Though his name wasn’t listed on Nebraska’s roster in the official program for the 1978 season-opener against Alabama in Birmingham, Dave Rimington got to make the trip.
Rimington, a center, was a freshman from Omaha South, and freshmen, even prize recruits, rarely were included on the Husker travel roster then – certainly not offensive linemen.
He got in for a few snaps, but “I just wasn’t ready,” he said.
Alabama was preseason ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press, Nebraska No. 10. The Crimson Tide shut down the Husker offense. Nebraska scored first, on Billy Todd’s 48-yard field goal 6:46 into the game. But the Huskers didn’t score again. Alabama won 20-3.
Rimington got to play again two weeks later, in a 56-10 victory against Hawaii at Memorial Stadium. He wore a No. 56 jersey – junior Jeff Bloom had the No. 50 he wanted.
Rimington suffered a knee injury in a mop-up opportunity against Hawaii, ending his freshman season with a medical redshirt. He had injured the knee in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl but seemed to have recovered. Five plays into the Hawaii game, however, the season was over.
How such injuries were repaired was different then. Doctors “took everything out that was ripped,” said Rimington. “So I just played without all those ligaments, the ACL.”
In the spring of his sophomore year, the Huskers were looking for a left tackle, so he switched positions briefly, lining up against defensive tackles such as Bill Barnett and Dan Pensick. He quickly realized “there was no future for me in this position.” Offensive line coaches Clete Fischer and Milt Tenopir also realized that and moved him back to center, for which he was grateful.
“It was humbling, and it was probably good because I was so relieved when they said I could play center,” he said. “It was just a disaster.”
Rimington, who switched to No. 50 after Bloom finished, set the standard for Husker offensive linemen. The Boomer Esiason Foundation now sponsors the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top collegiate center. The Huskers’ Dominic Raiola was the first winner in 2000.
Raiola is among eight other Husker centers to earn first-team All-America recognition in the modern era, 12 total counting Lawrence Ely, Charles Brock, and Tom Novak, all of whom are listed as “center” in Nebraska’s record book, though they played both offense and defense.
As with Rimington, two other modern-era centers were first-team All-Americans twice: Rik Bonness and Jake Young. Aaron Taylor also earned first-team All-America honors twice, at center as a junior and guard (the position he had played previously) as a senior.
Rimington grew up listening to Lyell Bremser describe Husker games on the radio; few games were televised. He didn’t attend a game at Memorial Stadium until he was being recruited. He has described the opportunity to go to Nebraska on scholarship as “the coolest thing that ever happened.”
Even so, he looked at other schools. Coach Tom Osborne has told him he was “the only guy I know who said he was going to Nebraska and took six trips to make sure.”
Colorado was among those interested, as were Iowa, Iowa State and Nevada-Las Vegas.
“It was a lot of fun to experience all of that,” Rimington said. “But I knew pretty much unless somebody was just going to wow me, ‘I’m going to Nebraska.’”
Despite being not fully recovered from the knee surgery, Rimington was included on the travel roster to the 1979 Orange Bowl rematch against Oklahoma. “A kid from south Omaha getting to see the ocean and all that, ‘I’m in high cotton. This is a pretty cool thing,’” he said.
NEBRASKA’S ALL-AMERICA CENTERS
Lawrence Ely (Grand Island, Neb.), 1932
Charles Brock (Columbus, Neb.), 1937
Tom Novak (Omaha), 1947
Rik Bonness (Bellevue, Neb.), 1974-75
Tom Davis (Omaha), 1977
Dave Rimington (Omaha), 1981-82
Mark Traynowicz (Bellevue, Neb.), 1984
Bill Lewis (Sioux City, Iowa), 1985
Jake Young (Midland, Texas), 1988-89
Aaron Graham (Denton, Texas), 1995
Aaron Taylor (Wichita Falls, Texas), 1996
Dominic Raiola (Honolulu, Hawaii), 2000
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.