The top three pillars of the program are in the video above — now check out who just missed the cut …
Nebraska began playing football 124 years ago when it defeated the Omaha YMCA in 1890, and since then has notched 867 more wins. But it’s not just longevity that has the program fourth on the all-time wins list in college football.The school has racked up the most wins and highest winning percentage in college football in the last 50 years, including five national championships.
Nebraska became the first school since Notre Dame in the 1940s to win three national titles in a four-year period when the Huskers were the kings of college football in the mid-1990s.
If you get into a time machine and hit the “way back” button, the Old Gold Knights or Bugeaters or Tree Planters or Rattlesnake Boys (real nicknames used in the early years) didn’t lose a game between 1912-16 — a stretch of 34 contests without being beaten. Those Bugeaters were probably the true “Pillars of the Program,” but for the purpose of this exercise we’ll pick things up in the Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne eras. Some of the most dominating players in college football history called Lincoln home.
Wide Receiver | 1970-72
♦ Heisman Trophy (1972)
♦ NCAA-record 5,487 all-purp. yds.
Quarterback | 1992-95
♦ Johnny Unitas Award (1995)
♦ School-record 43 passing TDs
Center | 1979-82
♦ Outland Trophy (1981, 1982)
♦ Lombardi Award (1982)
Wide Receiver | 1980-83
♦ All-American (1983)
♦ 1,196 receiving yards
Running Back | 1995-97
♦ 3,880 yards rushing, 42 TDs
♦ Freshman-record 1,086 yards
Running Back | 1981-83
♦ Heisman Trophy (1983)
♦ 52 career TDs
Guard | 1989-92
♦ Outland Trophy (1992)
♦ All-American (1992)
Defensive Tackle | 2005-09
♦ AP Player of the Year (2009)
♦ 24 career sacks, 57 career TFLs
Before being selected No. 1 overall in the 1984 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, Irving Fryar dazzled Huskers’ fans while playing beside Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier (RB) and Heisman Trophy-finalist Turner Gill (QB). The fact Fryar, known for his receiving skills, is considered one of the best players in the history of the program is incredible considering the Huskers were known for their deadly rushing attack — the Nebraska I-option offense. Somehow, the wing back finished second on the school’s all-time receiving yardage (1,196) despite Nebraska leading the nation in rushing twice during his collegiate career.
But it’s not as if Fryar didn’t join the rushing party. In his senior season of 1983, he carried the ball 23 times for 318 yards. That’s 13.8 yards per rush. Here are 54 of those yards in an electric run against Colorado.
With a record book littered with impressive running backs, Ahman Green is considered one of the best. Besides ascending to No. 2 on the school’s all-time rushing list with 3,880 yards (in only three years), Green was a huge part in two national titles (1995, ’97). His 1,086 yards in 1995 is the Nebraska record for freshman rushing yards even though he shared carries with fellow running back Lawrence Phillips and quarterback Tommie Frazier.
Green then set the school record for rushing yards by a junior in 1997 when he amassed 1,877 yards on the ground. Two record years, two national titles. He saved his best collegiate performance for his final game, when he led the Huskers past Tennessee in the Orange Bowl with a bowl-record 206 rushing yards and two scores.
The main beneficiary of the Osborne offense in the 1980s was Mike Rozier, as he still holds the school records for single-season (2,148 in 1983) and career rushing yards (4,780). When he arrived on campus, Rozier pushed Roger Craig for playing time and in 1981, he endeared himself to Huskers’ fans when he scored a 93-yard touchdown against Kansas State — included in this video.
His senior season was nothing short of monstrous en route to the Heisman Trophy. In addition to the school rushing record, he scored 29 rushing touchdowns to set the NCAA mark. Rozier was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
There may not be another program in the nation that could land two offense lineman in its top-eight players of all-time and it’s evident by the eight Outland Trophies won by lineman from Nebraska. Known for incredible offensive lineman to help their staggering rushing numbers, the Huskers recruited guys like the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Will Shields.
Shields won one of those eight Outland Trophies in 1992 when he led the Huskers led the nation in rushing for the third time in Shields’ four seasons. Shields was the first scholarship player at Nebraska from Oklahoma and only the second true freshman offensive lineman to play. And perhaps his most memorable moment came during a fumblerooskie run against Colorado.
Things didn’t start so well for what turned out to be one of the most dominating defensive college football players in quite some time. A knee injury to Ndamukong Suh forced him into a medical redshirt during 2005, but it only prepped him for what would happen in his senior season of 2009. Suh became the first defensive player to win the Associated Press Player of the Year award when he made 85 tackles, recorded 12 sacks and three blocked kicks.
Suh’s monster season led to an invitation to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist, becoming the first defensive tackle to get the invite since Miami’s Warren Sapp in 1994. Even though the Huskers didn’t win the game, Suh changed the Big 12 Championship Game against Texas as he almost single-handeledly led Nebraska to an upset.