The Most Famous Nebraska Player You’ve Never Heard of

By Randy York

Joe Hudson sure knows how to write a headline, and he certainly caught my attention with a wonderful story about George Henry Dern, a Nebraska native, one-time NU football captain and man who went on to be as successful as any Husker player in life – the ultimate measurement of a student-athlete. Dern was also the grandfather of well-known actors Bruce and Laura Dern. The big question, for me, was how Hudson uncovered all of this and managed to write such a compelling piece on the diamond anniversary of George Dern’s death.

“I stumbled upon the George Dern story about a month ago while searching for something Nebraska football-related in Google’s online archive of old newspapers,” Hudson said. “What popped up on the search was an AP story on his death. About a dozen paragraphs into the story was a brief mention of his Nebraska football past. It just floored me that I’d never heard of this guy.”

No kidding. “This guy” became the governor of Utah, the U.S. secretary of war. I mean, Colorado’s Whizzer White and Michigan’s Gerald Ford don’t have much on Nebraska’s George Dern. Leave it to a sleuth like Hudson, who’s been a Husker fan since fifth grade in Omaha, to discover the significance of it all. A double major in journalism and economics from UNL in 1976, Hudson became a Lincoln Journal-Star reporter for two years, then worked for the Omaha World-Herald for five years as both a copy editor and night city editor.

In 1984, Hudson took an editing job at the Philadelphia Inquirer and “learned the frustration of being a Husker in exile.” Six years later, he moved to the Denver Post, where he’s chief of the copy desk. In 1995, he started the website that became HuskerMax.com, proving that amazing things can happen when you get your first personal computer at home and are addicted to everything about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. You might be surprised that someone can stumble onto a story like this, but I’m not. Perseverance is part of Hudson’s DNA. He did it the old-fashioned way … he earned it, and I recommend everyone read his story in its entirety because it is absolutely fascinating.

Send comment (and designate residence) to ryork@huskers.com

Voices from Husker Nation

Thanks for publishing this feature story. I found it equally fascinating and am so surprised that George Dern’s fame never really got connected to Nebraska football. Guess that proves he was an incredibly well-balanced man. Kudos to Joe Hudson for writing it. Scott Sharpe, Scottsdale, Arizona

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