Former University of Nebraska Hall of Fame head coach and current athletic director, Tom Osborne (Hastings College), is the 2012 recipient of the Walter Camp Football Foundation “Distinguished American” Award.
The Walter Camp “Distinguished American” award is presented each year to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done. He or she may have a record of dedication to mankind that should not pass unrecognized and a life that has been dedicated to the preservation of the American ideal. The recipient need not have participated in football but must be one who understands its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork, and one who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication. He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence that distinguishes him or her from contemporaries, as well as someone who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.
Past recipients of the Walter Camp Distinguished American honor include nationally respected sportscasters Pat Summerall (2004) and Keith Jackson (1995), all-purpose television personality Regis Philbin (2003), NBC Sports Executive Dick Ebersol (1996), former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1994), world-renowned entertainer Bob Hope (1985), former college coach Eddie Robinson (1982) and last year’s recipient, football Hall-of-Famer Floyd Little.
“We are honored to recognize one of college football’s all-time greats,” Foundation president John Marks said. “Coach Osborne’s passion, integrity and commitment to excellence have allowed him to make a difference in the lives of many.”
Born and raised in Hastings, Neb., Osborne was a three-sport standout at Hastings High School. During his time at Hastings College, Osborne played football and basketball and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1959. Osborne was drafted by the Washington Redskins, for whom he played two seasons as a wide receiver, before playing one season for the San Francisco 49ers.
Osborne then earned a M.A. in educational psychology from Nebraska in 1963, and added a doctorate in educational psychology in 1965. He also served in the Nebraska Army National Guard from 1960-66. Osborne spent five seasons as an assistant coach under legendary coach Bob Devaney before being named head coach following the 1972 season.
He then led the Huskers for 25 years, the longest tenure in school history. Nebraska teams recorded an impressive 255-49-3 (.836) record and won three national championships (1994, 1995 and 1997) during his tenure. The 255 victories are the sixth-most all-time among major college football coaches. Osborne’s teams won 13 Big Eight and Big 12 conference titles, including six in his final seven seasons. All 25 of his teams won at least nine games and went to a bowl game, while 15 won 10 or more games in a season. Osborne was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2000, he received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1999, ESPN honored Osborne as the coach of the decade for the 1990s.
Since retiring from coaching, Osborne served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Nebraska’s third congressional district. In 2007, he was named as the 13th athletic director at Nebraska – a position he has held for five years. He recently announced his retirement, effective January 1, 2013.
Tom and his wife Nancy have three children and four grandchildren. They founded a mentoring program called The TeamMates program, which provides support and encouragement to school-aged youth with the goal of seeing children graduate from high school and pursue a postsecondary education.
Osborne, as well as other major award winners, and members of the 2012 Walter Camp All-America team, will be honored at the organization’s 46th annual national awards banquet on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at the Yale University Commons in New Haven.