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Husker On The Hustings
Coach Tom Osborne calls a career
audible-and runs for office

By Tom Zenner

For a guy who built his legendary reputation on being somewhat predictable, former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne stepped up to the line of scrimmage recently and called a career audible that was as shocking and hard to figure out as a Dennis Miller opening monologue on Monday Night Football. Yes, after retiring from college football with the best winning percentage in the history of the pigskin, and status in the state of Nebraska that might only be rivaled in the Vatican, Osborne is hoping to represent the Third District of Nebraska in the United States Congress. And with a 68%, that's right, I said 68% lead in the polls, the odds of him losing right now are about the same as the odds of Omaha landing the next Summer Olympics. He will leave behind the security of retiring as a legend and icon, and even though he will live in D.C. alone most of the time he will carry with him the constant support that his family showed him throughout his Husker heyday.

"I wouldn't have decided to run for Congress if my family wasn't o.k. with it. My wife Nancy has been incredibly supportive and one thing that made this palpable for my family was I decided if elected, I would commute to Washington. That means I would fly there on Monday, come back to the district Friday and spend Sundays with my family."

Most sports fans know Tom Osborne won three national championships at Nebraska, but almost nobody knows that he also raised three children that he is equally proud of. Not to say it was easy, because keeping the assembly line cranking at a football factory is a never ending, high stress job. "There are obviously some trade-offs. I quit playing golf years ago because there simply wasn't time for my career demands, family life and golf. I don't know what kind of father I was, but I do know I did my best and I spent about every spare minute I had with them, and they turned out well."

Success as a father isn't as easy to measure as a final score, or won lost record on a football field. But when you look at how Tom's three kids have turned out, you know it's no accident he's as respected and admired by his former players as he is loved by his kids Mike, a marketing professional, daughter Ann who is a housewife and mother and youngest daughter Suzi who is a church youth director. Growing up as an Osborne was certainly tougher for Tom's three kids than it was for Donnie and Marie. "One of the things about being the son or daughter of a coach is they are always expected to be better athletes or students than their father," says Osborne. "They are under way more scrutiny. I remember when we would lose to Oklahoma my kids didn't want to go to school because of the mental beating they would take. I'm just glad they turned out so well and are doing what they want to do with their life."

Some people just aren't content spending their golden years planting tomatoes or playing bingo. And the move to Washington will bring Osborne's career full circle, since he started his professional life as a tight end for the Redskins 40 years ago. "I don't think sitting in an easy chair resting would be a good option for me. Hopefully I will strike a balance and pull it off in a way that will benefit the state of Nebraska and my family as well."

And hey, you never know, the way the Redskins season is going, Tom could be getting a call from Daniel Snyder about the same time he's unpacking his boxes in Georgetown.

Tom Zenner is a television sportscaster for Fox and a free-lance writer in Boston. He has a two-and-a-half year old daughter named Brooke.

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