May 5

Congratulations to Former Husker "BlackShirt" Grant Wistrom - Class of 2009 College Football Hall of Fame Inductee

Posted By:Josh Morse - Kearney, NE  Tags:

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Photo: Throw Them BoNes

The surprise was genuine when Grant Wistrom opened a package Wednesday from the National Football Foundation.
It included a football and his induction notice for the College Football Hall of Fame. Surely, he thought, it had to be for something else.

The former Nebraska All-American hadn't given it much thought since first seeing the Hall of Fame ballot in March that also included former Huskers Will Shields and Trev Alberts.
 
Grant Wistrom was one of the last names you could associate with the great Nebraska football teams of the past.
 
Wistrom was a Husker from 1994 to 1997, and in turn, the Big Red was able to reel in a few championship trophies in the process. As long as Wistrom had an “N” on his helmet, the Huskers were unstoppable, going a rediculous 49-2 in that span.
Not many players in college football can go to a school for a mere four years and come out of it with three NCAA national championships. It was a dominance of college football that hasn’t been replicated since.
The closest school to doing it would be the USC Trojans. They had a chance of a lifetime to win three-consecutive national championships to stand alone as possibly college football’s most dominant team, but the Longhorns from Texas had a thing or two to say about that.
Wistrom’s induction to the College Football Hall of Fame is just another mark on the illustrious prestige of Nebraska football. You’d have to think, there might be a couple more names from those Nebraska teams joining Wistrom in the Hall sooner or later.


Wistrom said he was honored last year just to be on the ballot for the first time. On Thursday, he and 15 others were named in the 2009 class that will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in New York on Dec. 8.

The selection of the defensive end from Webb City, Mo., gives Nebraska a total of 14 players and six coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, based in South Bend, Ind.

Wistrom likely will go there as much for his individual achievements as NU's team accomplishments during his time as a Husker. Nebraska won national championships in 1994, 1995 and 1997 and finished 49-2 in his four seasons as a letterman.

But Wistrom will admit the induction is the "biggest thing" for a player, who won a Lombardi Award, was a two-time All-American and twice was named Big 12 defensive player of the year. He also was a two-time Academic All-American, won the NCAA Top Eight Award and earned an NFF/HOF Postgraduate Scholarship following his senior campaign.
 
He passed up being a potentially high first-round NFL draft pick in 1997 to return and help Nebraska to another national championship in Tom Osborne's final season as head coach.

Wistrom played as a true freshman and recorded a sack in his first game, the 1994 Kickoff Classic against West Virginia. The meter never stopped running until he had reached 26½ career sacks and 58½ tackles for losses.
His No. 98 jersey was retired during the 1998 season.
 
Congratulations to him on this most deserved honor. As a defensive end at
Nebraska, Wistrom was one of the most productive, decorated and intimidating players in a generation. On teams and in games that often featured a slew of very talented players, Wistrom stood out. That, maybe more than anything, confirms he is rightfully placed among college football's all time greats.
Sometimes, he went around that tackle by dipping one shoulder impossibly low, yet maintaining his balance. Other times, he’d push right through the guy seemingly until he saw the towel tucked into a quarterback’s pants, or a wristband with plays written on it.
Grant Wistrom always knew what to do once he got to that point. Disengage the beaten blocker, wrap up the ball carrier, toss him to the ground – often with a swarm of teammates – and throw some violent, celebratory bones to the crowd.
The former Nebraska defensive end, and one of the definitive Blackshirts in NU history,

A Fantastic Career
Few players in Nebraska football history were as productive or given as many accolades as Wistrom. Consider this. Wistrom totaled 206 tackles from his defensive end spot. He also collected 26.5 sacks. He holds the career record for tackles for loss, with 58.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Yeah, I'd say he was getting the job done.

It's clear that as Wistrom produced, America recognized. Wistrom was widely regarded as the best defensive player in the Big 12 during both his junior and senior seasons, winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in both 1996 and 1997. He was also consensus All-Conference and All-American both of those years.

An Intimidating Force
Apart from the production and the awards, Wistrom is remembered by most Husker fans as an absolutely intimidating force. In 1997, he and Jason Peter were the fuel for a truly exceptional defense and a championship team. Stories of their practice habits and pre-game intensity are legendary.
He dominated every time he went out on the field. And, he overtly pushed his teammates to do so as well. He proved to be a catalyst for a great team.

Greatest Among Great
What might be the most telling aspect of Wistrom's greatness is the caliber of teams he played on and the number of wins he was a part of. Between 1994 and 1998, NU was loaded with players on both sides of the ball. For Wistrom to stand out amongst that group says a lot. I mean, consider that he was the Defensive Newcomer of the year for the conference in 1994, a year in which NU won a national title.
No doubt, the wins piled up while Wistrom was a Husker. In the four years he was on the team, Nebraska lost twice (twice!). That's just insane. And, when asked point blank about it, Wistrom will tell you those losses (both in 1996) were what motivated him the most. In fact, the need to atone for those 1996 losses was a big motivator for his return to NU for his senior season. He could have lept to the NFL early, but he wanted to go out right. It's safe to say that Husker fans are universally happy that he did.

Congratulations to Grant Wistrom, a worthy member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

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