Huskers Help Honor the Past, Inspire Future

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Shane Swanson, Mark Blazek, Anthony Steels. Wymore Arbor State Photos

Finally, a Hometown Hero for Husker Legend

Grassroots Efforts Elevate Guy Chamberlin

Blue Springs’ Own Guy Chamberlin Story

Video: Anthony Steels

Video: Shane Swanson

Video: Mark Blazek

By Randy York

Blue Springs, Neb. – Anthony Steels, Shane Swanson and Mark Blazek Saturday received a history lesson that has been three decades in waiting.  Nebraska Guy Chamberlin Trophy winners in 1981, 1984 and 1988 helped commemorate a hometown monument here for Chamberlin, one of only two players in Nebraska history enshrined in both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

The celebration comes 103 years after Chamberlin graduated from Blue Springs High School and is the result of a grassroots effort led by City Councilman “Radar” Reedy, Blue Springs native Jan Morris, and Kane Hookstra, a fourth-grade teacher.  Feeling strongly that it is never too late to correct a major oversight, Hookstra suggested that one of the greatest college football players in Nebraska history – and one of the greatest players and coaches in NFL history – deserves his own place on the hallowed ground of the school he once attended.  Hookstra pleased Nebraska Wesleyan at the same time he honored the University of Nebraska.  A Methodist, Chamberlin played his first two years of college football at Wesleyan, Hookstra’s alma mater.

Kane Hookstra came up with the idea to honor a true hometown hero.

A staunch believer in honoring the past to inspire the future, Hookstra was a catalyst at Saturday’s unveiling of a monument that includes a mobile phone application that will give anyone standing next to it a captivating version of the Guy Chamberlin Story.  Steels and Swanson went beyond that.  They spent an hour before the ceremony planting their feet on the same 880 premium acres of farmland where Chamberlin grew up and then came back to farm after his NFL career ended. 

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Guy Chamberlin was a grand uncle to Nick Savener (with wife Sherry).

Chamberlin Award Gets to Heart and Soul

“When you get an award and you’re only 22 years old, you don’t connect with Guy Chamberlin,” Swanson said.  “You don’t really know who he was and what he stood for.  Today, I understand and appreciate what the Guy Chamberlin Trophy means more than ever.”  Steels and Blazek made that observation a unanimous opinion, and The N-Sider uses this valuable space to educate all previous winners and future prospects, plus their teammates and all Big Red football fans.

In 1932, Chamberlin returned to Blue Springs to become a farmer, stockman and businessman.  A well-known authority on football, he also became a popular public speaker and radio broadcaster.  He died in Lincoln on April 4, 1967, the same year the Guy Chamberlin Trophy was born.  The names of Nebraska players who have won that trophy are all legendary in their own way because they represent Chamberlin’s contributions, his qualities and his dedication to enrich tradition.

Nebraska has honored 47 Guy Chamberlin Trophy winners and the list is a treasure chest of All-Americans and All-Spirit individuals who willed their way into achieving the honor.  What a roster of legends who have won the award in the past half century: Jeff Kinney, Rich Glover, Dave Rimington, Will Shields, Trev Alberts, Grant Wistrom, Mike Brown, Eric Crouch, Barrett Ruud, Ndamukong Suh, Alex Henery, Lavonte David. 

The Guy Chamberlin Award gets right to the heart and soul of a Husker who gives his level best and inspires his teammates to do the same, and the three who drove to Blue Springs Saturday are among my personal favorites in the 47 years that I have been a professional writer.  They are not household names, but each carved his own niche in Husker history.

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Tom Novak’s Son Sees Dad’s Similarities to Chamblerlin

Former Nebraska basketball player Terry Novak, above, is the son of the late legendary Tom “Train Wreck” Novak, and he spoke at Saturday’s Guy Chamberlin unveiling. “Train Wreck and Guy really did have a lot in common besides being great football players,” Novak said. 

“Both came from very special tight-knit communities.  My Dad came from South Omaha at a time when everyone was really close, and I’m sure Blue Springs was and still is the same way,” Novak said, acknowledging “Train Wreck” living in South Bend, Ind., the summer before his freshman year of college.  “He got homesick and decided to come back to Nebraska instead of stay in South Bend and play for Notre Dame,” Novak said.  “Reading about Guy, it looks like he felt the same way about Nebraska after his playing and coaching days were over.  The monument looks great.  This whole town should be proud!”

Only Player to Sing National Anthem in Memorial Stadium

Steels has the distinction of being one of Nebraska’s three international walk-ons.  He played his high school football at the U.S. Air Force Base in Zaragoza, Spain, where his Dad was assigned.  He became a 3-year letterman and 2-year starter.  As a junior in 1980, he was on the field 411 minutes, more than any other Husker on a team that finished 10-2.  The next year, Steels started on a team that lost to Clemson, 22-15, in a national championship Orange Bowl.  In his final home game that season, Tom Osborne asked Steels to sing the National Anthem.  Thirty-three years later, No. 33 is still the only Husker player ever to sing the National Anthem inside Memorial Stadium.

Swanson’s story is equally compelling. Growing up near Hershey, Nebraska, he rode a horse to attend a one-room schoolhouse with an outdoor toilet.  His Dad was part of the pro rodeo circuit for more than 40 years, and his Mom ran the family farm until 2009.  Shane competed in professional rodeo into his mid-40s and admits he still dabbles in it.  Saturday, he confirmed that Tom Osborne was the one who convinced him to give up steer wrestling to accept a football scholarship at Nebraska.  After being the backup to Irving Fryar, Swanson started on Nebraska’s 1984 team, and his 49-yard punt return touchdown helped the Huskers rally to beat Oklahoma State.  That 1984 team went on to beat LSU by three touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.

Blazek was a walk-on who found a unique way to chase his collegiate dream.  He joined the Army National Guard and went to basic training during his redshirt year, helping him develop into a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American in 1987 and ’88. In his final season, he was named the Toyota Leader of the Year for his combined academic and athletic efforts.  With a 3.957 overall GPA, he went on to graduate from UNL’s College of Law before switching careers to become president of a bank in his hometown of Valparaiso, Neb.  A safety, he is best remembered for his interception and bizarre 75-yard touchdown return of a Troy Aikman pass at UCLA. Unfortunately, that was one of two losses for the 11-2 Big Eight Champion Huskers that season.  The other was to Miami in the Orange Bowl.  Blazek also started on Nebraska’s 1987 team that finished 10-2 and lost, 31-28, to Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl.  In his two seasons as a starter, he had 85 tackles and eight interceptions.    

Steels, Swanson and Blazek each won a Guy Chamberlin Trophy, an award that is so important, presentations are now made annually at the Outland Trophy Banquet in Omaha.

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Blue Springs native Jan Morris helped make the Chamberlin monument a reality.

All-Time Guy Chamberlin Winners

1967 - Marv Mueller, S
1968 - Ernie Sigler, QB
1969 - Dana Stephenson, DB
1970 - Guy Ingles, SE
1971 - Jeff Kinney, HB
1972 - Rich Glover, MB
1973 - Maury Damkroger, FB
1974 - Ritch Bahe, SE
1975 - Bob Martin, DE
1976 - Clete Pillen, DB
1977 - Ed Burns, QB
1978 -  Rick Berns, IB
1979 - Tim Smith, SE
1980 - Jarvis Redwine, IB
1981 - Anthony Steels, WB
1982 - Dave Rimington, C
1983 - Dean Steinkuhler, OG
1984 - Shane Swanson, WB
1985 - Jim Skow, DT
1986 - Chris Spachman, DT
1987 - Jeff Jamrog, DE
1988 - Mark Blazek, FS
1989 - Gerry Gdowski, QB
1990 - Pat Tyrance, LB
1991 - Pat Engelbert, DT
1992 - Will Shields, OG
1993 - Trev Alberts, OLB
1994 - Terry Connealy, DT
1995 - Aaron Graham, C
1996 - Jared Tomich, RE
1997 - Grant Wistrom, RE
1998 - Joel Makovicka, FB
1999 - Mike Brown, ROV
2000 - Dan Alexander, IB
2001 - Eric Crouch, QB
          Tracey Wistrom, TE
2002 - DeJuan Groce, CB
2003 - Demorrio Williams, LB
2004 - Barrett Ruud, LB
2005 - Sam Koch, P
2006 - Zac Taylor, QB
2007 - Bo Ruud, LB
2008 - Nate Swift, WR
2009 - Ndamukong Suh, DT
2010 - Alex Henery, PK/P
2011 - Lavonte David, LB
2012 - Rex Burkhead, IB
2013 - Jeremiah Sirles, OL

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