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Review: Heart of A Husker - Tom Osborne's Nebraska Legacy

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Finally a book about Nebraska football! There aren't a lot of new releases coming out about Nebraska football these days, probably because there hasn't been a lot to write about with the new regime being only four years old. Since we're playing Ball State and Iowa State the next two weeks, I plan on catching up somewhat with my reviews as there are a lot of good books available this year.

"Heart of A Husker - Tom Osborne's Nebraska Legacy" - is about the career of Nebraska legendary coach Tom Osborne.  

Author Mike Babcock has covered Nebraska football for nearly three decades. He is a contributing editor for Huskers Illustrated magazine, and author of several books about Nebraska football, such as "Stadium Stories: Tales from the Nebraska Sideline", and "Go Big Red: The Ultimate Fan's Guide to Nebraska Cornhusker Football.

Heart of A Husker starts with a forward from Bobby Bowden, relating that Florida State's win over Nebraska in 1980 was their biggest win since it put them on the map. Bowden compliments Cornhusker fans and feels that this is a reflection of Tom's character.

The book begins with Mike Babcock's recollection of his first dealings with Osborne which were awkward at best. Babcock then goes on to interview over 100 players and assistant coaches, covering Osborne's entire career. Each interview begins with an introduction to the interviewee - whether it be how they came to be at Nebraska or a defining game or play - placing them into the context of Husker football.

Heart of A Husker is divided into several sections, each covering a period in Osborne's career:

  • Following A Legend (1973-79)
  • Changing Philosophy (1980-85)
  • Great Expectations (1986-92)
  • Finishing Strong (1993-97)
  • Assistant Coaches

There are many many stories from players and coaches regarding Cornhusker football. What I found interesting were the subtle changes in Osborne throughout the years. As his career progressed he became less tense and more comfortable in his position. The interviewees include just about anybody with a name that you can recall.

The book does get redundant (and a little dry) as the interviews contain the same themes - Tom Osborne did have a sense of humor, he said "Dadgummit" when he got angry, he was a great coach, he never forgot a person's name, he was a master of offensive football, yada yada yada.

It's disappointing until you realize that this is Tom Osborne, a model of character and consistency. The book isn't about telling fantastic stories about what happened during such and such game (although some are included), but about establishing what kind of person Osborne is through the eyes of his players throughout the years.

Heart of A Husker is a tremendous accomplishment for Babcock when you consider that the day will come when a lot of these guys are gone but there will remain a detailed record of what Osborne was like through the eyes of his players and assistant coaches.

I'd recommend it if you're someone who's an admirer of Osborne, or a fan of Nebraska football history and want to know more about the Osborne era. If you're someone looking for a bunch of humorous stories about Nebraska football then this isn't the book for you, you'd be better off with Steve Smith's excellent Forever Red.