Sloey was a linebacker on the 1971 and '72 Nebraska teams. This interview
was done on June 23, 2004 by David
DM Where are you from originally?
BS I was
born in Columbus, Nebraska in the same hospital as Joe Blahak. My
dad was a teacher/coach in Leigh, Nebraska. We moved to Wahoo when
I was in kindergarten, then we moved to Randolph, Iowa. My second
cousin, Al Sloey, married a Sullivan and retired in Shenandoah, Iowa
and I am a distant relative of the former trainer George Sullivan.
We moved to California when I was 10 years old. I went to Hawthorne
High School, then El Camino Junior College. (Editor's note: Al
Sloey was one of the original members of the Riders
of the Purple Sage).
DM Who recruited you to Nebraska?
BS Tom Osborne. I had high visibility at El Camino.
I did pretty well and the coaches were promoting me as an All-American
linebacker. I was the first freshman to start on the El Camino defense.
I remember my first game at El Camino and they said a pre-game prayer
and I remember saying to myself "If I do the best I can maybe
I can get to Nebraska." I kind of singled out Nebraska back when
they had open end zones going back to 1955 or '56 when my dad would
take us down to the ball games.
DM What was your first practice like?
BS When I went back for Spring Ball there were 160
guys on scholarship and 80 guys walked on so that brought the total
to 240. Then they had cameramen and reporters and you couldn't even
get out on the field. When they broke up on offense and defense and
they started calling out names they called out the guys that had been
there 3 to 4 years and then down to the freshmen and they didn't even
call my name. They just said everybody else pick up a red shirt. I'm
thinking I'm 7th or 8th team linebacker here. What's this all about?
I'm an All-American. What's going on here? I picked up a white shirt
which moved me up a team. I was amazed at how many people there were
and how first class the program was as far as the camaraderie and
as far as the facilities.
They had rookie
camp and I was considered a rookie and I had to do a skit with the
freshmen. I imitated Bob Devaney. A roommate that I had, Glenn Garson,
was Howard Cossell interviewing me as Bob and we put on a pretty good
DM Who else were you recruited by?
BS I was
heavily recruited by Colorado. In fact, I was going to go to Colorado.
I took a trip with a guy named Gillespie who was from Cypress (CA)
and he said that Nebraska had already been out to the West Coast and
recruited. I thought that I was passed over by Nebraska so I was going
to go to the Big 8 and play for Colorado. About two days before the
LSU game ('70 Championship game) my brother picked me up at El Camino
and said "Guess who called? I said, "I don't know."
He said "Tom Osborne." I said, "Who's that?" He
said "A Nebraska coach." Then the light came on and I knew
who it was. My dad had talked to him and Cletus Fisher-who my Dad
had coached against when he was coaching at Leigh as well as his brothers.
As an aside my father was an All-American at Doane College in the
late 30's and I believe he led the nation one year in all purpose
rushing and is a member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. He
called me back that same night and told me that he had missed me on
a previous scouting trip and wanted to get together and see if I was
still available and be interested in going to Nebraska. I talked to
him on the phone and it's a funny thing because when my dad coached
at Leigh, Nebraska his team was undefeated for 5 years and they were
a very prominent 8 man football team. Tom Osborne went to Hastings
High School and was voted Athlete of the Year. My dad really disputed
that because he had a guy named Tom Kumpf that he thought was a better
athlete. I knew the name Osborne and I knew the history about it and
I had a comfortable feeling talking with Tom and they wanting to fly
me back on a recruiting trip. I told him I was kind of tired of recruiting
trips and if he could answer a question for me I could probably decide.
He said, "Ask anything you want." I asked "If I grade
out higher than everybody else in the spring would I start in the
fall?" He said "That's our policy but I'll be very honest
with you and said that we've never had anybody do that." I said
"OK, that's fine. If that's the policy I'll come to Nebraska."
He said "Don't you want a recruiting trip?" I told him that
I was from Nebraska but I did end up taking the recruiting trip. It
was two days and no frills type of thing and I ended up signing the
letter of intent while I was back there. Coach Osborne thought I was
pretty easy to get and he probably wondered if I was as good as they
thought I was.
DM Did you take recruiting trips to other schools?
I did. I went to quite a few schools. I went to Kansas. I was recruited
by Danny Heck and John Riggins. John Riggins you probably know. Danny
Heck was our quarterback at El Camino that went to Kansas on a scholarship.
I was recruited by Pepper Rodgers and Terry Donohue. The funny thing
about that was I was with Tommy Prothro at UCLA two weeks before that
and I was leaning toward UCLA before Colorado. When I went to my recruiting
trip at Kansas Pepper Rodgers told me that I didn't want to go to
Kansas. I should go to UCLA. I told him that I was looking at UCLA
and he said, "Well, I'm the new coach at UCLA." That was
my introduction to big time recruiting.
I took trips to Colorado, Alabama, UCLA, San Diego
State and Nebraska.
note is some of the other players from Southern California at the
time that ended up at Nebraska. One was Zaven Yaralian and another
was Vince Ferragamo. I helped recruit Zaven and Vince came out of
the South Bay area that I grew up in. My brother played baseball against
his older brother Chris. When Tom recruited him from Berkeley I took
him out and told him about Osborne and Nebraska. He was real disappointed
with Berkeley but he came back to Nebraska and did real well. He's
a real class act. I saw him last year at the opener.
DM You had a serious knee injury during the first
game of your Nebraska career against Oregon. What happened?
BS It was
a third and eight and we tackled Bobby Moore for a loss and I jumped
the pile to avoid a penalty and when I landed I hit an Oregon player's
helmet and tore my ACL and PCL ligaments. I played on it the whole
season and had surgery after the Hawaii game. They were draining my
knee a couple of times a week. I came back to California and the Kerlan
Jobe Clinic did a hamstring transplant surgery on it. It was the second
one of that type of surgery that they had performed at that time.
The first one was on a guy that I had grown up with named Eddie Crowell
so that was kind of ironic. They did it two weeks after they did the
elbow ligament transplant surgery on Tommy John.
Having my knee
done out here instead of back at Nebraska kind of put me in a bad
light. I can understand their position but my whole intent was not
to make them look bad. It was to get back out on the field. I played
eight games on it before surgery and was on crutches for the Game
of the Century against Oklahoma. I remember one play in the fourth
quarter when Tagge was trying to loop the ball behind his back and
it got caught on his hip pads and was bouncing around I almost went
out after it on my crutches. It was a memorable game.
DM Do you have any teammate stories?
we definitely had a diversity of backgrounds. Everybody had their
own character. You need to ask Jim Carstens about his love for motorcycles.
He had one disassembled, painted and put back together up in his dorm.
The whole thing about the team was that it was a team. When we went
down to the Orange Bowl to play Alabama, Marvin Crenshaw, who was
a third team tackle, got up on stage at the banquet and captivated
the whole audience singing Stand by Me and other songs. Tagge was
a great leader. Kinney was very low key and humble. Everybody played
above their ability and they played with the respect of the other
players and the coaches. That was a trickle down from Bob Devaney.
He was quite a master of motivation.
DM Do you have any Bob Devaney stories?
time we heard we were going to get out of practice early because he
was going to go to the legislature to push a bill for a cigarette
tax to raise money for a sports complex. He worked our tails off that
day and we kept saying "Coach, you better get down to the Legislature
and get that sports complex." We still did our wind sprints.
He went down and as the story goes he had proposed the tax on cigarettes
and gasoline and one of the legislators said that if we put a tax
on alcohol we could get it done a lot faster. Devaney looked at him
and said "Not on your life."
He was very well respected by everybody. He was a leader. His coaches
in their own domain were very powerful and they were attached to their
players. Whether it would be Monte Kiffin, Warren Powers, Cletus Fischer
or Tom Osborne. The integrity and leadership that they all shown was
a class act. I remember going back in the spring and being the new
guy on campus. Nobody really understood the intensity as to why I
was going back there for because that's my homeland and I knew about
the football program. I still watch Nebraska games and we have a delegation
out here that supports Nebraska and hope they have a really good year.
Can I mention something about the fans? Last year at opening day against
Oklahoma State we had 800 people back there and we all had our jerseys
with our numbers on them. Time flew because people were coming out
of the woodwork that you hadn't seen in 25 years. After they sang
the Star Spangled Banner we had about three minutes to get up to our
seats before kickoff. I got up to my seat and sat down and I didn't
have to introduce myself to anybody. Right away people were telling
me about when I played and guys I played with. It was incredible watching
a game at Nebraska. I hate getting around LA (Los Angeles) fans and
going to the Dodger games or other games out here because the fans
out here are idiots. The Nebraska fans are so educated, so supportive,
and so concerned. It's just amazing. I have to say that the fans are
a good portion of why Nebraska is so good in football.
DM Is there a particular regular season game that
sticks out in your memory?
of course Oregon. That was the first game I played in. I can remember
Rich Sanger kicking the ball out of the end zone and Oregon starting
on the 20. Bobby Moore who became known as Ahmad Rashad who went on
to be a Hall of Famer was running at I-Back and he ran a dive up the
middle and we had Richie Glover slanting down and Larry Jacobson slanting
down in an Okie defense and I scrape off of Larry Jacobson and I'm
one on one with Bobby Moore. He just gets the ball and his eyes light
up and I'm about ready to nail him and I look up and there's 10,000
fans in the end zone looking at me. It was like going out in a pasture
where all the cattle are and all the cattle are staring at you. I
lost the fact of what I was doing and Moore ran by me. I could have
nailed him big time. I got shocked by everybody looking at me. I ended
up tripping him up and he ended up with three yards and everybody
went crazy like "Yeah right, good play!!" and I'm thinking
"Woo, this is going to be tough." I will remember that for
the rest of my life.
In the Army game I intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter when it
was 63-0 and the only guy that chased me was the quarterback that
threw the ball. They were pretty demoralized. I slipped him on the
30 and I was slowing down hoping someone would make it a dramatic
even though anticlimactic touchdown type of thing. I slowed down quite
a bit and ended up almost walking into the end zone. I came off the
sideline and Devaney was in my face and said "You sure tried
to get a lot of air time on that play!" We were on regional TV.
I said, "Well, I was thinking about going the other way."
He looked at me and said, "You should of!!" That made it
70-0 and then, dog gone it, we didn't want to run it up with Army
but Ralphie Powell ended up running a play 96 yards and ended up on
the Army’s 2 yard line. The score ended up something like 77-7.
In that game when we scored our first touchdown I remember looking
up in the stands and a Army fan held up a sign that said "Wait
until next year."
I got the defensive player of the game against Kansas my senior year
and I got the game ball for that. I think I took it before they gave
it to me. I still have it. I intercepted one pass and recovered two
fumbles and made 7 or 8 tackles and knocked down two passes. That
was very memorable.
The Oklahoma game I was on crutches but I made it down to the game.
It was definitely the game of the century. I played in the Hawaii
game and that was memorable for me because my dad played his last
game on that same field on December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl
Harbor. I was pretty psyched up about that and got a few tackles before
my knee went out again. I had surgery after the game and joined the
team down in the Orange Bowl.
We beat Alabama which was #2 rated with Bear Bryant and after they
played us they realized that they were not even #2 and were placed
behind Colorado and Oklahoma. (After the bowls Nebraska, Oklahoma,
and Colorado were rated 1,2,3 which is the only time three schools
from the same conference ended up 1,2,3 nationally). When the game
was over everybody took their showers and got on the bus. You would
anticipate everybody going crazy and yelling and screaming but it
was very, very quiet and subdued. We felt like "Yeah, we knew
we were going to beat them." It was very professional and nobody
really jumped out of their seats. It was just another game. In fact,
we probably had a couple of practices against the third team scout
team that were better than Alabama. I rated the third team scout team
6th in the country.
DM Your knee injury had a significant impact on your
playing career at Nebraska.
I was pretty crushed that I couldn't play and I tried very hard to
play but when the tape got wet I couldn't operate. I was thinking
about coming back to Long Beach State my senior year and I met with
Coach Devaney after the football season. He told me that I didn't
want to go to Long Beach State and that I should stick it out. It
made a lot of sense to me. I was able to overcome the difficulties
and I got a few rewards in regards to football play and academically.
My dad always stressed to me that there are a lot of students and
a lot of athletes but not a lot of student-athletes. That little phrase
kept me going on to get my degree.
DM Do you have any "in the huddle" memories?
Terrio was in charge of the defensive huddle my junior year. My senior
year Bill Janssen was in charge. It was pretty simplistic. It was
Okie defense. It was either slant Monster or slant Okie or straight
ahead. We keyed off the films from the week before. There was a lot
of film work and a lot of preparation off the field that people don't
see. Overall it was a pretty simple defense. We won a lot of ball
games by setting up the offense for the score. There were a lot of
unsung heroes. John Adkins, Larry Jacobson, Rich Glover, Bill Janssen
and Willie Harper were probably the best collegiate line up to that
point. It was fun to play behind them because they drew a lot of fire.
It was a good position to be in. You could pick and choose who you
were going to hit.
DM Do you have any favorite Bob Devaney stories?
BS Against Iowa State in 1972 we tied them because
they missed an extra point with two seconds left to go in the game.
We just knew Bob was going to explode when he got on the bus. It was
a muddy field in Ames and we didn't play very well and we should have
gotten beat. Nobody said anything on the bus. It was dead silent.
Devaney was coming up to the bus and he bumps his head on the corner
of the bus. He just turns red and got real mad and he couldn't even
talk. We knew what he was thinking. (Laughs) I could feel for him.
There are a lot of stories about Bob Devaney but the
biggest story was that he really cared about the players. He cared
about winning but he also cared about winning the right way.
DM How was practice the next week after the game?
BS He didn't hold any grudges. It was over with. It
was done. He kept us from going into a slump. We went down to Kansas
State the next week. They were notorious. They wanted to get a fight
going. Jim Carstens went down on a kick off and clobbered somebody
and the benches cleared and we all went down to help Jim. We called
him "Earth" and not Jim. Everybody had a nickname like the
Bugeaters. The worse the name the better they liked you.
DM Do you have a favorite Tom Osborne story?
BS Going back when Tom recruited me I was probably
his easiest recruit. About the third week into Spring Ball I had the
Black Shirt on and he was out there running his laps and he stopped
running and looked at me and said, "That looks good on you!"
I said "Thank you." He just kind of in bewilderment looked
at me and said "You know, you're the easiest recruit I ever had."
Kind of like he was getting a lemon or something and I turned out
to be legitimate. He looked out after everybody and emphasized school
and getting your degree. He was definitely the guy to put in there
to take over after Devaney.
When he came down to the sideline I remember a reporter
asking him "When you were in the press box for Devaney and had
all the Fumblerooskies and trick plays and now you don't." He
said "It's a lot different when you're on the sideline as the
head coach." I was thinking that when he got on the sidelines
there would be more dipsy doodles but it was just the opposite. I
have a lot of good memories about Tom. He's doing well in Congress
now and I'm sure he would win if he decides to run again. He's a great
DM What was your best bowl game memory?
BS I remember
the Alabama game I was on the sidelines on crutches after my knee
surgery. My memory of that game was we handled them so easily. The
reporters afterward tried to pad it for Alabama saying, "Well,
if they hadn't fumbled...." Bear Bryant said, "We didn't
want to fumble. They made us fumble and they were definitely the better
team." He legitimized us and the fact that it wasn't a fluke
that we beat them. It was bittersweet because I couldn't participate.
In the Notre Dame game I got hit by their All-American tight end,
Dave Casper, and I saw the lights, then I saw the moon, and then I
saw green grass. He went on the play for Oakland. After that play
he didn't catch a pass on me. I was all over him. After the game half
the Notre Dame team wanted to come to our party after the game instead
of going to their hotel. It was good camaraderie. I remember the respect
that Tom had. The Sunday before that game they had a Christian breakfast
and Tom invited everybody that would like to go to attend. We had
about 42 to 44 of our ball players go and we thought that the whole
Notre Dame team would be there. As it turned out Notre Dame just had
their captain and co-captain there with their coaches. I think Tom
was happy that he had a good showing.
of the Notre Dame game was nice. The game wasn't that much. We had
Johnny Rodgers running all over the place. He was an incredible back.
We even had him at I-Back for part of the game. They were really pushing
him for Heisman that year and I think he deserved the vote. He was
somebody that was high octane. He was somebody that performed when
he had to perform and he did it at a very high level. I could go on
about every individual that played. They all had their own characteristics
that brought a little bit of diversity to the team. I will say that
the team itself, man for man, may not have had the best athletes in
the nation. That's not what won the National Championship. We had
the best team in the nation. There is no doubt about that. Everybody
played to their ability and probably played above their ability if
that's possible. Everybody played as hard as they could to maintain
the reputation and the pride that Nebraska has for the school. It
was very dear and something that can't be taken away and you come
away with that pride. I've talked to thousands of people about the
team and how all of the individuals made the team National Champions.
DM Do you still stay in touch with teammates that
you played with?
yeah. Rich Sanger for one. I just got online with David Humm. I talked
to him and he has a daughter and I have a daughter about the same
age and we relate that way. In talking to and emailing teammates old
memories come up. Terrio talks about driving back to Nebraska in a
Volkswagen with Bob Newton. I did the same thing with Glenn Garson
and Bob Thornton who they called "Little Thunder" in regards
to Thunder Thornton. We drove from LA to Lincoln in a Volkswagen.
We stopped in Las Vegas and stayed the night at Mr. and Mrs. Humm's
house. It was just like going to an aunt's house. It was just like
family. A lot of memories came up that I shared with Dave on that.
Jarvis Redwine is out here in Culver City. Jim Wrightman who is a
cousin to Johnny Rodgers is out here in Carson. I coached him as a
freshman coach. I talk to Johnny Rodgers from time to time. He's very
gracious. A lot of people that I met at the Oklahoma State reunion
game last year in Lincoln gave me their contact information. I talk
with Bob Newton and Bob Terrio was a notable character that I enjoyed
being around. The list goes on. It's good times. There are a lot of
DM Is there anything else that you would like to comment
memory of the fans when I went back for the Oklahoma State reunion
game amazed me. It really did. One event that happened when I went
back to play at Nebraska that first spring relates to my whole family
that migrated from Illinois to Thayer County down near Belvedere and
Hebron which are small towns along the southeast corner of Nebraska.
They had a bicentennial celebration when I was back there and they
wanted Johnny Rodgers to come down and be Grand Marshall. Johnny was
booked and Coach Devaney called me and said "Sloey, I don't know
who you are but they want you to come down and be Grand Marshall.
They will pay for your lunch and travel and everything like that."
So I went down will Bill Janssen and he and I were Grand Marshalls
and everybody was coming up to me and telling me about my dad and
my grandfather. There had to be 15,000 people down there and Bill
Janssen turned around and looked at me and said "They didn't
need me here! You've been here for three weeks. Who are you?"
He didn't understand that the genealogy went back 70-80 years. The
memories that people back there have is just amazing. It's simplicity
and it's genuineness. It's something that you don't find in larger
DM What are you doing now?
BS I work
at Raytheon Systems out in El Segundo. I work in the Aerospace Systems
as an administrative manager. I've been out there for 22 years. I'm
hopefully looking to retire in the next couple of years. I bought
a 40 foot RV from Altman's RV center. Joe Altman is from Nebraska.
I have three very good kids 8, 11, and 16 and they're very athletic
and getting good grades and I echo the phrase my Dad told me about
students & athletes to them.
thanks for sharing your Husker memories with us.
This series of
interviews is being done in conjunction with the Bob
Terrio Classic. Bill Sloey can be reached at this