One October afternoon in 1934, Lloyd Cardwell, a Nebraska sophomore halfback, stormed around end, knocked several of Iowa State's would-be tacklers off their feet and ran 45 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time Cardwell had ever carried the ball for the varsity and the shock of his sudden dash was so great that it caused Frederick Ware, sports editor of the
Omaha World Herald
, to write, "It's his roaring, tearing, gay, freebooting way that reminds me of the defiant, joyous, speeding wild horse that loves to run with the wind on the plains." Forever after, Lloyd Cardwell was known to followers of Nebraska football as The Wild Hoss of the Plains.
Cardwell was a red-faced, rangy, self-assured kid who stood 6 feet 4 and weighed 190 pounds. His specialty was the wide sweep, a favorite weapon of Coach Dana X. Bible. He would take off with long, powerful strides, his knees shooting up high and the ball—which always looked like a plump gourd in his oversized hand—held daringly out from his body. Instinctively, when tacklers got close, he would pull the ball in, lower his head and run over them. He was as effective against Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas State and Oklahoma, then among the reigning powers of the Midwest, as he was against lesser opponents. In the three seasons he played with Nebraska, Cardwell scored 20 touchdowns and led the team to 19 victories and two Big Six (later the Big Eight) championships. Nebraska has had other fine runners before and since—George Sauer, Sam Francis (Cardwell's All-America teammate in 1936), Harry Hopp, Bobby Reynolds and Thunder Thornton. None, however, was more exciting or damaging than Cardwell.
As a high school star at Seward, Neb., Cardwell had lots of college offers, but the late Indian Schulte, assistant football and head track coach, talked him into coming to Nebraska—without a scholarship. Even in the '30s, when recruiting was more casual than it is today, it was the odd football player who did not get a free ride. Cardwell remembers, "When we'd play Pitt, their guys wouldn't believe we weren't getting our tuition. So we said that we were. We didn't want to seem dumb playing for nothing."
Cardwell played for nothing in an era of spectacular backs—which may explain why he never made All-America. Players like Jay Berwanger of Chicago and Bill Shakespeare of Notre Dame were perhaps flashier, ran with more finesse and received better publicity, but in one match-up with the great Berwanger in 1935 Cardwell ran back a kick-off 87 yards and outscored his rival three touchdowns to one. Nebraska won 28-7.
"I had good balance and could run faster," recalls Cardwell who, at 52, is still lean and trim in his job as track and cross-country coach at the University of Omaha. Indeed, he was so fast that he ran the 100 in 9.7 and was the Big Six high-hurdles and broad-jump champion.
Cardwell closed out his college career the way he began it, running 58 yards for a touchdown against Oregon State the last time he carried the ball for Nebraska in 1936. It was a typical Cardwell run. "There wasn't much distance between the end and the right sideline," wrote one admiring sports-writer. "Cardie went snorting through the narrow gap, bowled over the end and cut diagonally across the field. Both teammates and foemen were behind him, and they stayed there as The Wild Hoss streaked to his last college touchdown."
They have not yet begun to call Frank Solich (see cover) The Wild Pony, but some people might before this season is over. Like Lloyd Cardwell, Solich cannot pass or punt; as the smallest fullback in major-college football, neither is he big enough to block the giant ends and tackles Nebraska will face this fall. So, he just runs.
But, unlike Cardwell, who careened recklessly into defenders, Solich darts, dodges and scurries among them like a mouse on a hot tin roof. He did it so well last year that he was the Huskers' leading rusher with 444 yards and returned 20 punts and kickoffs another 337. He ran one kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. "He's a tough kid who doesn't recognize that he's so much littler than anybody else on the field," says Coach Bob Devaney.
Solich is only 5 feet 8 and weighs 157 pounds, about the size of an underdeveloped cheerleader. Last year he taped five pounds of weights under his shorts on weigh-in day so he would tip the scales at 162. "That looks better than 157 on the program," he said with a grin.