Anatomy of an Era: Final Chapter/Support Staff

Categories: Football No Place
Husker Nutrition & Training Table Staff 2001

Excerpted from Chapter 104, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 2 by Paul Koch



Anatomy of an Era: Final Chapter/Support Staff


Alongside and supplementing the Football Coaching Staff’s various modes of feedback, instruction, and mentoring came help from the shadows, if you will. Perhaps the upcoming names may not ring a bell to you, but don’t for one iota think they were secondary to the process. To the contrary, many of these individuals developed even stronger, more enduring relationships with the athletes than even Tom Osborne and his assistants, and they played a large part in creating an atmosphere of development, achievement, support & encouragement within the organization. Due to NCAA rules mandating and minimizing coach/athlete contact, these support staff members played palpable, tangible and substantial roles. Among many, the more widely hailed individuals mentioned were…

…a few guys… who weren’t coaches who made a difference. You had the Bryan Baileys and the Doak Ostergards there that I think were key to the whole program… I thought Bailey was pretty darn sharp, he had a lot of knowledge and pretty innovative ideas… the other guys, off the radar, were helping you when you were away from home or with relationships or homesick or what have you. There were personalities around there that were able to help you and be there, like Doak (Ostergard) and ol’ Jack Nickolite on the training staff and those guys. They kept it a family atmosphere.             – Ben Rutz



Many players couldn’t pick just one…

…guys that are behind the scenes, guys who don’t get all of the ink, those are the guys who really make the program what it is. A lot of success goes to not just Bryan (Bailey), but a lot of other guys, like Mike Arthur was another guy. The academic guys, Dennis Leblanc and Keith Zimmer, the list of people they had working over there at the academic center, the list just goes on and on. – Jason Peter

There’s no way without Boyd (Epley) and Bryan (Bailey) and Keith (Zimmer) and Doak (Ostergard) and George (Sullivan) and Jerry (Weber) and Dennis (Leblanc), there’s no way I’d have graduated or even played after I got in trouble my sophomore year. There’s no way… – Kevin Ramaekers

Mary Lyn was the secretary and then Joni (Duff), just the stability, the support staff, Director of Football Ops. Dave Gillespie, and then Al Papik and Chris Anderson and Curt Thompson and Pat Logsdon. We had a good strength staff, too. It was just a well-rounded, well-oiled machine for a decade.  – Chad Stanley

The entire support staff: managers, strength staff, secretaries, sports information. All those people. Those are the people for me. The trainers, they don’t get enough credit… The folks up in the office handling staff schedules, all those people. They were all part of it. All those people did such a great job, they allowed the coaches just to focus on the coaching and teaching. – Matt Vrzal


Dennis Leblanc, Dick Herman & Keith Zimmer


Referring to them as ‘Difference-makers’, even? That’s quite a statement…

The difference-makers: Keith (Zimmer), Dennis Leblanc, Jerry Weber, Doak (Ostergard), these guys, all of them… Butch Hug with the facilities. I don’t know who brought all the tackling dummies down to Schulte Fieldhouse when we did the one-on-ones, you know what I mean? So many people. And you know there were some people in the Development Office soliciting funds allowing us to have the facilities we had… there are so many people who should get all the credit, and rightfully so. And there are so many people working under them doing the day-to-day dirty work, and those are the people who never get a ‘thank you’, that nobody knows about. And without them we’re not winning national championships. So those people unselfishly are doing something, not because they need the individual accolades, but because they care enough about the program and the student-athletes to do that. Those are the people, looking back, you had deep admiration and respect for… – Trev Alberts

All those people like that, all of them together were like the glue that binds, helped keep us together and kept us on track. -Larry Townsend


Al Papik
Al Papik


…that’s the way everybody operated. Boyd Epley, Chris Anderson, all those people, we put in a lot of hours. – Dennis Leblanc

…it’s the whole training staff: Sully and Weber and Doak, those guys… And all around, even the Life Skills and Hewitt Center guys, Keith and Dennis, and the strength coaches, of course… And all the ladies in the Sports Information Office and the Ticket Office were always nice. At Nebraska everybody was great.  – Bill Humphrey

Wow, you name them: George Sullivan, Doak Ostergard, Bryan Bailey. A lot of those guys were critical in the trenches. I used to think that old nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty was about me, because George Sullivan put me back together again and again. (laughs) It was ridiculous after a game on Saturday. Our academic staff, Roger and Dennis and Keith, what those guys did. And some of the guys who worked there in the dining hall, I think it was Rolan. But there were just so many people in and around the program, Jack Stark. Just a lot of guys that were in and around the program, Doc Clare and those guys. – Ed Stewart


Brook Berringer & Bryan Bailey


From the Secretaries in the South Stadium football Office…

… The coaches’ secretaries were clearly great people and did a lot of work behind the scenes, but I don’t know if I can tell you of anybody who just pops to mind. Mary Lyn was always great, she had a great sense of humor and was wonderful under stress. There were times when Mary Lyn and I had to get a meeting because Coach Osborne wanted to see me about something or I wanted to see Coach Osborne about something, so she was great to work with. – Lee Barfknecht

To the Training Room…

…the training staff, too, the nights and weekends they would put in. Jerry Weber and Jack Nickolite and those guys…    – Damon Schmadeke


A salute to Jerry Weber


A lot of those trainers were kind of like a bartender. (laughs) You could go and talk to them. It always seemed like they listened and heard about what you were doing, what you had going on in your life, and Sully always seemed like a great guy… they’d get you in to the doctor and do whatever they could do to help you out and cared about everybody. Sully, Weber and Doak, they were all that way. – Bryan Carpenter

…Duke LaRue was a good guy, he was down in that freshman locker room. He was a guy who was down there, as a guy you could talk to and lean your head on if you had a tough day. He’d be taping you and have a soothing personality and help you through some things. He was great, as well.  – Ryan Held


Mary Lyn Wininger
Mary Lyn Wininger


Just really good people around the program. But George Sullivan really sticks out to me… Yeah, George was my guy. You had George (Sullivan) and Doak (Ostergard) and Webex (Jerry Weber) there, but George really put me back together a lot of Sunday mornings.  – Ed Stewart

…the trainers, Jerry Weber and Doak, for sure. Those two guys are guys who contributed to the mix. They were just good guys down to the heart, I guess… And Al Papik, too. He was a guy for my cause… – Aaron Penland

Who even patched up some coaches in their day…

…I try and lighten him up. Sometimes that’s what a trainer has to do for coach, get him out of his funk. – Doak Ostergard

To the Team Doctors…

We had great doctors. If you don’t have great doctors it’s hard to take care of those players… you had Tom Heiser and Pat Clare. …They knew how to keep a football team on the field, they can help you get those guys with the minor injuries or even the serious guys who require surgery, they help get them back on the field.                           – Jack Nickolite


The Pipeline pushing Iron: Aaron Graham, Joel Wilks, Brenden Stai, Zach Wiegert & Rob Zatechka w/ Aaron Penland


To the West Stadium Strength Coaches…

Bryan Bailey, Boyd, Mike Arthur, he’s banging away on some computer coming up with new, creative ways to be successful. Randy Gobel trying to creatively come up with another machine for us to try. It’s non-stop.    – Trev Alberts

And the strength staff: I was a huge Randy Gobel fan and Boyd Epley fan. Those guys were constantly monitoring you, talking to you, come up at lunch and see what you were eating, just constantly on you.  – Kevin Ramaekers

Then there was guys like (Bryan) Bailey. We really cared about Bailey… Bailey would spend incredible time with us, time he didn’t have to… guys like that. A lot of those guys who had big influences on me were people who deserved them rings, too, that went to war with me. They were always a 12th man with us out on the field. We spent more time with the trainers and the strength and conditioning people than we’d spend with the coaches.    – Michael Booker


Boyd Epley and Mike Arthur


Think about yourself, think about Bryan Bailey, think about Mike Arthur. I could have had a class and needed to meet one of you guys at 5 every morning and someone would have been, “Absolutely. I’ll meet you there.” There were so many selfless people that had your best interests in mind …If you weren’t successful as a Nebraska football player it certainly wasn’t because people were not willing to help you, because the support staff was just unbelievable… you thought that was the status quo, that everybody had that support staff and that team behind us. – Terry Connealy

I definitely feel the whole strength and conditioning staff played a huge role in getting us guys to that national championship game. – Trumane Bell

To the Hewitt Academic Center…

Do you remember Roger Grooters? Roger Grooters in Academics; I guess in his mind there were some issues with the African-American athletes there… So I think that he wanted to start something to try to help the athletes…– Sonya Varnell

And then at the end of the day, Keith Zimmer and Dennis Leblanc, those guys taught you how to be a student. A lot of people forget that. If you go to Nebraska and think you’re just gonna play football you are mistaken. You are gonna go, you’re gonna get an education. They’re gonna push you and they’re gonna monitor you. – Kevin Ramaekers



To the Video Staff…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the film guys: Brian Mohnsen, Bryan Carpenter, Dave Finn and those guys. They did such a great job. Then we eventually got HuskerVision, Jeff Schmall and those guys. – Chad Stanley

To the Training Table…

Another guy that played an integral part that we were all close with was the cook at the training table, Art. Art, we always said, could pick a boot up off the highway and barbecue it and make it taste good. Art was always good with the players. It wasn’t just good food, he was good with the players. It was good for morale. You might have had a tough practice or tough game, and Art was always smiling… Him and Dave Ellis working together, just a tremendous job.   – Chad Stanley

…the weightroom and the training table… oh, my God, the training table! The facility was, bar none, like a five-star restaurant. At (Arizona State University) it was kind of like a very small buffet in the one of the stadium rooms, but at Nebraska it was chefs and king crab legs. You were just eating, literally, like a king. You talk about compare and contrast? You’re talking about macaroni & cheese at ASU to crab legs at Nebraska.              – John Livingston


Nbraska Medical/Training Staff ~1994
Nebraska Medical/Training Staff ~1994 (Jack Nickolite bottom right)


To the Groundskeeper, Ol’ Shep…

Bill Shepard, he deserves some recognition for all he did there and all the time he put in. He’d always show up down there at 5 o’clock in the morning and he’d go home and cook dinner at 3:30 (because his wife didn’t like to cook) and then he’d come back down and close up the place. But how many hours the guy put in down there!                    – George Sullivan

Bill Shepard: You know, probably the greatest groundskeeper of all time. And a great guy. –  Jack Nickolite



To the Equipment Managers…

The behind the scenes guys. If you’d like me to mention some of them you’ve got Mike Mason in the equipment room… – Matt Vrzal

You might as well just live there (at Memorial Stadium). We’d get there at 5 in the morning and sometimes we’d break it up so some guys would stay overnight. But still, you’re there until about 8 o’clock at night. You had laundry in between practices and then after that last practice you had to get it done for the next morning…– Mike Mason


Available on


And the Student Managers, every coach’s right hand man…

Those student managers, we put those guys through hell. They were always there if you needed anything. They were great.    – Matt Vrzal

Well, the Assistant Head Manager and the Head Manager had the responsibility of going up to the coaches’ offices before practice, working with the coaches’ secretaries to get the script printed off for practice, with Mary Lyn and Joni Duff. It didn’t take too long once you were Assistant Manager, everybody knew each other on a first name basis up there…   – Brandon Hamer


Brandon Hamer (in white) goes airborne


Even the staff of the Tom Osborne Show…

… It was a very laborious process, but everybody who was affiliated (The Tom Osborne Show) -whether it was me as the host or Jeff Schmall as the Executive Producer or Kirk Hartman as the Director or Shot Kleen as the Engineer or the numerous students who worked on the show- I think everybody loved it because they loved Nebraska football, but they also knew they were doing something for the Nebraska Football fans and for someone like Tom Osborne…   – Bill Doleman


Copyright @ 2013 Thermopylae Press. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credits : Unknown Original Sources/Updates Welcomed

Author assumes no responsibility for interviewee errors or misstatements of fact.


Summary Chapter to be continued…..