BRR Archive: The untold Tom Osborne stories

College Football Hall of Famer Tom Osborne turns 78 on Monday. We have some stories about the coach you might not have heard.

On Monday, former Nebraska legendary head coach and athletic director Tom Osborne turns 78 years old - just three years older than current Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder (just saying).

In 25 seasons as the head coach, Osborne collected 255 wins, three National Championships, and 12 conference titles.

To celebrate his birthday, Big Red Report is dusting off the archive, to bring you this piece from Osborne's retirement magazine published back in fall of 2012.

The untold Osborne stories

By: Josh Harvey

Sportscaster Dale Hansen came to know Tom Osborne in the late 1970s

In 2013, legendary WFAA-TV sportscaster Dale Hansen celebrate 30 years on the job at the Dallas, Texas, ABC affiliate.

Hansen's career has been one that rookie sportscasters could only dream of.

Dale Hansen

For 11 years, he was the radio color commentator for the Dallas Cowboys, serving in the role during “The Triplets” three Super Bowls.

In 1986, Hansen, along with his producer John Sparks, broke the SMU cheating scandal. Hansen's reporting ultimately made the NCAA hand down The Death Penalty to the Mustangs - the most severe punishment to date in college football history.

He even teamed up with fellow legend Verne Lundquist for a while in 1983, to give WFAA-TV possibly the best sports team in the country.

But before his time in Dallas, Hansen worked at KMTV-TV in Omaha (1977-80), hosting the Tom Osborne Coaches Show for two seasons.

During that time, Hansen and Osborne became friends, and the sportscaster grew a deep appreciation for Osborne the man.

This writer served as Hansen's producer from 2009 to 2011, before coming to Big Red Report. During my time in Dallas, Hansen shared countless stories about his career, many of them involving Osborne.

“I just loved the guy,” said Hansen. “We have so little in common. Whether it's politics, religion, lifestyles, but I don't know if I have more respect or admiration for any man I have met than Tom Osborne.”

When it was decided this commemorate issue would be done, celebrating Osborne's time at the University of Nebraska, I knew Hansen needed to be called. There were too many stories that needed to be relayed to Husker fans.

Like this one told from the former TV host:

“We were doing the spring game and Osborne allowed us to mic him up. He would watch the spring game from the press box. We were up there shooting him and I.M. Hipp fumbles during the spring game and Osborne slammed the table, yelling 'son of a buck.'

We had that on the show and it was about a 30-minute discussion on whether we had to re-edit the entire piece because Osborne was concerned that if we allowed him to say 'son of a buck' on the air, it might show people a vulgar side of him that they didn't know was there.

I'm laughing asking coach, 'you're kidding me?' I said 'Coach, if anything, people will think it's cute.'

We had a long debate that night on whether we were going to get 'son of a buck' on the air. That was just the type of guy he was. He didn't want people to see his vulgar side.”

Hansen says that it's unlikely Tom Osborne likes to be called a football genius, but the man was nothing short of it.

“He saw things and did things that most coaches couldn't,” said Hansen “His trick plays are still my all-time favorites. He was an absolute football savant.”

But judging by this story, Osborne's non-conference game prep wasn't always that of a conference matchup.

“One of the first games of the season, I'm interviewing Osborne. They were getting ready to play New Mexico State, one of those early season games where you knew Nebraska was going to win 67-10.

Indiana State and New Mexico State were playing in the previous week and I said, 'Coach, when you are playing a team like New Mexico State, do you just take advantage of the opportunity to work on the Oklahoma game coming up later in the yea?'

He said 'oh no Dale. I look at game film. I prepare for every team the same way. I don't take anyone for granted. Everyone's equal in my book.'

So I told him let's take a look at the New Mexico State offense. So we start rolling and accidentally we have switched the tapes. We are supposed to be watching the New Mexico State offense and actually we are seeing the Idaho State offense.

Well Osborne all of a sudden starts going on and on, 'as you can see here, the New Mexico State running back is a fine athlete, a fine athlete.'

I stopped him and said, 'Coach forgive me, but that's the Indiana State offense.' I thought he was going to kill me.

We stopped the tape and quit rolling and I said, 'you haven't even seen them have you?' just laughing the whole time. He got so red.

I told him, 'Coach, Indiana State wears blue. New Mexico State is in the black.' We howled about that for months.

Hansen's appreciation for Osborne was probably solidified in this story:

“My father-in-law, I wasn't married at the time, but my wife's dad was dying in Omaha from a bad heart. He was a Nebraska alum and a longtime season ticket holder. The doctors gave him just a couple weeks to live and I called Tom and asked him if he wouldn't mind giving him a call – just wishing him the best.

It was during spring practices, but Osborne called him. I went to the hospital that night and Larry was up walking around. The nurses were going nuts the doctors were going nuts. They were all impressed Tom Osborne call him. He talked to him for like an hour-and-a-half, it was a ridiculous amount of time.

I called Osborne a couple days later and asked if he had a chance to call Larry?

He said 'yeah, I called him.'

I said, 'did you have a chance to talk to him very long?'

Osborne said, 'well not that long.'

I said, “well I heard it was like an hour-and-a-half?'

Osborne said, 'you're not going to tell anyone are you?'

I told him 'only every chance I get.'

He missed the start of spring practice that day. Osborne is such a decent human being. I love the man...I will die a happier man some day because I got a chance to know Tom Osborne.”

In 1980, Hansen was fired at KMTV, and not because of a lack of talent or low ratings. While his search for a new job took him out of the state of Nebraska, he would find out Osborne's reach was nationwide.

“When I got fired in Omaha, I went down to Dallas for a job interview at Channel 4. I walk in and the general manager says, 'Tom Osborne thinks you are quite a guy.'

I said 'what?'

He said 'yeah, Osborne called this morning and said your the guy I have to absolutely need to hire.'

I can remember thinking – really?

He said 'it's all right you had him call me, I would have as well.'

I told him, 'I swear to you, I haven’t talked to Tom in three months.'

Luckily, the general manager was a huge sports fan from Missouri and was blown away by the Tom Osborne phone call. I think without question, it sealed the deal on me getting the job at Channel 4.

I got back home and called Tom and said 'you called Channel 4 on my behalf?'

He said, 'I heard you were going down there for an interview and thought if I could help, I would do it.'

I was blown away. The general manager was convinced I asked him to call. Here I am 32 years later working in Dallas, Texas in great part because Tom Osborne took the time to make a phone call on my behalf. I have never forgotten it. He's just one of the absolute classiest human beings I have met in my life.”

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