Bob Brown was listed at 6-foot-5 and 259 pounds in Nebraska’s 1963 football media guide. He was easily the biggest Husker. Next was Lloyd Voss at 6-4, 247.
Both had started on the offensive line in 1962, Brown at right guard, Voss at right tackle. The left tackle, Tyrone Robertson, was listed at 5-11, 210. The other interior-line starters were co-captain Dwain Carlson (6-2, 200) at left guard and Ron Michka (6-0, 205) at center.
Brown and Robertson, both from Ohio, earned All-Big Eight honors that season.
Because of limited-substitution rules, players went both ways, offense and defense, until 1964, so Brown also played linebacker and defensive end. His strength was such that he could shed would-be blockers with forearm shivers. But his NFL future was as an offensive lineman.
Brown is atop a 10-best list of Huskers from Ohio – he came from East Tech in Cleveland. But Willie Harper is a close second. The defensive end on Bob Devaney’s back-to-back national championship teams might also rank near the top of an all-time list of underrated Huskers, despite his being a two-time consensus All-American. Folks tend to forget just how good he was because he played on defensive lines that included Larry Jacobson and Rich Glover, Nebraska’s first Outland Trophy winners. Harper’s senior year Glover was the first Husker to win both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, while wingback Johnny Rodgers earned the Huskers’ first Heisman Trophy.
Mike Riley has landed players from Ohio in each of the last two scholarship-recruiting classes – Matt Sichterman and Tony Butler – after Bo Pelini, a Youngstown native, recruited nine during his seven seasons as head coach, only one of whom, Tim Marlowe, completed his eligibility at Nebraska.
Pelini had more scholarship recruits from Ohio than the Huskers’ three previous coaches combined. Tom Osborne recruited five from Ohio in his first five years, none more publicized, perhaps, than Greg Whetsel, a 6-4, 218-pound running back from Ridgeway in 1977. Things didn’t work out for Whetsel, however, a back-up on the 1977 freshman team. Osborne recruited only one more from Ohio during his 25 years as head coach, linebacker Larry Arnold from Copley in 1992.
Devaney’s first team at Nebraska in 1962 included four from Ohio besides Brown and Robertson (Toledo), recruited by his predecessor, Bill Jennings, among them Brown and brother Ulysses, who began his collegiate career at Northwestern. Bob was inclined to go to UCLA out of high school but picked Nebraska because Jennings was willing to offer Ulysses a scholarship too. Bob’s No. 64 and Tom Novak’s No. 60 are the only permanently retired numbers in Husker history.
10. Lawrence Cole, DE, Dayton (1978-79)
Two-year starter after not lettering as redshirt sophomore, co-captain in 1979
9. Ron McDole, T, Toledo (1958-59-60)
Two-year starter, played 1,074 of 1,200 minutes in those seasons; co-captain, 18-year NFL career
8. Bill Thornton, FB, Toledo (1960-61-62)
First-team All-Big Eight in 1961, injury problems in 1962, co-captain, first African-American in NU Innocents Society
7. Harry Wilson, RB, Steubenville (1964-65-66)
“Lighthorse” led Huskers in rushing two seasons, first-team All-Big Eight, UPI All-America honorable mention in 1966
6. Kenny Brown, WB, Cincinnati (1975-77-78-79)
Two-time All-Big Eight, all-purpose receiving, rushing, kick returning; 3rd nationally in punt returns in 1978
5. Marvin Crenshaw, OT, Toledo (1972-73-74)
Started two-and-a-half seasons, consensus All-American in 1974
4. Frank Solich, FB-KR – Cleveland (1963-64-65)
NU’s leading rusher in 1964, second in 1965; outstanding kick returner, co-captain, Husker head coach 1998-2003
3. DeJuan Groce, CB-KR, Garfield Heights (1999-00-01-02)
All-America punt returner, second-team All-Big 12 corner in 2001, tied NCAA season record four punt-return TDs
2. Willie Harper, DE, Toledo (1970-71-72)
Two-time, consensus All-American, three-year starter, Big Eight Sophomore Lineman of the Year in 1970
1. Bob Brown, OG-LB, Cleveland (1961-62-63)
Unanimous All-American, Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C., National Lineman of the year in 1963, College and Pro Football Hall of Fame
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.