Huskers’ Rich Glover was a First-Team All-American in 1971 and 1972.
By Randy York
The passing of four decades is the ultimate trump card for whatever “best ever” conversation people want to have. Somehow, “most recent” appears better and looms larger than any “way back when” kind of comparison. There is, however, at least one exception in terms of Nebraska football history. November 25, 1971, is still called the Game of the Century, and most college football historians seem to keep that 35-31 Nebraska win over Oklahoma in Norman at the top of the list. It’s still “A Number 1” for a lot of reasons, but let the record show that game was not all Jerry Tagge, Jeff Kinney and Johnny Rodgers for Nebraska and Jack Mildren, Greg Pruitt and Jon Harrison for Oklahoma.
The buildup for that Thanksgiving Day game between the top-ranked Huskers and the second-ranked Sooners focused on metaphoric matches that lit up two difficult to stop offenses. Everyone expected a track meet, and that’s what we all watched with a notable exception. Perhaps the key matchup in that classic pitted two future College Football Hall-of-Famers against each other. Tom Brahaney was OU’s consensus All-America center on a team that perfected the wishbone and baffled every defense that tried to break it. Rich Glover was NU’s consensus All-America middle guard who still might be the best in college football history
Oklahoma’s wishbone led the nation in scoring with a 45-point average, led the nation in total offense (563-yard average per game) and set an NCAA record in rushing offense while averaging more than 472 yards a game. The Sooners steamrolled five ranked teams that season, including Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, but they could never find the answer against Glover, who was in on 22 tackles that day. Glover’s up-front push was so strong that he also enabled teammate and linebacker Bob Terrio to participate in 17 tackles.
Glover Legend Still Strong at Nebraska
Rich Glover, honored as one of Nebraska’s Top Eight “50 Blackshirts in 50 Years” at Nebraska’s season opener against Wyoming, was an old school Blackshirt transcendent hero, whose legend is as strong today as it was when he was a defensive force that helped the Huskers win back-to-back national championships. Ask Barney Cotton, a former Husker offensive lineman and current assistant coach who thinks “old school” should be a positive term. “Who do I think was the all-time greatest Blackshirt?” asked Cotton, repeating the question to buy more time for an answer. “You’re asking the wrong guy. I didn’t play at Nebraska until five years after the Game of the Century. But if I have to vote for anyone, I’m going to say Rich Glover.
“Why?” Cotton asked, repeating the question. “Because any guy that goes head-to-head against Tom Brahaney in the Game of the Century and makes 22 tackles has to be a great, great player. I played in the pros with Brahaney, and he was a great player, too.” Brahaney played nine seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Cotton’s last three NFL seasons were in St. Louis.
Glover’s NFL career was short – one year with the Giants and parts of two with the Eagles, but that hardly detracts from his college resume. He was the defensive anchor of two national championship teams, a two-time consensus All-American and finished third in the 1972 Heisman Trophy voting. He’s one of only nine players in college football history to win both the Lombardi and Outland Trophies in the same season. He was the 1972 Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year and a 1995 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the Huskers’ All-Century team and his #79 Nebraska jersey was retired.
Devaney: Glover Greatest Defender He Saw
“Rich Glover was the greatest defensive player I ever saw,” Hall-of-Fame Coach Bob Devaney said.
Glover remembers how coaches wanted big massive players in the line when he played. “When I came to Nebraska that was the big thing … to be big,” he recalled. “For me, it’s more about quickness and speed, and that’s what they’re looking for now, 40 years later. It (success) comes down to your desire, your determination, your heart and how hard you’re willing to work and willing to play.”
To this day, Glover thinks he could match up with the nation’s best offensive linemen. “No problem, man. I know what I could do,” he said, insisting he would be difficult to block.
Wrestling Skills Served Glover Well
Tom Osborne, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator under Devaney when Glover played for the Huskers, would be the last to doubt his talent and desire. “Rich was a high school wrestler, and when there was a movement to a 5-2 defense, which I remember being popularized by Arkansas, Rich really benefited from that because he would line up on the center and at that time, there was very little zone and combination blocking, so the center had to block the nose guard by himself,” Osborne recalled.
“The center had to snap the ball and then block somebody one-on-one,” Osborne said. “A center had to have good quickness and strength and agility, and it was hard to move a guy like Rich. He spent a lot of his career in the opponent’s backfield. Part of that 5-2 defense was being able to slant the line, so occasionally Rich would not just play one gap of the area, but would slant and make it very, very difficult to block him. I think his wrestling skills served him well. He wasn’t a real large guy. He was only about 6-1 and 220 or so, but he was very strong and very, very quick.”
Editor’s Note: In this the 50th anniversary season of one of Nebraska’s most sacred traditions – the highly coveted and greatly celebrated Blackshirt – Huskers.com came up with a unique opportunity. Nebraska football historian Mike Babcock and Huskers.com Senior Writer Randy York compiled a list of the “Top 50 Blackshirts” over the “Last 50 Years”. For two weeks in August, those 50 Blackshirts were the linchpin for a Huskers.com online fan vote to determine the top eight Blackshirts of all-time. Nebraska Athletics, in collaboration with First National Bank, is honoring one of those elite eight Blackshirts at each of Nebraska’s eight 2013 home football games.
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