A Solid Opinion, a Memory, Two Role Models

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Riding the Rails: The N-Sider’s Top Ten Pics

Coaches Get a History Lesson on Train Trip

By Randy York

Union Pacific Railroad’s recent Big Red Express Whistle-Stop Tour to Columbus, Grand Island, Kearney and North Platte was more than Husker coaches meeting and talking to Big Red fans.  In fact, former Husker players reached those sites ahead of time to help warm up the crowds before they heard from Bo Pelini, Tim Miles, Connie Yori and the rest of Nebraska’s overall superb coaching staffs.  In sorting through the photos I took and the conversations I had with those players, three are definitely worth sharing – 1) a solid opinion from a legendary fullback about whether college football players should be compensated; 2) a memory from a former defensive lineman about the peaks and valleys of playing college football and how one can come right after the other; and 3) how two brothers inspired a walk-on from a small town to dream the same dream.

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Corey Schlesinger: College Players ARE Getting Paid

Cory Schlesinger, flanked above by Nebraska Associate Athletic Directors Keith Zimmer and Dennis Leblanc, is a Columbus native whose two hard-charging touchdowns flattened Miami, 24-17, in an Orange Bowl that enabled Tom Osborne to win his first national championship as a head coach in 1994.  Schlesinger minces no words when asked for his opinion on whether college football players should be paid.  “I don’t think they should be paid at all,” said Schlesinger, who played 12 seasons in the National Football League as a fullback.  “I do not agree with the idea.  In fact, I am absolutely 100 percent against it.”  Why?  “Think about how much kids without a college scholarship are paying for college and how many loans they have to take out to pay for their education,” Schlesinger told me.  “Then ask the scholarship kids who aren’t paying a penny how much debt they will have when they leave and you’ll get your answer – they ARE getting paid and they’re getting paid well.”

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Dan Pensick Aware of College Football’s Highs, Lows

Dan Pensick, above, holding two young fans who wanted their pictures taken with a former Husker football player, was inspiring while warming up his hometown of Columbus.  The father of 2013 Husker starting center Cole Pensick, Dan reminisced about playing on the first Tom Osborne-coached team that upset No. 1 Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims in 1978.  “I talked about winning the biggest game of my college career one week (17-14 over the Sooners) and then losing to Missouri (35-31) the next week, making it the worst week of my life,” Pensick said.  “The biggest response I got from the fans was the way I remembered the last time Billy Sims fumbled in that game.  Everybody in Oklahoma claimed it was his fault they lost, but we hit him so darned hard, he couldn’t help but fumble.  I don’t remember who hit Sims on that last one.  I just remember that Jim Pillen recovered it.  I had two fumble recoveries myself in that game and caused two more fumbles.  It was definitely one of the most rugged games I’ve ever played in, and fortunately, we came out on top.”

Monte Kratzenstein’s Heroes: Clete and Jim Pillen

Monte Kratzenstein, above with Herbie Husker, is a tight end from tiny Brady, Neb. He walked on and lettered in 1987, ‘88 and ’89 for the Huskers.  “My two biggest heroes growing up were Clete and Jim Pillen (from Columbus).  I didn’t know them, but I grew up in a small town, and I just idolized them and what they were able to accomplish.  A lot of walk-on stuff is near and dear to my heart.  I listened to all the games on the radio, and I just think meeting and hearing these coaches is a unique deal that drew a good crowd.  You don’t see something like this very often.  It was nice.  When you put a character like Coach (Tim) Miles in the group, he seems to bring out the best in everyone.  He’s just one of those guys that’s fun to be around, and you can tell it just watching and listening to him.  It was a good kickoff right in the middle of the summer.  Loved the pep rally idea and think in some of these towns, you’re going to draw even bigger crowds on Fridays than you would on Saturdays.  It was cool.  I hope this concept continues.”

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