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A Story From The Stands – What Have Former Nebraska Football Players Learned From The Game – McGinn
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHANCE
Nebraska wasn’t the first choice for this high school star from Chicago Mt. Caramel. “I was recruited by George Kelly who was the coach at Marquette University,” Judge McGinn said. McGinn didn’t stay long at Marquette and followed a call to seminary, but soon discovered that the priesthood was not for him.
“I sent some letters to different universities,” McGinn explained. His direct mail approach received a response from an old friend. George Kelly was now one of Devaney’s coaches at Nebraska. “Kelly told me they had a scholarship for me and to come out.”
McGinn packed his bags and headed for Lincoln. It was 1962 and excitement was high in Lincoln. However, his first day at Nebraska was a little stressful. “I failed PE,” McGinn said. “I hurt my shoulder in high school and it needed to be fixed.
However, McGinn didn’t have much time to feel sad about the problem. “Coach Devaney came up to me and told me not to worry, they’re going to fix things.”
“The preseason wasn’t as tough at Nebraska as it was in high school,” McGinn recalled. “We were allowed breaks when it was hot and they even had salt water and orange and lemon slices for us.
Even regular training was easier. We didn’t do a lot of gymnastics. If you played on Saturday, you didn’t have to fight the next week.” Football was fun for this quarterback who has now switched to offensive and defensive back. Yes, he played on both sides of the ball.
McGinn concentrated on his studies and his goal of becoming a dentist. But that too soon changed. “I got a D in chemistry, so I got into dual arts and science and Teachers College,” McGinn explained. He should have been a coach.
McGinn did not make it to the first bowl of the Nineties era because he was ineligible due to a transfer. The Huskers headed to the Gotham Bowl in New York City and beat Miami in cold weather, 36-34.
The following year, he was part of Oklahoma’s 5/4 style defense. “There were five down players and 2 backs over the backs,” he explained. Nebraska also used a rotation method where McGinn would come in to fill in for All-American Bob Brown.
“There were some opposition players who were happy to see me come in after having to deal with Brown for a while. Brown was 6′ 5″ and 270, and McGinn was right at 6′ and 205, almost exactly what he is today. Not everyone on that team was a giant. There was even a tough little guy from Cleveland in the backfield named Frank Solich.
McGinn went to work with his strength and size. The famous Husker Power strength program was still on hiatus for a few years. “At that time there was a set of Sears weights in the house and a big bar in the basement of the Coliseum,” he explained.
Excitement was building at a record pace, and with it, seats for the red sea began to emerge from the ground at the south end of the stadium. “By the time I was a senior, South Stadium was finished,” he recalled. Along with the new worshiper’s room came the appearance of warmer and sunnier bowls. Nebraska defeated Auburn in the 1963 Orange Bowl, 13-7.
“We played Arkansas in the 1964 Cotton Bowl and we led them most of the game, but they started hitting little patterns and we just couldn’t adjust,” he recalled. “I recovered the fumble but it wasn’t enough, they beat us 10-7.
The future football coach with degrees in English and philosophy is now a graduate of Nebraska. The real world is calling. “I went to work at the Firestone recap plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota,” he said with a big smile. “Then I got interested in law school.”
McGinn attended Nebraska Law School and clerked for District Attorney Paul Douglas. Upon graduation, he was offered a position in the attorney general’s office and remained there for eleven years until appointed to the District Court by Governor Charles Toone.
“I hope to do some good by trying to protect society with my trial,” he said. “I like the variety of experiences.” But there’s one type of experience that clearly bothers him. That’s when the young man stands before him.
If he had his way, he’d rather have young men standing in front of people like Devaney, Osborne and Solich than having to stand in front of him. “Kids need supervision and attention, and sometimes they just don’t get it,” he said. “Sometimes they just don’t stand a chance.”
Retired referee McGinn doesn’t attend every Husker home game, but you might see him with some of his old friends from time to time. “Fred Duda and I used to go to a Notre Dame game and a bunch of us get together every summer.
“Chances are they’re probably talking about having a chance to play football for Nebraska.” Bernard McGinn made the most of his chance.
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