Phil Cahoy Jr. was an Olympic gymnast and won multiple national titles.
By Randy York
Steven Cahoy may be one of the most underrated track and field recruits in the country, especially when you consider his athleticism, competitiveness and intelligence, not to mention his lineage and being one of the nation’s most talented pole vaulters. Believe it or not, Cahoy never had a pole in his hand until 13 months ago. Despite his inexperience, he won Nebraska’s all-class gold medal with a 15-8 vault at the state high school meet in Omaha. He reached 15-11 in a third-place finish at the AAU Nationals in Baltimore and achieved 16-0 at Lincoln High. With a 39-inch vertical jump and a 4.5 40 at a football camp, his upside is huge and his strength is considered outstanding for his age.
Forget for a minute about second-generation football players who signed national letters of intent with Nebraska – Josh Banderas, Tom’s son; Dustin Glaser, Doug’s son; and Steve Graeber, Ken’s son. All three (Glaser and Graeber are walk-ons) have fathers who played for Tom Osborne, but Cahoy – a multiple-sport athlete from Grand Island, Neb. – has a fairly famous father, too … Phil Cahoy Jr., a 10-time All-American gymnast at Nebraska, a four-time NCAA individual champion, a member of the USA’s 1980 Olympic Team and a catalyst on four consecutive Nebraska NCAA national championship teams (1980-83).
No wonder Steven Cahoy, Grand Island’s starting quarterback last fall, became a Husker. It was in his blood, right? Well, not so fast, my friends. “If they hadn’t remodeled the Devaney Center, Steven probably would have gone to Rice,” Phil Cahoy Jr. said Tuesday by phone. “Steven was wowed by the new facilities – the new weight room, the new athletic medicine facility, the new locker room and the new meeting rooms. If Nebraska had not done what they did to improve their facilities, I think Steven would have signed with Rice, which considers itself the Ivy League school of Texas. For him, those new facilities made all the difference in the world.”
There were, however, three other significant influences – Gary Pepin, who has won more conference championships than any coach in the history of the Big Eight and the Big 12 Conferences; Kris Grimes, one of the nation’s top pole vault coaches who was Cahoy’s lead recruiter; and Osborne, Nebraska’s Athletic Director Emeritus who had two pivotal discussions with Steven McCoy. “They pulled out all the stops,” Phil Cahoy Jr. said. “Steven was really impressed with Coach Osborne and those conversations made a difference. His mom and I left the decision up to Steven. We didn’t push. We let him analyze every aspect of Nebraska, Rice, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Miami and Auburn also offered scholarships, but in the end, he wanted to be a Husker.”
Just like his dad and his grandpa, Phil Cahoy Sr., who volunteered countless hours assisting Nebraska head coach Chuck Chmelka and Jim Hartung, his dad’s Olympic teammate. “When Steven signed, the first call we made was to his grandpa, and he was excited,” Phil Jr. said. “I told my dad the news and he said ‘Oh good’, so I handed the phone to Steven so they could talk, and Steven immediately started smiling.” “What did grandpa say?” Phil Jr. asked after they had hung up. “He said: ‘You’ve really screwed up my schedule. Not only do I have to go to all of Nebraska’s gymnastics meets. Now I gotta go to all the track meets, too.”
Phil Cahoy Jr. laughs at his dad’s predictable humor. “Our whole family is all about Nebraska,” he said. “I grew up in Omaha, went to school in Lincoln, live in Grand Island and hunt pheasants and ducks every year in Lisco (population: 64 in Western Nebraska). I cover the whole state. I love Nebraska.”
Cahoy is one of six doctors at Central Nebraska Orthopedics. He specializes in ACL and rotator cuff surgery and still keeps a keen eye on football. Wednesday, for instance, he will leave for Indianapolis to work for the Kansas City Chiefs at the NFL Draft Combine. “After my residency, I did a fellowship with the Chiefs, and this is the 16th straight year I’ll be working the Combine.”
Because “we’re Nebraskans, we love football,” Cahoy said. “But we’re really excited about Steven earning a track scholarship. He’ll work hard, on and off the field. We’re just glad that Coach Osborne had the vision to make the Devaney Center what it is now. That was, by far, the biggest factor in Steven’s decision.”
Pepin could not be more pleased that the son of one of Nebraska’s greatest student-athletes ever is coming to Lincoln. “He’s very young to the pole vault and has had an exceptional beginning,” Pepin said. “He’s a young man with so many different levels of aspiration, and he was really recruited hard by us and others. He’s a Nebraskan. He’s a sharp young man, and he comes from an exceptional family. We’re very happy that he chose to be a Husker.”
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