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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Outland Trophy Ceremony Gives Platform for Nebraska Legends and Future

January 12, 2023

At 85 years old, Dr. Tom Osborne can still command a room of football fans. He walked up to the podium during Wednesday night’s Outland Trophy and Nebraska Senior Awards Ceremony at the Hilton in downtown Omaha and explained the award now baring his name.

Osborne humbled himself and athletic director Trev Alberts with a few brief on-the-field decisions from the former Butkus Award winners’ playing days. He also acknowledged new College Football Hall of Fame inductee Zach Wiegert. The former head coach recalled the former Outland winner’s wilder years on the team and how Wiegert used to tell the opponents which play the Huskers were about to run. Osborne joked that was the origin of the no-huddle offense because there was no point in huddling if the lineman announced the play at the line of scrimmage.

But the former player, coach, athletic director and Congressman was there to bestow former Husker Barry Alvarez with the Tom Osborne Legacy Award. That award, bestowed to “a winner on and off the field,” previously went to the likes of Will Shields, Bill Snyder, Barry Switzer, Bobby Bowden and Frank Solich. Alvarez could not attend but shared a statement congratulating the other award winners and thanking Osborne for his time in Lincoln.

Osborne exited the stage, returning briefly to the table he shared with Alberts and new head coach Matt Rhule. Osborne is excited about the future and believes Rhule will do a great job. Nebraska’s head coach spoke for a few minutes, thanking everyone for attending and their warm welcome. Rhule’s excited to attend next year’s ceremony and talk about Husker seniors he’s gotten to know better. He also congratulated the night’s awards recipients, namely Michigan center Olu Oluwatimi. Rhule also congratulated Michigan offensive line coach Sherrone Moore, who he called one of the best coaches in football at one of the best programs in football.

“It’s one of the reasons why I came to Nebraska,” Rhule said. “Because we’re supposed to be there right beside you guys.”

Moore introduced Oluwatimi, Michigan’s first ever Outland Trophy winner. The unanimous All-American center thanked his family, coaches and teammates. He also thanked those who made the presentation happen and the Football Writers Association of America for their votes. Oluwatimi also said it was a pleasure to play for the most decorated program, taking a strategic throat clear before finishing the sentence, in history. The banquet room cheered him and his family for his accomplishment.

Alberts, meanwhile, traded his pads for reading glasses and a bright red folder at the Outland ceremony. He was there to bestow some of the Husker Senior Awards handed out Wednesday night.

The Cletus Fisher Native Son Award went to Matt Masker. Masker couldn’t attend because he’d already started a job after graduating last month. He follows last year’s winner, Ben Stille. The Tim Novak Award, presented to the Husker who exhibits courage and determination, went to Caleb Tannor. Tannor played in every game of his Nebraska career. He couldn’t attend because of NFL Draft preparations. The Guy Chamberlain Award, presented to someone who betters the university, went to Travis Vokolek. He also couldn’t attend for draft preparations but his parents said he cherished his time at Nebraska and believes in brighter days ahead.

The Cornhusker Award, presented to a former walk-on, went Trent Hixson. Hixson, originally from Omaha Skutt, started his Husker career as a walk-on and finished as the team’s starting center in every game this past season. He passed on scholarship offers at Air Force and South Dakota State because he knew what it meant to play at Nebraska. The team’s fortunes didn’t change but he won his only football trophy in the last game of his collegiate career, beating Iowa for the Heroes Trophy. That last accomplishment, as he said it, earned a round of applause from the room.

Hixson wrote a speech for the award. He said before the ceremony that he was a little nervous to speak in front of the crowd. At every bit of 6-foot-4, he stood and delivered what he wrote down. It took him a few sentences to catch his rhythm but he got there.

“Receiving this award tonight means the world to me and being able to represent Omaha means the world to me,” Hixson read from his speech. “To represent Nebraska, represent walk-ons, is an honor and a privilege.

“I hope that those who are considering walking on to any athletic program bet on themselves because you know what you’re capable of. Go Big Red.”

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