Murtaugh lettered on the 1968, '69, and '70 teams. He was a starting
linebacker on the 1970 National Championship team and still holds
several defensive records at Nebraska. This interview was done on
July 27, 2004 by David Max.
Here are a few photos. Each number will open in a new window. 1,
Where are you from originally?
Originally I am from Omaha, Nebraska. I went to North High
School here in Omaha and graduated in 1967.
Who recruited you to Nebraska?
Devaney was down a lot and Coach Cletus Fischer and Coach John Melton
who was the linebacker coach. They spent a lot of time here in Omaha
talking to me. It was an honor. The coaches would come over to the
house or they would take my parents and myself to dinner and they
would talk about the University of Nebraska. The education, the football
and where they were going to go with the football program and how
successful they were going to be with recruiting all of us high school
players out of the Omaha area.
Who else were you recruited by?
had all the southern schools, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Oklahoma.
The schools that did not recruit me were the Big 10 schools which
was suprising. Everybody else did and Oklahoma was a leading candidate
and I almost signed with Oklahoma.
Did you make any other recruiting trips?
went to Iowa State. They wanted me for wrestling. I went to Wyoming.
I was all set to go to Colorado and Oklahoma when Coach Devaney stepped
in and finally convinced me that the place for me was Nebraska.
So with his influence you didn't go on the Oklahoma recruiting trip.
right. I had basically gave Oklahoma an oral commitment. I didn't
sign with them but they were doing a good job on me selling the University
of Oklahoma and all the opportunities that I could have down there
and Coach Devaney got wind of it so he came to Omaha and gave me the
negatives on Oklahoma and the positives on Nebraska which convinced
me to sign with Nebraska.
What were the negatives?
negatives would be "Your parents are going to be able to see
you play very often." (I was from a family of 10 children, 5
boys and 5 girls and there wasn't a lot of money). He thought that
Nebraska would be beating Oklahoma the majority of the time if I signed
with Oklahoma. He came out and said with all the talent they were
recruiting that I would be on a team losing to Nebraska. Since you're
from here where everybody knows you and if you go to Oklahoma and
you will be an unknown. I know you will make a name for yourself but
this is the best place for you.
What were the practices like?
boy, oh boy. They weren't easy. Coach Devaney yelling at you all the
time and Kiffin and Powers and Coach Melton. They put us through the
wringers. When I got down there in '67 freshmen couldn't play varsity
and the freshmen head coach at that time was Clete Fischer and the
defensive coach was Monte Kiffin. We went 4-0 that year. We had a
good football team. In 1967 Nebraska went 6-4 so they weren't real
good. The next year we went 6-4 again and we had hell to pay my sophomore
year because Coach Devaney just came out of a bad year and had another
one and people were screaming for his head and all the coaches to
fire them and we went through a tough time as a team. They were calling
us losers and saying the coaches were not good coaches so that was
a little tough on a lot of us young guys.
So 1969 was kind of a turn around year?
was a big, big year for us. 9-2 and we had an exceptional football
team and we could see where we were going. We had great talent and
young people. The Eddie Periards and the Dave Morocks. The Dave Wallines,
the Wally Winters and the offensive line. We had some good juniors
there. Bob Newton. "Fig" Newton. Those kind of people. We
could see we were in contention after that Junior year.
Who was your position coach?
was Coach John Melton. Very, very good friend of mine. Great, great
coach. He worked with me a lot. Had a lot of patience with me. Did
a great job for me. Like I said. We are very, very close to this day.
He lives in Eagle by that great golf course out there. I go out and
see him and play golf and he attends my events.
Do you have any teammate stories?
have one about little Eddie Periard. He passed away about three years
ago in a car accident on Christmas. Eddie made Second Team All-American
as a 5' 9" 195 pound middle guard. His senior year he's starting
and people had to double team him because he's so doggone quick and
he was so darn mean. In the Colorado game our senior year he was getting
double teamed all the time and just getting killed. He got hit this
one play and he's laying there and he can't breathe and he's trying
to tell me something and I'm waving to get him off the field and I'm
saying "Get him out of here. He's hurt. He's hurt." He looks
up at me and said "I'll kick your ass if you allow me to go off
this field." He finally spit it out at me. I go "Geeez,
Eddie." He said "I'm not leaving. You shut your mouth."
I'm starting to laugh at him so I pick him up and he can't breathe
and tears are coming down his eyes and I couldn't help it. I just
broke up. That was how tough he was. The very next game I got hit
and I got knocked down and I couldn't breathe and Eddie's over the
top of me and said "Murt, you want us to call for a stretcher
to get you off the field?" I look up at him and I start laughing.
I've got tears and I could hardly breathe and I said "I'll kick
your ass if you call for anybody to get me off this field." But
that was just the way we were with each other. Good 'ole Eddie. It
was just one of those things with him and I. You weren't going to
get us off this field. He was a tremendous, tremendous athlete.
You were in the same defensive backfield with Bob Terrio. What was
it like playing with him?
I was a senior he was a junior. I forget how many interceptions he
had it was so many. Bob and I would tease each other. He said I took
all his tackles. I had #42 and he had #45 and Dave Morock who was
the monster man had #43 and he kept saying you're taking my tackles
because of this and that and the numbers, etc. I said "Well,
let's think about this, Bob. They named me the strong
side linebacker and they named you the weak side linebacker. Why is
that, Bob? Well, it's because I'm strong and you're
weak. Period. So that's why they did that. Do you know why you made
all those inteceptions, Bob? Do you think they were
going to throw to my side? They figured they could get away with it
on your side so everybody threw to your side, Bob.
It's about time you picked off a few damn balls!" He would get
mad at me about this and we just kind of giggled that way.
Dave Morock said
the same thing so I said "What did they call you, Dave?
You're the monster man because you're uglier than S*#!*!
so that's why you're the monster man, Dave!"
Just little things like that. That's what we did to each other. They're
always on my ass because "You didn't make all those tackles and
do, de, do, de, do, de, do." I just laugh and say "Yeah,
Speaking of all those tackles you still hold a lot of defensive records
at Nebraska that may be broken by Tom Ruud's son Barrett.
was gone when Tom got there. He was a great, great athlete. Number
1 draft choice I think by the Buffalo Bills. I coached against Barrett
for four years when he was at Lincoln Southeast. I am a volunteer
coach at Creighton Prep. I told everybody that this is the kid. This
is a great linebacker and I said it from his freshman year through
his senior year. I have no qualms. I knew this kid would do it. He
is tough and he is a tremendous athlete just like his dad. I predict
that Bo Ruud is going to be better than Barrett. I also coached against
him for four years. It's a great family. I'm proud to have him break
it. That's the way it should be. He deserves everything he gets.
Is there a particular regular season game that sticks out in your
was against Steve Owens and Oklahoma in 1968. He had 20 some 100 yard
games and it was my sophomore year and they beat us 40 something to
nothing. Steve and I hit and hit and hit. I don't know how many tackles
I had that game but he would knock me down and run over me and say
"Jerry, ....Jerry, how's it
going Jerry?" and I'm POed. He was a great athlete
and he was giving it to me a little bit. The next year which was his
senior year when he won the Heisman we held him to 52 yards and we
beat him up SO BAD. Every time I would knock him
down and I would land on top of him I would say "Steve,
...Steve, how's it going Steve?"
He'd giggle and say "I deserve it." I said "You gosh
darn right you do." Those are the two games I remember. He would
pound on you and pound on you. He was so gosh darn massive and he
didn't finagle. He just ran straight at you. Those were the people
I liked to play against. The John Riggins' and those type of guys.
Do you have any "in the huddle" memories?
wasn't much of a talker. I was co-captain with Dan Schneiss and the
pre-game talks neither one of us said much. It was "Hey, you
got a job to do. Let's go out there and kick the S*#% out of them."
Basically, that was it. In the huddle, since I called the plays, you
just keep control. Sometimes people would bitch at each other and
you just calm them down. There's no real stories. In our day there
wasn't that much talk. The jarring and talking that they do now. Devaney
wouldn't have allowed it. You played football and kept your mouth
shut. He said, "You don't get up and jump around. You just do
your job and walk away." The four years that I was there, there
was never one punch thrown on Nebraskas' side. Devaney demanded that.
He said, "If one man throws a punch I will guarantee you that
you will never play for me again." He made that statement at
the beginning of every year the four years that I was there. "One
punch. I don't care who you are. If someone hits you I want that 15
yards. And I better get it because it's not going to hurt you when
they hit you anyway and I need that 15 yards." I can guarantee
that not one time in the ten years that Coach Devaney coached there
no one threw a punch.
Do you have a favorite Bob Devaney story?
have so many. He kept getting sick and tired of getting me out of
trouble. One day, and I forgot what I did to get in trouble but I
was running steps. He had me running steps before practice AND
after practice for some of the crap I did. It was nothing outstanding.
Just stupid stuff you do as a kid. I'm standing there my senior year
and I'm look up there at the little sky box that is the press box.
He said, "Murtaugh, what the heck are you looking at?" I
said, "Coach, I've never been in those sky boxes in the four
years I've been here. Do you think I'll ever be able to get up there
and see what it's like?" He looked at me and said, "I'll
tell you what, Murtaugh. There's no way in hell you'll ever step in
those press boxes. Now get your ass up those steps." And I'm
up the steps again. To this day I have never stepped into that press
box so Coach Devaney still has that thing on me. I told Tommie Frazier
this story last year at his radio talk show and he said, "We're
going to break Coach Devaney's promise to you and have you up in those
press boxes." I've heard that story before but I haven't been
there yet. 'Ole Coach Devaney. He still has one over me. (Laughs)
He was a good, good man. Great coach.
Do you have a favorite Tom Osborne story?
Osborne was the receivers coach. We had very little to do with the
offense. They would practice on their side and we would practice on
our side. We would get together to scrimmage and that was about it
so I didn't really know Coach Osborne when I was playing. In the past
few years I've gotten to know him with my organization and the things
that he's trying to do to stop obesity with kids in Congress and working
with me. What a great man. The past couple of years I have really
been able to get to know him and appreciate him and all his hard work.
What was your best bowl game memory?
The 1971 Orange Bowl. I will never forget that because I think that
is when tradition started. I am just so proud of all the guys I played
with and when we get together we enjoy the comaraderie and say "Boy,
oh boy. Look what we started at the University of Nebraska!"
Eddie Periard played the greatest game of his life and had 15 to 20
tackles. Bob Terrio intercepted that ball with eight seconds to go
and was in the right place at the right time. Thank God. Dan Schneiss
on offense running and killing people blocking. Guy Ingles, Tagge,
Brownson and that offensive line did a great job. Joe Orduna ran like
a wild man that day. They (LSU) had a good football team but we were
a better ball club. It was close but if you really look at the game
we fumbled inside their 20 yard line like three times so we gave up
some scoring opportunities. We should have taken them out of the game
that first half. It was a great opportunity for us and Coach Devaney
deserved it after all the heat he and the coaches had taken. It was
well deserving for them and the players. It was very rewarding. Then,
I didn't understand it so much. Now that I'm an old guy and I can
really appreciate it. People come up and talk about that game and
I go "Wow! This is very satisfying and rewarding." I really
thank the fans for remembering all of us. That's a great thing for
old guys like us.
Then there was
the 1969 Sun Bowl. We had a great time down there. We got in some
trouble over in Juarez (Mexico) and, of course, he jumped me for it.
A couple of guys got thrown in jail and a couple of guys helped me
bail them out and Devaney had already heard about it and he jumped
me. He said, "Murtaugh, you did it again." He was cussing
and screaming at me and the other 5 or 6 guys and said, "You're
off the team. You're going home tomorrow." Of all the guys that
were in trouble, 4 or 5 of us were starters and there might have been
a couple of second teamers but they were all playing. He sent us to
our rooms and everybody started calling each other and they were all
scared to death. I kept telling them "There's no way he's sending
us home because he wants to win this game. He'll get us afterwards.
Don't worry about it. He's not sending us home." The next morning
he had a meeting with us and he's screaming and yelling and he said,
"I've decided I'm not going to send you home but I'm going to
get you when we get home." I kind of giggled because I knew Coach
Devaney wanted to win. He did beat us to death when we got home. He
ran us to death but that was a great, great time. We played the Unversity
of Georgia and Coach Dooley, after we beat them 45-6 and put a whooping
on them, put in the papers that in all his years of coaching he has
never seen a better team than the University of Nebraska. I said,
"Wow! What a compliment for the coaches and players." That
was a great service that he did for the University of Nebraska.
That's when I
kind of knew "Look out for us next year." The next year
(1970) I opened my mouth and I told the papers "We're going to
be Number 1." Coach Devaney just blew up. I got in trouble again.
He said, "Quit opening your mouth." The papers were asking
me how we were going to do and I said "We're going to be Number
1. We're going to win it all." Coach Devaney heard that and Jeff
Kinney came over and grabbed me by my helmet and got me out of there
and drug me over to Coach Devaney and he started ripping me. He said,
"You got to keep your damn mouth shut. You can't be doing this
crap, Murtaugh!!" and on and on. I had to start running steps
again. I started it off right every year. I got in trouble. I was
in great shape. Lots of steps. Lots and lots of steps. The prediction
was right. I had so much faith in the players and the coaches. Nobody
was going to beat us.
You are a member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. What does
that mean to you?
year that I went into the Hall (1987) there was some great names that
year and one that I remember in particular was Charlie Bryant. Charlie
was the first black man to play for the University in 1952 and he
went on to be a successful teacher and wrestling coach. At the time
I was just in awe and I had two of my three kids with me and it was
just a great honor. They gave me a plaque and I'm looking at all these
great names and I'm thinking "Wow! I'm here with all these people."
Where did you play after you graduated from Nebraska?
went to New England my rookie year and blew the knee out on a kickoff. Rehabed and went back the next year and blew the knee out again
in training camp and that was it.
Do you still stay in touch with teammates that you played with?
I do. Especially with the organization that I have. The Tagges, the
Brownsons, the Kinneys, the Ingles, the Wally Winters, the Fig Newtons.
All these guys. I appreciate them now more than I did then.
Is there anything that you would like to comment about that hasn't
am 56 years old and it was 34 years ago that we won this first National
Championship. People come up to me remembering that I played football
for the University of Nebraska. They say "Thanks for the memories."
and I say "No, thank you for remembering me." I feel honored
that they can come and say that but I feel honored that I can meet
the fans and they still remember me. That to me is something. It really
is. That's why I appreciate it so much more now than I did then.
I have a comment
about Coach Devaney that made me realize what a great coach he was.
He and I never saw eye to eye on many things in the four years that
I was there. He was Irish Catholic and I'm Irish Catholic so you know
we're both stubborn as hell. We used to fight and for four years we
never got along. During his retirement party his wife got us together
and we finally made up to each other and we talked. He sat there and
said, "You know, Jerry. Everybody thinks I'm a great football
coach. I'm not a great football coach. People don't understand. I
was able to hire the nine greatest assistant coaches in the United
States. That I will take credit for." I said, "Wow! I never
realized that." He said, "You, betcha. It wasn't me. It
was them." That was a statement that most people probably have
never heard. That's the way he was. He was a motivator. He got the
most out of his players in terms of dedication and loyalty.
And to this day
whenever I am with Coach Melton he talks about Coach Devaney like
he is still sitting right there with him. What a great friend a what
a great coach Coach Melton was and he let you do your thing. Melton
said that he got fired twice in one day and I was the cause of it.
He blamed me for that one. I remember it distinctly. It was funnier
than hell. He got fired twice that day and then that night he was
at Devaneys' house and he said he would hire him back the next day.
I was a senior and it had something to do with Tagge, Kinney, and
Brownson. They were getting pretty cocky during fall practices. They
were wearing their little skirts. I should say skirts but it was those
jerseys that said you can't hit them. I'm a senior and I'm getting
a little POed so on this one play I drop whatever quarterback it was.
I put him right on his back. Devaney went nuts. He started screaming
at MELTON, not ME. "What the
hell are you doing? Can't you control that SOB?" Melton comes
over to me and he just shakes his head and you know he's POed at me.
He had chew down the front of his shirt and he smoked that cigar and
he was hot at me. The next play I thought "You know, I'm just
going to try this one more time and see what happens." The same
play and I nailed the quarterback and Devaney threw down his hat and
his board and ran over to Melton and said "You can't control
that crazy SOB. You're fired. Get both of you out of here!" He
got fired right then. Melton came over to me and he was shaking so
much and he was spitting and I had the biggest grin and said, "Sorry,
Coach, I just didn't hear him." He went ballistic and then about
a half hour later we're into practice I did something after the whistle
and he got fired again. Melton comes over to me and said, "What
are you doing?" I said, "I don't know. I just had a bad
day." He said, "BAD DAY!!! I JUST GOT FIRED TWICE!!!!"
I just laughed and I said, "Well, that's the breaks
of the game, Coach." Oh, Melton, he talks about that day all
the time. Like I said later that night Coach Devaney hired him back.
(Laughs) It was a dandy. To this day he blames me for all that stuff.
What are you doing now?
very busy. 13 years ago I began volunteering my time as a linebacker
coach for Creighton Prep. It was there, walking the halls and seeing
the kids overweight, that I realized there was a real need to motivate
and educate these kids to adopt a healthy lifestyle. In 1999 I started
a non-profit organization with the mission to eradicate childhood
obesity. The name of this organization is GOAL. Our motto is "Strengthening
our youths' future one student at a time."
Childhood obesity is taking over this country and it has become an
epidemic. As a whole teenagers today are more overweight and obese
than at any other time in history. What we’re trying to do with
GOAL is educate the kids about the benefits of proper diet; help motivate
them to increase physical activity; and to instill solid moral values.
We do this by working with schools, primarily high schools, to hire
Lifestyle Mentors. Lifestyle Mentors are strength and nutrition experts
that have a strong desire to educate and motivate the kids.
One of the benefits for me personally is seeing an overweight, under-achieving
shy kid come into our program and after a couple semesters he is becoming
a more confident and successful young adult. The effects GOAL has
had on some of these kids is amazing.
Above all, GOAL’s Lifestyle Mentor’s provide positive
role models for the students. Our program is designed to serve the
whole student body, faculty and staff with a focus on cardiovascular,
nutrition, flexibility, and strength conditioning with the hope that
our program will help them make a positive lifestyle change.
GOAL was founded on the belief that an ideal lifestyle is comprised
of three key components: physical, mental and social well-being.
(For more information
visit the GOAL
thanks for sharing your Husker memories with us and good luck with
This series of
interviews is being done in conjunction with the Bob
Terrio Classic. Jerry Murtaugh can be reached at this email.