Del Schoenfish – Cambridge

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Del Schoenfish’s coaching career extended for more than 40 years. He coached at Valentine for five years before moving to Cambridge where he became a coaching icon, leading the Trojans to state championships in two sports. His teams drew praise for their preparation and the way they represented the school and community. He logged a career basketball coaching record of 522-231 that included one state championship and one state runner-up finish in nine state tournament appearances. The Trojans also won 10 conference titles under Shoenfish’s tuteledge. His golf teams qualified for the state tournament for 22 straight years, winning championships in 1996, 1997 and 1994 and finishing second in 1994.

Reuben Schleifer – Chester

Coach.  There was a time when the purple and gold uniformed Bulldogs of Chester High School in Thayer County were at the top of the charts in Class D athletics. During the twentieth century, Coach Reuben Schleifer deserves much credit for this athletic success. Following his service in World War II, he spent forty-one years teaching at this locale. For ten years he coached football and track with a record of 58-18 including an undefeated season. His basketball coaching career covered thirty years with a record of 456-167. In 1953, his good guidance brought the Chester Bulldogs to a Class D State Championship in Lincoln with a great record that year of 24 wins and no losses. Of many just awards, this teacher-coach is most proud of being selected Nebraska Outstanding Teacher by Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1988.

 

Dennis Smith – Papillion

Contributor. A huge, huge percentage of the credit for the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation goes to Dennis Smith. He had a vision of this organization and served the board from the organizational days of 1993. He’s been the treasurer since 1996. His 32-year career at Papillion-LaVista schools that included a position as principal from 1979-2000, netted many honors, including the naming of the annual high school track meet the “Denny Smith Invitational.” He was elected to the NSAA Board of Control for 21 years and his colleagues clearly recall his stance on most issues being “how does this affect the kids.” He was instrumental in the fundraising of more than a million dollars for the Papillion-LaVista stadium facility. He grew up in Cherokee, Iowa, and his football, basketball, track exploits drew him to Wayne State. He taught and coached at Creighton before moving to Papillion.

 

C. Dale Snook – Lincoln University High School

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In the last assembly before Lincoln’s University High closed its doors forever, the athletes presented coach Dale Snook a plaque inscribed with: “To coach, who gave us reasons to win, not excuses.” His philosophy of rejecting excuses served University High well. In the 19 years he coached the school’s basketball and track teams, the Tutors won state basketball titles in 1954 and 1965 and the track crown in 1953.The basketball team was the state runner-up in 1957 and in 15 years of his coaching career, the Tutors finished the year ranked in the top 10 in the state. Snook’s legacy on the basketball court was a ball-control style. He developed a semi-stall pattern in 1957.

Gale Sayers – Omaha Central

Athlete–No one ever looked better on the gridiron wearing the purple and white football uniform of the Omaha Central Eagles than this backfield dancer who graduated in 1961. Wherever he played, spectators couldn’t forget his incredible ability to “shift gears” and leave all behind when he made his move for a touchdown.  He was all-state twice in football, the state’s leading scorer (Class A) twice. He lead Central in 1960 to an unbeaten year during which the team was touted as state champion. Still a legend in track & field Nebraska annals. Gale Sayers jumped an astounding 24 feet 10 inches in the long jump in 1961, the longest jump in the nation that year by a high school athlete and the Nebraska state record for nearly four decades. An All-American college halfback at the University of Kansas, he is also most remembered as one of the best players in professional football, during a career cut shot by injuries for the Chicago Bears.

In football, Sayers led the state in scoring both his junior and senior seasons, scoring 127 points as a senior.  Although his school’s statistics are almost non-existent, newspaper research revealed that he had several games of over 100 yards rushing (no total season rushing totals could be found).  In addition to his offensive prowess, newspaper accounts report that during his senior year, he scored on a pass interception return of 53 yards and fumble recovery return for 29 yards.

Sayers was selected to the Scholastic Coach All-America High School Track Team, having had the lead performance in the broad (long) jump in 1961 across the nation.

He still holds the Bears record for the number of touchdowns scored in a single season (22) set his first year in the NFL. Sayers also still holds the Bears record for the most touchdowns and points scored in a single game. He scored six touchdowns for 36 points in a 1965 game against San Francisco.  During his career, Sayers had nearly 9,500 combined net yards, almost 5,000 yards rushing and scored 336 points. He also was the NFL’s lifetime kickoff return leader.Sayers was named the Pro Bowl’s Player of the Game in 1967, 1968 and 1970, and was named to the 75th Anniversary All Time NFL Team. He was also named to the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the Blacks Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the NFL All-Time Millennium Team. In 1977, he was the youngest player ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Writers of America once named Sayers the NFL’s most courageous player to acknowledge his dedicated comeback from career-threatening knee surgery.

After completing his professional football career, Sayers returned to Kansas University and earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education while also handling duties of assistant athletic director. He then accepted the assignment as assistant director of the Williams Education Fund for three years and earned his master’s degree in educational administration. From 1976 through 1981, he was athletic director at Southern Illinois University.

Following a successful career at SIU, Sayers moved back to Chicago and launched a sports marketing and public relations firm, Sayers and Sayers Enterprises.

In 1984, Sayers and his wife, Ardythe, started a computer reseller firm. Today, the Sayers Group is a national technology solutions provider with locations across the United States.

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Chuck Sharpe – Omaha Westside

Athlete. One of the best high school swimmers in history, this 1977 graduate of Westside High School in Douglas County competed at a time when freshmen did not participate in high school sports and swimmers were limited to just two individual events plus relay. So Chuck Sharpe “maxed out” with nine state swimming titles in three years of competition. Still a record in 2010 was the swift time he set in the 200 freestyle of 1:39.24. Later at Indiana University, he was named an All-American four times and won 11 Big Ten Conference swimming titles. Three times he was a NCAA finalist.

 

Jodi Stineman Emsick – Lincoln Southeast

Athlete.  Jodi Stineman Emsick had “champion” written all over her from the start of her career at Lincoln Southeast. She played and starred on state championship teams in cross country, basketball (twice) and track. She was the first Lincoln Southeast athlete to win 12 varsity letters along with these laurels: Female high school athlete of the year (1988), Class A basketball all-state twice and an all-class all-state pick in 1988, three-time Class A state champion in the 800-meter run and a gold medal winner in the distance relay. At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Stineman started every basketball game in her four-year career except when injured and scored 1,124 points in four college seasons. She also lettered in track for the Lopers. Lives in Portage, MI.

 

Joe Silverman – Lincoln

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Joe Silverman was an established football and basketball referee in West Virginia before being stationed at the Lincoln Air Base during World War II. After service, Lincoln became his home. The Marshall University graduate worked the Nebraska state basketball tournament for the first time in 1943. He worked more tournaments later in the 1940s and 1950s, often working with Hall of Fame officials Max Roper and Mathias “Mutt” Volz. In 2007, he received the Clarence Swanson Memorial Award from the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. As an athlete, he stood out on the fields of Huntington, W.V., and Marshall University.

George Sauer – Lincoln High

Athlete–One of many great high school football players to wear the red and black of Lincoln High School, in 1928 as a junior he scored four touchdowns in the state championship game, As a senior in 1929, all-state honors were awarded him as a fullback. He also did well in track, serving on a state championship team where he threw the discus. As an all around excellent player who could run, kick and pass,  he often left the competition wondering what he would do next. For three years, 1931-33, George Sauer was a great fullback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, helping them win the conference, and reaching All-American status his last year on the gridiron in college. He played a number of years in professional football, then went into coaching.

At the University of Nebraska, Sauer became an emulated football hero.  Nebraskan kids idolized the Lincoln native often pressing their mothers to sew George’s famous number 25 onto their sweaters. Coach D.X. Bible glowed when speaking of the player, “He was probably my best all-around athlete. He was great at carrying the ball and he was one of the best on defense. He simply rolled up his sleeves and met the ball carrier head on.”  At the end of his senior season he led the voting for players in the New Year’s Day All-Star game. Sauer distinguished himself by intercepting passes and scoring the only touchdowns of the game. After the game news writer Lawrence Perry commented that Sauer, “stands clearly as the premier ball carrier in the nation.”

In 1961 he was manager and assistant coach of the then New York Titans, who later became the Jets. He was instrumental in the signing of quarterback Joe Namath.

Kelly Stauffer – Rushville

Athlete. The picture of a poised quarterback comes to mind in describing this 1982 graduate of Rushville High School. He was named all-state in both football and basketball during his secondary education and was outstanding as a pitcher in the summer. During his senior year he led the Rushville High Longhorns to a basketball winning season of 20-2 while averaging above 25 points per game. After high school, he honed his quarterback skills; first at Garden City Community College where he set national junior college records, and then three years at Colorado State as a starter. In a postseason appearance, he was voted most valuable player in an East-West Shrine game. He has played professional football for several teams, notably while with the Seattle team setting a NFL rookie record for passing.