Kerry Weinmaster was your typical Nebraska middle guard back in the 1970s: small in stature, but stout up front.
"My idol was Rich Glover," Weinmaster said. "He set the standard for middle guards. Glover did back then what Ndamukong Suh did a few years ago. They pretty much just dominated. There were other middle guards there, like Eddie Periard and John Bell, who were all small in stature, too.
"I was 6-0, 230, going into my senior year of college, but as a freshman I was 6-0 around 190. Eddie Periard was only 5-9, 200 pounds, and being a small middle guard myself, that was kind of the ‘in' thing. Glover was a defensive tackle when he got recruited by Nebraska, and they moved him to middle guard because they thought he was too small for tackle."
Weinmaster played football and wrestled for North Platte High School. He was an all-state football player his junior and senior years and was an All-American in his senior year in 1975. He played defensive tackle or middle guard, based on what the offense was doing.
In wrestling, Weinmaster took second in state his sophomore year and fourth place his junior and senior seasons. "Wrestling taught you to stay low and a lot of it is leverage," he said. So with the tradition Nebraska had with the smaller middle guards, it was pretty evident that Weinmaster was going to be looked at by the Nebraska coaching staff.
"Clete Fischer, Milt Tenopir and Monte Kiffin recruited me," Weinmaster said. "They liked my aggressiveness, and I was around the play all the time. The thing that helped too was playing the Lincoln schools, so I'm sure the coaches saw game film of us playing them, and if you do a good job you are going to get noticed. Kansas State and Oklahoma State also offered me scholarships."
But it was always a dream of Weinmaster's, growing up in Nebraska, to play in Lincoln for the Cornhuskers.
"It was always Nebraska for me. So it was pretty neat to get offered a scholarship and have the opportunity to play at Nebraska," he said.
Nebraska, though, was a different world than North Platte in terms of football.
"In high school you think you are the big man on campus, but in college you are just a number; there are so many people there you grow up really quick," Weinmaster said.
As a freshman, Weinmaster knew, as almost all freshmen knew, that once you get to Nebraska you most likely will play on the freshman squad, and then have a chance to play varsity the following year. But that didn't happen for Weinmaster.
"Oudious Lee got hurt, breaking his wrist, so I got called up to the varsity," he said. "I backed up Jeff Pullen at middle guard. It was the greatest thing in the world for me. Everything seemed like it was bigger than life; you had to pinch yourself a couple of times because you are playing with guys you watched on TV. Everything was so much faster and quicker, so it took me some time to get used to it. The biggest thing for me was I had to work on my technique at the position and know my responsibility, because if you don't do your responsibility, it will affect the guy that is behind you, and in my case it was the linebacker."
Weinmaster went on to letter that season, and then started the next three seasons at middle guard for the Huskers.
"As a sophomore, Jeff and I battled for the starting position. We alternated a couple of games in the beginning, then I was able to lock down the starting position that season and then started my junior and senior years," Weinmaster said.
As a native of North Platte, Weinmaster was proud to play for his home state and represent his hometown. The community of North Platte also showed their appreciation to Weinmaster. "It was great going back to North Platte," he said. "Going home after a bowl game you see a lot of your friends, and people around town slap you on the back and say ‘Great job'. I had a ‘Kerry Weinmaster Day' after the game, so the whole community got behind you and they supported you."
Weinmaster excelled in the Nebraska defensive system, playing for two defensive coaches during his career (Monte Kiffin and Lance Van Zandt) and, of course, head coach Tom Osborne. "When Kiffin was there it was a 5-2 defense, but when Lance Van Zandt came in we went more to an attack-style 5-2. We were able to be more aggressive, and for the personnel we had, that worked better," Weinmaster said. "And then you had Coach Osborne, who had that calming effect on you. He wasn't a real rah-rah in-your-face type; he was always level-headed. That is what made him such a good coach."
But it was more than coaching that made Weinmaster into an All-Big Eight selection and second-team All-American as a senior at the middle guard position.
"I ran a 4.7 40, and at that time was pretty fast. The offenses of the Big Eight were running attacks, so you had to stay low as a defender," he said.
Being only 6-0 and a former wrestler, Weinmaster was a perfect fit at middle guard in defending the offenses of the Big Eight. He had some memorable games, including one which he wishes he could play over again.
"My toughest loss as a player would be the 1978 Missouri game," Weinmaster recalls. "We totally choked. We win that game and we go play for the national championship. There are days I still think about that game. What did we do wrong? I think we were just caught up in the emotion from the week before in beating Oklahoma that we didn't focus on this game. I give Missouri credit, though, because they had good players like James Wilder, Phil Bradley and Kellen Winslow. Warren Powers was their head coach, and it seemed he had our number."
Not only did they lose a chance at the national title, but they were rematched against the Sooners in the Orange Bowl, which they lost 31-24 to end the season on a sour note.
"Personally, I felt we beat them once already, and then [to] have to turn around and play them again…it was an awkward position," Weinmaster said. "What do we have to prove?"
But overall, the memories and accomplishments Weinmaster had are priceless. In 2006 he was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. "It was one of my crowning accomplishments of my career. It was great to be recognized by your peers and have your family and coaches there with you," he said.
Today the happily married 54-year-old with three boys lives in Jayhawk country in Lawrence, Kansas. For the past 22 years he has been with Sara Lee Foodservice, and handles distributors throughout Olathe, Kansas, Sysco Food Services in Kansas City and St. Louis and Pegler-Sysco Food Services in Lincoln.
Looking back at his career and being from Nebraska, Weinmaster feels it is important to maintain that steady contribution of in-state kids to the football program. It was and is what makes Cornhusker football great.
"I think at Nebraska you always need a good base of Nebraska kids on the team," Weinmaster said. "That is the backbone of the team, and then you sprinkle in players from other parts of the country. That should be the philosophy of our program. They got away from that when Bill Callahan was coaching. He just wanted to bring in all these five-star players and forgot about the in-state kids and the walk-ons. I'm glad Coach Bo Pelini put that back in play."