Janssen played multiple different line positions for Nebraska and
lettered in 1969, ''71, and ''72. Bill is one of four players from
North Dakota to letter at Nebraska. He was the starting defensive
tackle on the 1971 National Championship team that went 13-0. More
information about Bill can be found at
interview with Bill was done by David
Max on May 27th, 2004.
DM Where are you from originally?
was born in Pasadena, TX. My father was a pilot for the Air Force.
I grew up all over the country and I went to school in Florida, Alabama,
and Virginia and went to Fort Worth Texas between my 4th grade and
sophomore year in high school. That's where I learned most of my football
skills playing football in Texas. My dad was stationed at Grand Forks
AFB my junior and senior year in high school. I graduated from Grand
Forks Red River High School in '68.
Who recruited you to Nebraska?
combination of people. We had friends that raised quarter horses southwest
of Lincoln in Denton, NE and a man named Jerry Holland, Goose was
his nickname, was a big, big football fan so I got my high school
films to him and he had a friend that was a pilot for the coaches
who delivered the films for me. Carl Selmer was the primary recruiter,
offensive line coach who came up there and then Monte Kiffin and Warren
Powers also came to my high school to recruit me out of North Dakota.
Were there any other schools that were recruiting you?
on the University of North Dakota was pushing and that was pretty
much it and after I decided to explore avenues on my own then the
University of Minnesota got hold of me after I had the plane ticket
and the invite to come down and see the school and I didn't entertain
anybody else's overtures after that.
So you wanted Nebraska as much as they wanted you?
really did. I sent my films to that friend and I had a brother that
played football for the Air Force Academy and he was a senior in '68
when I was a senior in high school he said "You never want to
sell yourself short because you will never know if you can play for
a major college if you go to a smaller college. You can always go
back but you can never move up." So when Nebraska showed interest
in me I was pretty much set to do it.
What was your playing weight as a DT?
lot of people don't believe it but against Alabama in '71 which was
for the 13th game in a row I weighed 211 and started at right defensive
tackle in '72 when we played Notre Dame down there I was left defensive
tackle and I weighed 217 for that game. It was a different game. You've
got men now that after 1 1/2 generations these guys are two inches
taller and 30, 40, 50, or 100 pounds more than we were. And they're
quick. It's amazing for me to go into the west stadium and see how
big and thick they are and how quick they are. How they handle that
mass. They're big boys.
Is there a particular regular season game that sticks out in your
Texas A&M games in those days were TOUGH. We
beat them usually but we didn't beat them by much. On Sunday morning
we had more guys being mended up after Texas A&M then most any
other games because they were tough and they played to the whistle.
K-State was a lot like that also. K-State had the attitude. They played
clean football but you better not count your change or you'd get knocked
down. You're going to get hit hard. They don't let up until the whistle.
Those were the main ones that I remember from the standpoint of keeping
your eyes wide open because someone was going to take your head off.
Usually we were on the delivering side of that. We had some pretty
tough men and some nasty players who were fair and clean but were
also tough and you'll go up against other teams that were good. The
Oklahoma game in '71 was a tough game. They were probably the only
team that believed that they could beat us. I think in those days
we had won so many games by so many points that teams came into our
back yard or we went into their back yard and did not honestly think
that they could beat Nebraska. Once a team comes onto the field and
believes that they can then you've got your work cut out for you.
So Oklahoma was the only team that felt that way?
believe so. K-State in those days was tough but there would be a play
or two or three that would break their back and they would kind of
let off. They'd kind of back off. I think the best example was Minnesota
and I was not in the game. I was a graduate assistant and it was at
Minnesota and John Dutton, a friend of mine who played many years
in the pros, tells the story about during the third quarter the lineman
across from him came up to the line of scrimmage and John was getting
ready to get into his stance and this big guy said "Why don't
you guys let up? You're going to win anyway!" That was kind of
a recurring theme except when you played teams like Oklahoma. Oklahoma
played from start to finish. It didn't matter if we were ahead or
behind they felt that if there was still time on the clock they could
score points and beat us.
I see that you lettered in 69,71,72. What happened in 1970?
hit a guy in practice before the first game practicing kickoffs and
broke my arm. I was a center. I started as a defensive end in '69
and then they had an offensive guard get hurt so I played offensive
guard the second half of that season and in the Sun Bowl and then
came back after Glenn Patterson graduated in '69. He was the starting
center so they changed me to center in spring ball and in fall camp
I was at center and Carl Selmer told me to have a good scrimmage because
you're going to start against Southern Cal so I was pretty pumped
and I went out there and while we were practicing live kickoff returns
I hit a kid I was supposed to block and I knocked him out and broke
my left arm so the rest of that year I was red shirted so I didn't
play in '70. Doug Dumler probably would have beaten me out anyway.
Doug and I were freshmen together and then Doug stepped in as center
from the Southern Cal game on and he started every year '70, 71, and
'72. He was drafted right before Tom Brahaney from Oklahoma was drafted
in the draft that year when Chuck Fairbanks went to New England. It
was New England's pick and they needed a center and Doug Dumler and
Brahaney was available and Fairbanks picked Doug over Brahaney. We
were so proud of that. Fairbanks said "When the money's on the
table you've got to go with the talent." Doug's out in Colorado
now. He's an attorney and a good guy.
Do you have a favorite Bob Devaney story?
you can print it within reason, I guess. There are a couple of them.
As a recruit you're
in his office and he wasn't a very tall man and every chair in his
office was lower than his so you were always looking up to him. Wherever
you sit in his office you were looking up to him.
The other one
that you'll get a kick out of was against Army in my senior year.
The game was 77-7 as a final. Before the game we're all eating the
meal and all the coaches usually sit together and he was up there
and had a coat and tie on and an empty plate in front of him. He did
not have a meal. About half way through the meal he stands up and
starts to leave and someone said "Where are you going?"
and he said "Oh, I've got to go hobnob with the Generals."
Somebody said "Give them the Peace sign." He said "I'll
give them the #%^@!$# Peace sign." and he holds up his hand with
a different symbol than the Peace sign and that room just went crazy.
Completely crazy. We were going to kick their rears and that's our
man. That's our coach. That's the way he was. He could motivate you
with a little thing like that and you go out there the next day and
A memorable play
in that game was the first play from scrimmage and they ran a fullback
dive on offense and there were several big hits and a snap. You heard
this crack like a dry stick and I think Jimmy Branch did it but he
hit the guy and dumped him in the ground and broke his wrist. When
you hear that snap you know a bone's broke and you hear the screaming
and you get off the pile in a hurry. This guy's lying on his back
with his forearm on the ground and the palm of his hand is on the
grass closer to his body so the wrist is shattered. Their team stood
up and looked at that and thought "OK, we want to go home NOW!
We don't think we want to play the rest of this game. Can we go to
the buses early or what?" That got out of hand in a big hurry.
The game was on national TV. Devaney was so upset. How do you stop
your team from scoring? Bill Sloey intercepted a pass and ran it back
for a touchdown and Devaney's upset with the defensive back coach.
was during my red shirt year in 1970 when I had the broken arm. I
could punt the ball. I could kick the ball really, really well and
I'm over there kicking the hide off the ball and Devaney sees me doing
it and comes over during practice and says "Why don't you kick
a few for me? I didn't know you could punt." I kicked three of
them and I shanked two of them and one of them went straight up in
the air and he said "Thanks a lot Bill. Forget it." and
he turned and walked away. When you're under pressure you've got to
perform and I didn't.
When I broke my
arm and I was in bed at the dorm that night and I knew we had a great
team. And with a broken arm I knew I was going to be red shirted.
Cletus Fisher was doing bed checks in the dorm that night and he came
by and said "How's that feel?" I said "It's aching
but it will be all right." He said "Bill, you're going to
play a lot of football here. Get healed up. I'm sorry that happened
but you're going to play a lot of football here." I mean, I was
on cloud 9 after that.
Do you have a favorite Tom Osborne story?
he was an assistant coach all the way through my graduation and he
became head coach the year after I left. Just a quality individual
that set an example as a player and as a man both. He lived it. He
coached it. He kept in great shape 365 days a year. Focus on your
family. Focus on your children. Focus on your parents. He was such
an example and I think he still is with his role in Congress every
day. He testifies in front of Congress that way. He's got a theme
that is ethical and his integrity speaks for itself. What else can
you say? He's just the real thing and I think he brought a lot of
kids along that didn't have two parents and didn't have much incentive
and didn't have much except raw talent. But he was able to mold those
men into a team that was disciplined and supported each other. You've
got your share of problems with Lawrence Phillips and some of the
other things that have happened. These are men that know better. They
just do some things that have consequences. You face your consequences.
Devaney always said if you make less mistakes than they do you're
the team that wins. If you make more mistakes you lose so we eliminate
mistakes here. There are consequences to your mistakes and you've
got to clean them up and move on as a better person and I think Osborne
What was your best Bowl Game memory?
think the Alabama game. Especially when it was over. We beat them
30 something to 6 and went 13-0 and it was over. They couldn't take
it away from us. It was in the record books and we had whipped Oklahoma
not too many weeks before that and we whipped Alabama soundly in the
Orange Bowl and it was one of those great feelings. It's one of those
deals where you work so hard for so long that once you've achieved
it you can take a deep breath. I think that team knew it. They were
loose as they could be every week. If you ever have a chance, there's
a kid named Doug Jameil and there's a whole another book to be written
about Jameil. He was the court jester. He was a comic. He was an offensive
center from Houston and he had some many things and so many outfits
and slogans and sayings. He kept that whole team as loose as they
could be every week. Every single week. As Kiffin would say "If
you don't win the first one you can't win them all. And if you don't
win the second one you can't win them all." And so on until we
won all 13.
I enjoyed Notre
Dame probably better because I'm not a Notre Dame fan. To have a chance
to go after them and beat them like we did was very satisfying to
me. Notre Dame ranks in the top 10 if they don't field a team. They've
got the following which we have now but that was the most fun. The
Alabama game was the most memorable one.
DM Do you still stay in touch with teammates that
you played with?
I do. You can catch up so fast. John Adkins, number 57, Spider is
his nickname. He's a medical doctor in Silver Spring, MD. I'll be
fishing with him the second weekend in June. Jeff Hughes was a punter
and an I-Back from Vermont and now lives in St. Petersburg, FL. Jim
Carstens, fullback out of Chicago. Glen Ellis, Chicago. Guy Ingles
is local in Omaha. Larry Jacobsen and I talk at least once a month.
We've hunted elk together and things like that. Blahak, I bump into
Joe maybe 4-5 times a year. Johnny Pitts, our monster back. I see
him maybe three times a year. There are a lot of these guys that are
great people and it's wonderful to stay in touch with them. Tom Ruud.
His business runs the cafeteria in our building here.
What are you doing now?
a vice president and sales manager for a company called Ameritas Investment
and I have about 18 brokers that I'm responsible for as sales manager
in Fremont, Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island and we have 11 underwriters,
investment bankers, and we underwrite the majority of the Nebraska
tax free municipal bonds. My office is in Lincoln and I'm in the south
end zone on football Saturdays and I'm screaming with the best of
Bill, thank you for sharing the memories with
Bill was on the
January 10, 1972 cover of Sports Illustrated with Bob Terrio and Larry
Jacobsen and will be at the fund raising dinner for the Bob
Terrio Classic on July 15th. He, along with Bob and Larry will
sign 71 original and numbered copies of that issue that evening. You
can order your copy here.