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A Story From The Stands – What Have Former Nebraska Football Players Learned From The Game – McGinn
MAKE THE MOST OF A CHANCE
Nebraska wasn’t the first choice for this Chicago Mt. Carmel High School star. “I was recruited by George Kelly who was a coach at Marquette University,” Judge McGinn said. McGinn didn’t stay long in Marquette and followed a seminary call but soon discovered the priesthood wasn’t for him.
“I sent letters to different universities,” McGinn explained. His direct mail approach got a response from an old friend. George Kelly was now one of Devaney’s coaches in Nebraska. “Kelly told me they had a scholarship for me and they had to go out.”
McGinn packed her things and headed over to Lincoln. It was 1962 and the excitement was high in Lincoln. His first day in Nebraska, however, was a bit stressful. “I missed the physical,” McGinn said. “I hurt my shoulder in high school and it needed to be fixed.”
McGinn didn’t have long to feel down about the issue, however. “Coach Devaney came up to me and said not to worry, they would get things fixed.”
“Preseason practices weren’t as tough in Nebraska as they were in high school,” McGinn recalled. “We were allowed breaks when it was hot and they even had salt water and slices of orange and lemon for us.
Even the regular season practices were lighter. We didn’t do a lot of calisthenics. If you played on Saturday, you didn’t have to scrimmage the following week.” Football was fun for this running back now on guard in attack and defense. Yes, he played both sides of the ball.
McGinn focused on his studies and his goal of becoming a dentist. But that quickly changed too. “I got a D in chemistry, so I got dual enrollment in arts and sciences and Teacher’s College,” McGinn explained. He was going to become a coach.
McGinn was unable to attend the first bowling game of the Devaney era as he was ineligible due to the transfer. The Huskers headed to the Gotham Bowl in New York and beat Miami in a freezing weather squeaker, 36-34.
The following year, he was part of an Oklahoma-style 5/4 defense. “There were five linemen and 2 linebackers above the guards,” he explained. Nebraska was also using an alternate team method where McGinn would come in to replace All-American Bob Brown.
“Some opposition players were happy to see me come in after having to deal with Brown for a while.” Brown was 6’5″ and 270 and McGinn was right at 6′ and 205, almost exactly where he is today. Not everyone on that team was a giant. There was even a little tough guy. Cleveland in the backfield named after Frank Solich.
McGinn went to work on his own strength and size. The famous Husker Power bodybuilding program was still a few years away. “At that time there was a set of Sears weights in the country house and a large bar in the basement of the Colosseum,” he explained.
Excitement was building at a record pace and with it, seats for the sea of red began to emerge from the ground at the south end of the stadium. “By the time I was a senior, the south stadium was finished,” he recalled. In addition to the new hall for devotees, warmer and sunnier bowl appearances took place. Nebraska beat Auburn in the 1963 Orange Bowl, 13-7.
“We played Arkansas in the 1964 Cotton Bowl and handled them for most of the game, but they started hitting the little patterns and we just couldn’t adapt,” he recalls . “I recovered a fumble but it wasn’t enough, they beat us 10-7.”
The future football coach with a major in English and philosophy was now a Nebraska graduate. The real world called. “I went to work at a Firestone retread plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota,” he said with a big smile. “Then I got interested in law school.”
McGinn enrolled in Nebraska Law School and worked for County Attorney Paul Douglas. When he graduated, he was offered a position in the country’s attorney’s office and served there for eleven years until his appointment to the district court by Governor Charles Thone.
“I hope I will do some good by making an effort to protect society with my judgement,” he said. “I like the variety of experiences.” But there is one type of experience that clearly troubles him. It’s when a young man stands in front of him.
If he succeeded, he would rather see the young men standing in front of the likes of Devaney, Osborne and Solich than having to stand in front of him. “Children need supervision and attention and sometimes they just don’t understand,” he said. “Sometimes they just don’t have a chance.”
Retired Judge McGinn doesn’t attend all of Husker’s home games, but you can catch him from time to time with some of his old friends. “Fred Duda and I went to the Notre Dame game and several of us get together every summer.
“Chances are they’re probably talking about getting a chance to play football for Nebraska. Bernard McGinn made the most of his chance.
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