Claridge was the first starting quarterback for Bob Devaney and played
for the Cornhuskers from 1961-63. He was the starting quarterback
for Nebraska's first two bowl games which were both victories. The
Gotham Bowl on December 15, 1962 against Miami and the Orange Bowl
on January 1, 1964. More information about Dennis can be found
also was the starting quarterback when the current NCAA record streak
of 262 straight sellout games in Memorial stadium was started on November
3, 1962. Dennis has agreed to sign 262 plus copies of that first
program along with co-captain Bill "Thunder" Thorton as
a fund raiser for the Bob Terrio Classic.
interview with Dennis was done by David
Max on May 18th, 2004.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Arizona and attended junior high and high school in Minnesota.
You were recruited to Nebraska before Bob Devaney became coach. Who
were you recruited by?
I was recruited by the head coach Bill Jennings and his assistant
coach Leroy Pierce who recruited Minnesota and had direct contact
Were you recruited by other teams?
Yes, I was recruited by Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado in addition
What made you choose Nebraska?
Being very young and immature at the time the reason I went to college
was more to play football and I gradually got smarter as I was in
college. The best opportunity to play appeared to be at Nebraska than
any of the other schools so that's why I chose Nebraska.
Out of the four schools did you feel that Nebraska was the best school
or offered the best playing opportunity.
The best playing opportunity.
What was the feeling amongst the players when Bill Jennings was fired?
I think overall it's disappointment anytime that a player is at a
school and a coach get's fired. I think it is the unknown. You knew
what was there. You knew the coaching staff and their philosophy and
how things worked and you bring somebody in and maybe he's got different
ideas and different philosophy and everything is kind of up for grabs
and you don't know how you're going to fit into that system and everybody
was a little uneasy.
What was your first impression of Bob Devaney?
I thought it was fantastic! He came and met all the players in the
basement of Sellick Quad and had a meeting there and introduced himself
and introduced Jim Ross. He told us a little bit about what he wanted
and what he expected and he had evidently talked to some people that
had informed him of our dislikes from the previous staff. Every player's
going to have dislikes and we had a lot of long practices and scrimmages
during the week and things like that. He came out and said we're not
going to do this and we're not going to do that and these are the
things that we will do. He also said every position is open and everyone
is going to have an equal right to play for that position so all of
those guys that hadn't been playing were of course very excited and
he carried that through.
The first meeting
was very good, very positive and of course with his wit and humor
he got everybody on his side right away.
So his coaching style was a lot different than Bill Jennings.
Yes, with Bill Jennings it was primarily a power type offense and
in the old days it was a full house back field and no split ends and
no nothing and it was pretty much run at them and you might do a few
things. You might run an option or an option pass or a few drop back
passes but probably 80% of it was just plain power football.
Devaney brought in an unbalanced
line, a split end and changed the philosophy as to how we did things
and why we did things. He really involved the quarterback more in
some of the decision making in the offense so it was kind of an exciting
thing for me.
Did you call the plays yourself or were they sent in from the bench?
The quarterback got to call the plays and that was the fun part of
being quarterback. When you're on the field and when you hand it off
you can watch how the defense reacted and you could see who was doing
what and what their attack points were. You could modify the game
according to what you saw on the field.
And then also,
when you came off the field you would talk to them or I always tried
to have a good rapport with the linemen and I would always ask each
of the linemen "How is your guy?" and back then they played
variations of defense that were a lot more basic and you would ask
a guy and he would tell you He's really tough. I can hold him but
that's about it. Or some other guy would say I can take him inside
all day but I can't take him outside. You would design your game plan
according to what your linemen told you and what you saw. At half
time, Bob Devaney was a master at figuring out what we could do to
take advantages of those situations also. The quarterback, actually
in those days called the plays and kind of trying to see what would
work. I don't mean to say a coach on the field. It wasn't that. You
had to be really thinking out there.
DM Do you have a favorite Bob Devaney game story?
Oh, gee whiz. I guess one that I wasn't involved in that I heard about
is my favorite because it sounds just like Bob and I forget when it
was. It might have been when Van Brownson and Jerry Tagge was playing.
I think they were behind at half time and everybody was waiting for
him to come into the locker room and half time was about over and
he walked in and put his head in the door and said "Sorry ladies,
I was looking for my team."
That was his half time
and I think they went out and won the game. I wasn't there but that's
what I heard and that sounds just typical Bob. He was a fantastic
What was your best Bob Devaney memory of the win over Miami in the
1962 Gotham Bowl?
Before the game there was a newspaper blackout and there was a newspaper
strike in New York City and he came in said "Guys, there's not
going to be anyone watching you. You're not going to get any press
coverage. There's not going to be big hulabaloo about this but it's
kind of like a back alley fight. The toughest guy's going to win and
nobody's going to be watching. Let's find out who's tough. Let's go
out and win."
If I remember right it was really cold that day.
Oh, it was brutal. The field was frozen. It was miserable conditions
but it was probably one of the better bowl games that I've seen.
What was your best memory of the win over Auburn in the 1964 Orange
That's the one thing that I'm glad for that game for the run that
I made because it gave people something to remember you by. If it
hadn't been for that I'm sure there would have been memories but whenever
you talk to somebody that's reminiscing about the days gone by, that
run is one thing that they remember. (68 yard touchdown play on the
second play from scrimmage.)
I remember reading in the paper afterward about that run and you were
quoted as saying that it was designed to only gain 2 or 3 yards.
Yeah, it wasn't really a goal line play but it was kind of a short
yardage type play. It was a quick hitter and I don't know if they
had the defense set to go the other way or just what they had done
but we caught them by suprise and it couldn't have worked any better.
Most people are unaware that you were not only the starting quarterback
but that you also were the punter and played defensive back.
Well, back in those days you played both ways and as a sophmore anyway
depending on the defense I was a cornerback or an outside linebacker.
As a junior when Bob came I think you could substitute two people
and so he took me out and I think the center Rod Mishka. He took us
out and put in people better fit for those situations. As a senior
it was the same thing so that was the end of my defensive career.
What was your most memorable regular season victory?
The biggest one that I remember is my senior year when we beat OKlahoma.
In those days OU was the top dog and the team that you wanted to beat
and our whole season revolved around winning as many games as you
could but the maximum effort was against Oklahoma. As a junior we
were tied with Oklahoma and when we played down there they just kicked
the tar out of us. Monte Deere was the quarterback and he threw about
3 touchdown passes against us. I don't know if he threw 3 touchdown
passes all year prior to that game but he did against us.
The next year
we played here and they had Ralph Neely, their big tackle and we had
Lloyd Voss and Bob Brown and those guys and we handled them pretty
How does it feel to be the starting quarterback on the team that started
the consecutive sell out streak of 262 games and counting at Memorial
I guess it one of those just amazing things that when you come down
here who would have ever thought that you'd have been the start of
something. It's hard to fathom. Just to have been part of that transition
when Bob came here and to go from the previous 10 or 15 years when
they weren't very good and Bob took us to 9-2 right away and the next
year we were 10-1. That's the memory that I have most that I would
be proud of that I had the chance to be a part of the first team that
got things started as far as the great winning tradition that has
carried on for 40 years.
What was your first contract with the Green Bay Packers worth?
I had a two year no cut contract with a $25,000 signing bonus and
a $15,000 annual salary. It paid my tuition to dental school in the
You were with Green Bay for two years and Atlanta for one. Did you
just decide to retire after the third year or did you have an injury.
There's two parts to it. I came to Nebraska because I wanted to play.
I loved football. It was my life and I wanted to play it. I didn't
want to sit on the bench. So that's why I went to Nebraska. When I
went to the pros it was a different level of competition. I think
that I was an adequate professional quarterback. I probably could
have hung around but I was just plain not good enough to be a regular
starter or player. When you're around those people you look and you
can tell that you have talent that is just not quite the talent that
you need to play at that particular time.
The second reason was that
my senior year at Nebraska was my freshman year in dental school and
when I left to go into the pros I had to be released and they said
you can go to the pros for three years. If you stay longer than that
you will have to repeat your freshman year in dental school. I had
a decision to make and I didn't want to repeat my freshman year in
dental school if I continued to play football and I didn't think that
I was probably good enough to be a starter or a player for a number
of years so the decision was difficult but fairly easy.
What are you doing now?
I'm an orthodontist in Lincoln and I have a satellite office in Fairbury
for a number of years.
Do people still recognize you as being Nebraska's first quarterback
of the Bob Devaney era?
Oh, I think a few old timers like you but they have had so much success.
So many national championships and it's only right that the focus
should be on the kids that have played in, oh, the last ten years.
Ten years from now they will forget some of the other great players
that were on those championship teams and remember the newer ones.
That's just the way it is.
Do you still go to Nebraska games?
Yeah, I enjoy going to games but I enjoy going to the competitive
games. If there's a team where it's not going to be real close I don't
enjoy that as much except for maybe the first game to see the new
players and see how things are going. When you're playing Oklahoma,
or Missouri, or Kansas State I love those games.
Dennis, thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
purchase a copy of the Nov. 3, 1962 program autographed by Dennis
and co-captain Bill "Thunder" Thornton at
this link. Proceeds from the sale of these programs go to the
Terrio Classic fund raiser to help the Western, NE Volunteer Fire
Department purchase an ambulance.