medal-winning 880-yard relays teams. He claimed a share of the state record in the 100 (9.8 second). In college, he was a member of Baylor University’s Southwest Conference championship track team, winning the 100 in the conference, in the Texas Relays and the Kansas Relays and reached championships status in the conference indoor 60-yard hurdles. Lives in Lakewood, CO.