After the news finally soaked in that one of Nebraska's most successful sons was retiring as Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I got to thinking about the impact Tom Osborne has had on Nebraska.
After Tom graduated from Hastings College in 1959, he left Nebraska to play pro football. He played two seasons for the Washington Redskins and one season with the San Francisco 49ers. Then he returned to Nebraska to get advanced degrees at UNL. That's when I first met Tom. We lived in the same Lincoln duplex and have been friends ever since.
As I thought about Tom's path in life, I began to wonder what Nebraska would be like today, had Tom not returned after playing ball in the NFL. Would there have been those national championships at UNL? Would there have been that steady guiding hand in Congress for six years as Tom represented his state with honor and distinction? How many at-risk children would have gone down the wrong road if not for Team Mates, the youth mentoring program that he founded? Would young Nebraskans have had a role model, someone who could play pro football, get a PhD, coach championship teams, serve in the United States Congress and continue the impressive growth of a top notch athletic department?
Fortunately, Tom Osborne chose to return to Nebraska and as they say, the rest is history. But, we can learn from Tom's path. We need to do everything in our power to educate our children and provide good jobs and economic growth to keep them here, or serve as a powerful magnet to bring them back if they do leave.
As a former colleague, I want to express my deep appreciation for Tom Osborne's distinguished service to Nebraska. Tom has done a magnificent job for our state, and set a winning tone for the University of Nebraska. Though Tom has had very different chapters in his life (in civil service, education, and sports), they all had a common theme: giving back to Nebraska. Tom's love of our state was seen in all he did, and we'll miss him in more ways than one. I'm in awe of his job at UNL, his time in Congress, and also his career. He is a great leader that always impresses those around him with his professionalism, expertise, and dedication to duty. Nebraska has been well-served by Tom, and I know that many Nebraskans are and will continue to be motivated by the legacy that he has built.
On a personal note, thanks for coming back to us, Tom. Thanks for all you have done for Nebraska. Best wishes in your future, which I know includes some fishing, as well as something even closer to your heart, expanding Team Mates. This state wouldn't be what it is without you.