Mike Kennedy was an original Blackshirt for Nebraska. He was an Omaha Benson Bunny pulled in by new Husker Coach Bob Devaney in the early 1960s. From his linebacker spot he helped build the foundation of a college football dynasty for the Cornhuskers. Kennedy is now living in Omaha and a retired high school teacher.
Mike Kennedy, Linebacker
*1963--As a sophomore he played in nine games on offense and defense for a Big 8 Champion Husker team that won the Orange Bowl.
*1964-A starter as a sophomore for Nebraska he led all linebackers in tackles for a team that won the Big 8 and the Cotton Bowl.
*1965-He was All Big 8 and had 69 tackles to lead the Huskers in that category for the Big 8 champs. He started in the National Championship game in a loss to Alabama.
What do you think so far of the Huskers?
People need to calm down a bit. I think they are getting better with a new staff. Folks should relax that think they are going to be great overnight.
Player that stands out?
Not so much a single guy as just looking for them to play as a unit. But that big 79 in the middle is coming along nicely on defense.
Toughest guy you ever played against?
Walt Garrison was a running back from Oklahoma State who went to play for the Dallas Cowboys was a load on every play. We barely beat them and he was all they had.
What do you remember about recruiting?
Coach Devaney came to my house and my brother Pat had leukemia. We talked for a bit and then Devaney went off with my brother to look at his photography as that was his hobby. And Devaney spent about 30 minutes with my brother, while everyone else sat around looking at each other. Pat passed soon after that.
Devaney’s effect on your family?
After Devaney left, my dad said to me you might want to think about playing for that guy. End of story, I was going to Nebraska.
We had a great defensive back named Ted Vactor. He was a talker. He was talking about how fast he was and nobody could beat him. Finally Tom Osborne had heard enough and said to Vactor, we race and if you win, you don’t do 40s at the end of practice and I run in your place. I win and you run.
Ted took the bet and he got smoked by Tom. Fun practice.
You ever remind Osborne?
When Tom came back to Nebraska in 2007, I sent him a note saying, ‘I know we are in good hands because anybody that could shut Vactor up, can handle anything.’
Tom sent a note backing saying he didn’t think anybody remembered that.
Another coach that stood out?
John Melton, our linebackers coach, was the coach who said more but knew less than anyone. But he was a great recruiter, boy!
What do you remember about the loss in the National Championship to Alabama?
Things started bad and got worse. Devaney was so mad but score ended up OK (39-28).
You were Devaney’s chauffer?
Yes and sort of watching over him. One time on a fundraising trip to the York, I asked what time did you tell Phyllis you would be home and he said midnight. After golf we went on our own way for a bit and it was getting late, so I figured it was time to go.
But he wanted to stay longer, however, no way I was gonna face Phyllis. I said I’m not having you home late. I just grabbed him and we headed out.
Ever consider the NFL?
Yes but they didn’t pay enough. And I was talking to the Packers and they were stacked at linebacker so I got on with my life and had a small family too. Taught for over 30 years in OPS.
Were Husker fans as crazy back then?
Oh, yeah. Just more information today but same crazy.