Jon Bostick honed his receiving skills at Bellevue Interlake High School, across Lake Washington from the UW campus in Seattle. He was named the state's player of the year in 1987 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after catching 39 passes for 814 yards and 16 TDs. He also was a dangerous kick returner, scoring four touchdowns.
Bostick could have stayed on the West Coast and gone to a school that threw the ball all over the field, but he instead looked to the Midwest and a team he grew up watching.
"My dad played football at Oklahoma, so I grew up around the Nebraska / Oklahoma rivalry. That was college football for me," Bostick explained. "So I knew a lot about Nebraska. Oklahoma ran the wishbone and didn't throw the ball very much, but Nebraska ran out of the I-formation so you had two receivers. In my senior year of high school, Nebraska had Steve Taylor at quarterback, and I remember him throwing five touchdown passes against UCLA, so they threw the ball."
Bostick's top five schools were USC, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State and Nebraska. It eventually came down to USC, Washington and Nebraska.
"Nebraska's recruiting spiel was that I could go to Washington or Oregon State and catch a bunch of passes, or I could come there and catch three to four balls a game and get a punt and kickoff return," he said.
Another influence in turning him toward Nebraska was a conversation he had with an All-Pac Ten receiver from Oregon State.
"He said that it was pretty cool I was considering Nebraska. This guy caught a lot of passes for Oregon State but never went to a bowl game during his four years there. He said he would give up all his passes to go to a bowl game. That kind of stuck with me," Bostick said.
Reading Osborne's book More than Winning before his visit also played a factor in Bostick choosing Nebraska.
"After reading the book, I realized Coach Osborne shared the same values that I did. I wanted to compete on the Division I level, go to bowl games and get my degree. There was more to life than football," Bostick said.
Bostick said he felt pressure to stay at home and go to Washington, but he was born in Kansas and moved a lot as a kid, so he didn't grow up a Washington fan like a lot of his friends.
So he committed to Nebraska, and the Huskers got a talented receiver for its offense. But it took Bostick a season and almost half of another to see the field. Bostick didn't redshirt in his freshman season at Nebraska. Instead, he did what most true freshmen did at that time: he played on the junior varsity team. He was the starting split end and led the team in receptions with 10, for almost 300 yards and six touchdowns.
"Looking back, I think it was a waste of the year to play on the freshman team. I should have redshirted and played four years," Bostick said. "I used up a year of eligibility playing on the freshman team. We played teams that were way undermanned… I think our first game of the year we won like 86 to 3…that doesn't teach you anything."
But Bostick expected to get that year back, as he was slated for a redshirt year as a sophomore, but four games into the 1989 season, Osborne decided Bostick was too valuable in the passing game to keep him off the field.
So he suited up, and in his first game, his first career catch was one to remember. It came against Oregon State in the fourth quarter, and proved to be the score that helped the Huskers pull away from the Beavers. Bostick got behind the OSU defense and scored on a 60-yard TD pass from quarterback Gerry Gdowski.
He followed that performance up with a three-catch, 77-yard and two-touchdown effort against Kansas State, then had career highs of five receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State.
Despite playing in only eight games that season, Bostick led the Big Red with six touchdown catches and was second in the Big Eight. His 24.1 yards-per-catch average ranked second all-time in NU history.
Even though he wasn't the biggest at 6-2 and 185 pounds, or the fastest (he had 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash), Bostick possessed the required qualities to make a successful receiver.
"You have to have timing," Bostick said emphatically. "Nothing drives me crazier than when I see a receiver mis-time his jump or wait for the ball to get to them, which allows the defensive back to make the play. Also, athleticism is more important than straight-line speed. A lot of times you have guys that are really fast, but can't adjust to the ball and it just hits them in the hands. And lastly you have to compete and don't give up on a route."
Bostick had a lot more experience than a lot of the receivers on the Nebraska roster, because his high school offense threw the ball regularly and while at Nebraska, would use the off-season to improve.
"Over the summer I would get together with college or NFL guys and catch passes for them. I remember one summer I caught passes from Mark Wilson, who was the Oakland Raiders starting quarterback," Bostick said.
As a junior, Bostick led the team in both receptions (19) and yards (375) while also returning punt and kickoffs. But it was a difficult season, as Nebraska lost three of its final four games, after an 8-0 start and rising to #3 in the national polls.
One of the reasons for the slide that season was the unsettled situation at quarterback. "The best quarterback I played with during my time at Nebraska was Gerry Gdowski in 1989. If we could have had him coming back in 1990 we could have done more, because we had a really good defense," Bostick said.
In his final season, Bostick was the team's second-leading receiver behind All-Conference tight end Johnny Mitchell, who had 31 catches for 534 yards.
"People always asked me who was the best athlete I ever saw or played with, and I would say Johnny Mitchell," Bostick said. "There was nothing the guy couldn't do. He was truly a freak when it came to athleticism." During his senior year, Bostick caught 24 passes for 419 yards and five touchdowns, which ranked him seventh in the Big Eight in receiving yards per game (38.1). He garnered first-team All-Big Eight honors from the league's coaches, and had a 17-game pass-catching string, third-longest in school history.
One game he looked forward to playing during his senior season was against Washington, ranked No. 4 in the nation. Bostick had a 42-yard touchdown reception, but UW scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 36-21 victory in Lincoln.
"I knew a lot of the guys on the Washington team and played in high school with a few of them. It was probably the toughest loss I had while playing at Nebraska. They had a great team all around," Bostick said. "I remember having a 21-9 lead, but they got a long run late to ice it. It was a game that could have gone either way. The two losses my senior year came to Washington and Miami, Fla. in the bowl game. Both were co-national champions that year."
Bostick said he would have liked to have played on a national championship team, and was a little envious of Washington winning one while he was playing for the Huskers.
"But I won a national title ring as a graduate assistant in 1997 at Nebraska, so that eased the thought of not going to Washington and winning one," he said.
For Bostick, his biggest regret was not winning a bowl game during his playing days at Nebraska. "But the fact was in my junior and senior years, we played four teams that were the co-national champions, and the team we played my sophomore year finished number two, but everybody thought [they] should have been the national champion."
Colorado and Georgia Tech shared the national championship in Bostick's junior season and Florida State was one of the best teams in 1989.
Since that 1991 game, Nebraska and Washington have played six times, with the Huskers winning four of them.
"There has been a long history between Nebraska and Washington. We played them first in the early ‘90s, and later that decade when I was a graduate assistant at Nebraska. Then just recently, playing them three times in the last two years," he said.
Bostick said the football history and tradition is comparable between the two schools, but the biggest thing he has seen is if Washington is having an off year and losing, then the stands start becoming empty.
"There is a lot of passion for the team out here for UW, but there is a lot of other stuff going on in Seattle, with the professional teams like the Seahawks and Mariners."
Bostick's professional career was short-lived. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 1992 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.
"I was told by NFL reports that I was going to be a fifth- or sixth-rounder, so after that sixth round I was getting a little nervous, but back then there were 12 rounds," Bostick said. "I was pretty happy about where I was drafted, though. I was going to a good team who had a need for a receiver."
But he got injured in training camp and was offered an injury settlement. "So I thought I would rehab and make a comeback the next year. I got picked up by Cleveland, but it wasn't for very long. San Francisco was interested, but then I never got invited to camp."
With his playing career over, Bostick took a job in the development office at the NU athletic department from 1992 to '97. Then, from 1997 to 2000, he was a graduate assistant with NU football team.
Bostick remembers a funny story from that time period.
"Back on my recruiting trip, Coach Osborne told me that he needed to recruit receivers like me so they could throw the ball more. When I was a grad assistant, we were watching recruiting film of some receivers and they asked me what I thought about them. I said, ‘Coach (Osborne), why don't you lie to them like you did me and tell them you throw the ball a lot.' Everybody started laughing, and Coach Osborne said, ‘Jon, not everybody's dumb enough to believe it.'" After his stint at NU, Bostick served as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska Wesleyan and then as the general manager of the Omaha Beef, all between the years of 2000 to 2005.
Today Bostick is happy to be living in his home state of Washington and close to his family. But he will always be a Husker.
*** Josh Harvey posted this story ***