Jarvis Redwine ran “grass drills” each afternoon the week after Nebraska’s 21-17 loss to Oklahoma in 1980, under the direction of Husker running backs coach Mike Corgan.
Make that “Iron Mike” Corgan, an appropriate nickname for the veteran coach, who had come to Nebraska from Wyoming with Bob Devaney in 1962.
Redwine ran in place until a signal from Corgan then dropped to the turf and did push-ups before standing up to run in place again. The drill continued until Corgan said it was over.
Grass drills weren’t necessarily for conditioning, though they contributed to that obviously. Rather, they were disciplinary, in this case for what Redwine had done midway through the first quarter of the Oklahoma game. He broke free for an 89-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
The play brought many in the Memorial Stadium crowd of 76,322 to their feet, and raised the ire of Corgan near the end. As Redwine headed toward the north end zone, along the east sideline, he turned and pointed at Oklahoma’s Ken Sitton, the last giving chase.
Even if the gesture hadn’t drawn a penalty, Corgan would have been displeased. Those who played for him were supposed to go about their “business,” his word for what they did.
Ironically, brash behavior was common enough by Coach Barry Switzer’s Sooners. Or so Nebraska fans would tell you, anyway. That’s why their excitement was enhanced when Redwine turned and pointed at Sitton. In addition, Switzer was 7-1 against Osborne to that point. He and Switzer both became head coaches in 1973, and had played twice in the 1978 season. The Sooners won a rematch in the Orange Bowl a month and a half after Osborne’s first victory against them in Lincoln.
Redwine, twice voted by fans as the most popular Husker, was anything but brash. He said afterward it was spur-of-the-moment and he hadn’t thought it was taunting until he watched a replay. The official had made the right call, he said, and his actions had warranted a penalty.
It was enforced on the kickoff. Kevin Seibel still kicked the ball out of the end zone.
Redwine earned first-team All-America honors from United Press International and the Football Writers in 1980, even though he missed two games with a broken rib and had to deal with its effects during the middle of the season. He rushed for 1,119 yards, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and nine touchdowns. But 666 of the yards and six of the touchdowns came in the first four games.
The previous season, he had rushed for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns, despite not becoming the starter until the fourth game and then missing time dealing with the effects of a knee injury, which occurred on a controversial play in the eighth at Missouri involving the Tigers’ Norman Goodman.
Nebraska’s 1980 media guide, which included him on its cover, said: “If not for injuries, Redwine could have been the greatest runner in NU history.” Osborne was no less complimentary. Prior to the season, he was quoted: “Of all the players we’ve had since Johnny Rodgers, Jarvis has the best shot at the Heisman Trophy if he continues to work hard and has another great year this season.”
Redwine, who earned the nickname “Marvelous Jarvis,” played only the two seasons at Nebraska, transferring from Oregon State after a season and a half in Corvallis.
Redwine’s run against Oklahoma was reminiscent of redshirt freshman JD Spielman’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Arkansas State in that when he pulled ahead of his pursuers near the Red Wolves’ 40-yard line, he pointed, though not at the defender.
His dad, Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman, “was proud of me as a father, (but) also as a coaching figure at the same time,” JD said during Monday’s news conference. “He also joked around; ‘Next time don’t point.’ I kind of learned my lesson on that one.”
Unlike on Redwine’s run, Spielman’s exuberance didn’t draw a penalty.
Redwine couldn’t have been surprised by Corgan’s reaction, evidence that his pointing was spur-of-the moment. And the Huskers might have been better served by a couple more such penalties under similar circumstances. Oklahoma’s George Rhymes scored from 1 yard out with 56 seconds remaining for a 21-17 victory. Rhymes’ nickname was “Buster,” to which was added “the man with luster.”
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.