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The 50 Greatest Nebraska Sports Figures

Sports Illustrated This list of the top 50 greatest 20th-century athletes originally appeared in the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated. Have someone to add to SI's list? Click here to submit your choices.

20th Century Top 50
Rank Profile
1 Bob Gibson, Omaha
All-state in basketball at Omaha Tech; played with Globetrotters; won 251 games, two Cy Youngs for Cardinals.
2 Gale Sayers, Omaha
State long jump record holder; two-time football All-America at Kansas; led NFL in rushing in 1966 and '69 with Bears.
3 Grover Cleveland Alexander, Elba
Three-time major league 30-game winner (1915, '16, '17); led National League in wins six times and ERA five times.
4 Tom Osborne, Hastings
All-state in football and basketball at Hastings High; coached Nebraska football team to three national titles from 1973 to '97.
5 Johnny Rodgers, Omaha
Heisman Trophy-winning wingback led Nebraska to 1970 and '71 national titles.
6 Sam Crawford, Wahoo
Retired in 1917 with major league record 312 career triples; had .309 batting average, 2,961 hits and 366 stolen bases with Reds and Tigers.
7 Richie Ashburn, Tilden
Four-time NL All-Star; won league batting titles with Phillies in 1955 and '58.
8 Ed Weir, Superior
Two-time All-America at Nebraska; Knute Rockne called him "greatest tackle I ever saw."
9 Bob Boozer, Omaha
All-America in basketball at Kansas State in 1958 and '59; led Wildcats to two Big Eight titles; No. 1 pick of Royals.
10 Jim Hartung, Omaha
Member of gold-medal-winning 1984 U.S. men's gymnastics team; led Nebraska to four straight NCAA crowns; won seven individual NCAA titles.
11 Mel Harder, Beemer
Indians righthander was All-Star from 1934 to '37; won 223 games.
12 Dave Rimington, Omaha
Two-time All-America center at Nebraska (1981, '82); only man to win Outland Trophy twice.
13 Ron Boone, Omaha
Star of Omaha Tech 1963 state championship basketball team; four-time ABA All-Star.
14 Louise Pond, Lincoln
Winner of 1916 state women's golf title; women's singles and doubles tennis champion at Heidelberg College in 1900; founded Nebraska women's basketball team.
15 Billy Southworth, Harvard
Hit .297 with 138 stolen bases in majors (1913 to '29); managed Cardinals to three pennants and World Series titles in '42 and '44.
16 Pat Fischer, Omaha
Halfback at Nebraska; three-time Pro Bowl cornerback with Cardinals and Redskins started 212 straight games.
17 Mick Tingelhoff, Lexington
Class B all-state center on 1957 Lexington High football team; six Pro Bowls with Vikings.
18 Dazzy Vance, Cowles
Led NL in strikeouts from 1922 to '28, in ERA three times, and in wins and complete games twice; won 197 games.
19 George Sauer, Lincoln
All-America fullback at Nebraska in 1933; coached Kansas to two Big Six titles; New York Jets' director of player personnel from '63 to '68.
20 Charley Brock, Columbus
Intercepted 20 passes for Packers from 1939 to '47, including two for TDs in '45; played on two NFL champions.
21 Dean Steinkuhler, Burr
Played eight-man football at Sterling High; won 1983 Lombardi and Outland trophies as offensive guard at Nebraska.
22 Mark Calcavecchia, Laurel
Has nine PGA Tour wins; 1989 British Open winner.
23 Guy Chamberlin, Blue Springs
All-America defensive end and halfback at Nebraska; played for 1921 NFL champion Decatur Staleys; coached NFL's Canton-Cleveland team to three league titles.
24 Jay Novacek, Gothenburg
All-state QB at Gothenburg High in 1981; set state pole vault record; tight end for Cardinals and Cowboys from '85 to '95.
25 Gil Dodds, Falls City
Won multiple state high school gold medals in the 880 and mile from 1935 to '37; set world indoor mile record three times.
26 Glenn Presnell, Gilead
All-conference halfback at Nebraska in 1927; led NFL in scoring for '33 Portsmouth Spartans.
27 Randy Rasmussen, Elba
Offensive guard played team-record 207 games with Jets from 1967 to '81; member of Super Bowl III champions.
28 Bob Cerv, Weston
All-state in basketball at Weston High; led Nebraska to 1950 conference title; spent 12 seasons as major league outfielder; batted .276.
29 Val Skinner, North Platte
State high school champion in 1974 and '78; has won six LPGA events in 16 years on tour.
30 Lloyd Hahn, Falls City
Set world records at seven distances, from 800 to 1,500 meters, in the 1920s.
31 Gregg Olson, Omaha
Diamondbacks reliever threw four no-hitters at Northwest High, won 27 games without a loss; 1989 AL Rookie of the Year.
32 Tom Rathman, Grand Island
Scored 34 touchdowns as running back at Grand Island High and was state high jump champion; 49ers fullback from 1986 to '93.
33 Ruby Miller, Elm Creek
Averaged 38.6 points as a senior at Elm Creek High in 1927; scored 80 in game against Miller High.
34 Marlin Briscoe, Omaha
Led Broncos with 14 TD passes as rookie in 1968; led AFC with 57 receptions for Bills in '70.
35 Eugene (Hoppy) McCue, Arapahoe
Was all-state three times in basketball and all-state twice in football at Arapahoe High from 1948 to '51; also won 11 individual track titles.
36 Johnny Hopp, Hastings
All-Star outfielder batted .296 in 14-year career (1939 to '52); played in five World Series, with Cardinals and Yankees.
37 Kent McCloughan, Broken Bow
All-state in football at Broken Bow High; earned All-League honors as cornerback with Raiders in 1967 and '68.
38 Larry Station, Omaha
Set state meet record in shot put (62' 11 1/2") in 1982 at Central High; two-time All-America linebacker at Iowa.
39 Paul Tierney, Broken Bow
State rodeo champion at Broken Bow High in 1970; World All-Around Rodeo champion in '80.
40 Steve Brooks, McCook
Rode Ponder to 1949 Kentucky Derby win; 10 days later rode winners in first six races.
41 Erick Strickland, Bellevue
Led Nebraska basketball team in scoring in 1996; spent three summers as Class A outfielder in Marlins system; now plays guard for Mavericks.
42 Edsel Wibbels, Wolbach
All-state football player at Wolbach High; won national high school discus title in 1937 with a throw of 142' 4".
43 Jack Van Berg, Columbus
First thoroughbred trainer to get 5,000 wins, in 1987; led nation in victories eight times.
44 Carol Moseke Frost, Cedar Rapids
Four-time National AAU discus champion; won a gold medal at the 1968 Pan Am Games.
45 Tim Burke, Omaha
Expos closer saved 84 games from 1987 to '90; retired with a 49-33 record, 2.72 ERA and 102 saves.
46 Ed Thompson, Cambridge
In 1997, Omaha QB was first player in Division II history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in single season; accomplished feat again in '98.
47 Tom Kropp, Aurora
NAIA All-America in football and basketball at Kearney State; drafted by Steelers and Bullets in 1975.
48 Julie Vollertsen, Palmyra
Hitter for silver-medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball team was also member of '82 bronze-medal-winning team at world championships.
49 Roger Sayers, Omaha
Track and football star is Omaha's eighth alltime leading rusher with 2,033 yards from 1960 to '63; member of '62 U.S. national track team.
50 Chris Leigh, Platteview
Scored then girls basketball state-record 1,492 points for Platteview from 1976 to '79.

Photograph by Elsa/Getty Images


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