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Courson: "Timber!" More general laughter.
The object of this lavish praise was born in Omaha on May 22, 1960 to Emile and Barbara Rimington. Emile is an improbably small man to have such an immense son—5'7" and 140 pounds—but he was always doughty and strong for his size. He worked for 32 years in a meatpacking plant before retiring in 1977 to open a neighborhood grocery. The genes that gave Dave his size most likely came from his paternal grandmother, Pearl, who stood 5'8" and weighed 185, and his mother, Barbara, who arrived in the U.S. from her native England in 1954 and is 5'7½" and 200 pounds. Her brother, Albert, a 6'3" former semipro soccer player, played at 260 pounds. The Rimingtons raised their four children—Dave, Dennis, Diane and Douglas—in the south end of Omaha, and they had to work hard to do it. The boys were always heavy feeders.
"Oh, but that Dave could eat," recalls 26-year-old Dennis, a 235-pounder who served as Dave's role model in matters both athletic and dietetic. "He was always a fairly tall kid but never built very big until he got near the end of the ninth grade. He actually wrestled in ninth grade at 167 pounds, but he began to lift and gain weight after the wrestling season was over. I was just getting out of high school then and he'd been fooling around with the weights, and I remember he threw me one day in our living room. So I thought I'd better start training, too. We'd work out in the garage and we were pretty even in strength, with me being in the lead at first and Dave trying to catch me. By the time he was a senior he weighed about 240 and could lift 300 pounds over his head."
Dave remembers those days with affection; he almost seems to yearn for those less demanding times. "I was lucky to have a brother like Dennis," he says, "and I really owe him a lot. He was my inspiration. He was an excellent high school football player, but small. I know that with weights he could have played college ball, but he got married right out of high school and now he's got four kids. I don't know if I'd have stayed on the weights without him there to motivate me. He used to love to make a heavy lift and then look over at me and say, 'Well, are you going to let an old married man with kids outlift you?' "
"We both really gained from that," says Dennis, "but Dave especially. He used to love steak, and after my dad bought the store Dave would go down there late in the evenings and get a big hunk of meat and bring it home and cook it. Having a grocery store of your own wasn't too bad a deal."
But many things were far from satisfactory at the store, which Emile had bought with his lump-sum retirement pay from the packing plant. "Dad used to put in 80 hours every week," Dennis recalls, "but he was making less than he could've made working for wages. And the store was in a fairly rough neighborhood and he had some trouble. I was down there one night and I caught a young guy making a long-distance call on my dad's phone. I told him he'd have to leave, and he threatened to come back with his army. And sure enough before long he did come back, and he had two guys with him. He began mouthing off to me and pulled a knife. By then Dave was there, but I didn't think the guy would do anything but talk. Suddenly he lunged at me and cut my head, and Dave grabbed him and began whaling away. I went for the other two guys and they pulled knives, too, but they finally turned and ran. Dave's guy was out by that time, and then the police came and we cleaned everything up. Right after that happened our dad sold the store, and we're all glad he did."
Dave was dead game on the football field as well, and he was heavily recruited. But, living in Cornhusker country, he never really considered leaving home. "I was really hooked on the weights by my senior year," Rimington says, "and I knew Nebraska had a great tradition and a big weight room. The choice was easy. I've just kept on hitting the weights, eating all the steak I can afford and trying to gain good weight. I've put on a little over 50 pounds since I was a freshman, and I'd like to eventually top out somewhere around 300. I think I can carry it because I will be gaining it slowly. And I know the extra weight will make me stronger. It always has."
Boyd Epley directs the strength and conditioning complex at Nebraska, and he has kept records on the development of every varsity athlete for a decade or so. "When Dave first came he weighed 235 pounds and he ran a 5.35 40," Epley says. "He had a high level of strength for a freshman. He was way ahead of some of our other top recruits. He benched 340 and squatted 405 on his first test day, and he did a 24-inch vertical jump. He was redshirted his first year because of that knee injury, so he's been on our program for more than four years. He's up in weight to between 290 and 295; he can bench 435 pounds, squat 650, run the 40 in 5.05 and vertical-jump 29.5 inches. He's an inspiration to our younger players because they know that, if the weights helped Dave add 50 pounds of muscle and lower his time in the 40 and improve his vertical jump by 5.5 inches, the weights will help them, too. Dave doesn't carry much fat, only about 11 percent. For a man who weighs almost 300 pounds, that's amazingly low."
Rimington doesn't shy away from serving as a role model for Epley's cause. "I'm not doing all this for fun, you know, even though I do have fun doing it," he says. "I guess I'm addicted to the weights because if I miss a workout—even one—I feel as if I've lost something I can never recover. I feel unprepared if I miss even one exercise. I lose my confidence." Rimington is so dedicated to the heartland virtues of elbow grease and persistence that he spent an hour late one afternoon last summer pushing his car around an empty parking lot because the gym had been locked and he hadn't been able to do his leg and hip workout. "In fact I wish I had the time to really concentrate on powerlifting," Rimington says. "Maybe one day."
But that day won't likely come soon, because everyone who has seen what Rimington can do against major college defenses expects him to have a long and thunderous career in the NFL. He's well prepared for that in ways other than the physical. His major is economics, and he no doubt will repeat as an Academic All-America. His 3.25 grade point average is sufficiently high to have persuaded his professors to recommend him for a scholarship to graduate school, which will allow him to come back to Lincoln between pro seasons and work on a master's in business administration in preparation for someday becoming the owner of a fitness center.