Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Danny Woodhead retires from pro football

By Con Marshall

Danny Woodhead, the player who led the way as the Chadron State College football team rose to become among the nation’s best in NCAA Division II, surprised many of his fans last weekend by announcing his retirement from the National Football League.

Ex-CSC football star Danny Woodhead
Just a couple of days earlier, after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens, that story quoted Woodhead as saying, “I can’t wait for my next stop.”

 Apparently he decided in short order that 10 years in the pros were enough.  The retirement stories said he went from undersized and undrafted to a big-time playmaker in the NFL. 

Although listed as just 5-8, 185 when he arrived at Chadron State in the fall of 2004, he came up big in everything he did athletically.  As a senior at North Platte High School when he rushed for 2,037 yards and 31 touchdowns, he was the Nebraska Gatorade Football Player of the Year, offensive captain of both the Omaha World-Herald’s and Lincoln Journal Star’s all-class, all-state football teams and was Huskerland Report’s Player of the Year.

Since he also had averaged the state-best 26 points for the North Platte basketball team that winter, he also was named the Omaha and Lincoln newspapers’ 2003-04 Male Athlete of the Year.

Early in his pro career, Woodhead received a special parking place at the New England Patriots’ training camp after he won the team’s golf tournament.

Undoubtedly if Tom Osborne or Frank Solich had still been coaching at Nebraska, they would have offered Woodhead a scholarship or tried to convince him to walk-on with the Cornhuskers. But when Woodhead was a high school senior, Osborne was in the U.S. House of Representatives and Solich had been fired that fall.  The new NU coaching staff led by Bill Callahan wasn’t interested in such a small running back. Apparently, neither were the other big time teams.

Since both of Woodhead’s parents, Mark and Annette, were Chadron State graduates, and older brother Ben was a senior wide receiver on the CSC team, the Eagles had an inside track in landing him.  Head coach/athletic director Brad Smith cashed in the chips.  While such information is seldom announced, Woodhead was said to be the first athlete to receive a “full-ride” from the college.Woodhead didn’t start the first game his freshman year, but he clinched the starting job in the third game when he rushed for a school-record 306 yards and scored five touchdowns. That was just the beginning of a fantastic career.

He would have three more games with 300-plus yards, set the NCAA II record for most 200-yard or more games (19), score touchdowns in 38 consecutive games and romp at least 50 yards to the end zone 21 times.

He became college football’s all-time leading rusher with 7,962 yards, rolled up 9,480 all-purpose yards and scored 109 touchdowns (tying him for the most in college football annals), helping him win two Harlan Hill Trophies, which go to Division II’s outstanding player.

The Eagles were 12-1 overall, were undefeated in the RMAC and ranked fifth in NCAA II by the American Football Coaches Association at the end of both his junior and senior seasons.

In addition, Woodhead was NCAA Division II’s National Scholar-Athlete his senior season in 2007 and graduated with a 3.72 GPA after majoring in both health and physical education and math.  Two years later, he was voted the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s All-Time Outstanding Offensive Player when its All-Century Team was selected.

None of the NFL teams drafted him in the spring of 2008, but in short order the New York Jets signed him as a free agent. He suffered a serious knee injury during a training camp practice that summer.  That’s usually curtains for an undrafted player, but the Jets left him on injured reserve and he made the roster the following season, but eventually he was released. 

The Patriots quickly nabbed him and he played for them the next three years, becoming an important cog in Tom Brady’s offense, often entering the game on third down and either running through a small crack in the line or catching short pass and turning it into a big gain.  He rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 and caught a touchdown pass from Brady in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.

The next four years he was an all-purpose back for the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.  He also was an invaluable piece of Philip Rivers’ arsenal.  He caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns his first year there in 2013.  After breaking a leg, Woodhead missed all but three games in 2014, but he returned in 2015 for another excellent season, grabbing 80 passes for 755 yards and 16 TDs and also rushing for 336 yards and three more scores. 

Another ACL injury in the second game ended his 2016 season.  The following winter, he signed a three-year, $8.8 million contract with Baltimore, but a hamstring problem put him on injured reserve through the first eight games last fall.  He saw enough action late in the year to catch 33 passes for 200 yards. Still, the Ravens released him while paring their payroll before next month’s draft.

During his farewell message, the media reported that the ever-gracious Woodhead thanked God, his family, his agent, his former coaches, singling them out by name, his former high school, college and NFL teammates and the medical personnel who had helped him along the way.

The Associated Press story ended with, “I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.”  Danny and his wife Stacia, his high school sweetheart, have four children and a home in the Omaha area.

More accolades will be coming his way.  Both the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference long ago let him know they were ready to induct him as soon as his playing days were over. 

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Note:  As always, our gratitude to Con Marshall for sharing this timely story!
For another perspective on Danny Woodhead's retirement, take a look at this link:

Friday, March 9, 2018

A bit of history about the University of Nebraska

(NOTE: The latest "Nebraska History This Week" link was unavailable last week, so we offer this piece written for the Lincoln Journal Star by Jim McKee.)

"Financing and building the finest university west of the Missouri River"
Establishing and financing the University of Nebraska began even before its charter was approved in 1869, as many legislators and a few educators questioned its cost and even the need for its existence. Within a few years, however, the value to the state became apparent to the legislature and regents, leading to what was to be known as the university’s golden years.
Through the 20th century, the school’s top ratings rose and fell, often around statewide economic fluctuations. Now, in the first quarter of the 21st century the financing of the university is again being questioned as politics and money seem to dominate discussion of the institution.
The initial funding of NU traces to the 1862 Morrill Act, which granted federal lands to territories and states in order that universities might be established to “channel upward mobility and the democratic ideal of equal opportunity.”
Introduced as Senate File 86, the bill to create the university was sent to the Education Committee headed by Charles Gere, was passed through both houses of the legislature with “not a single negative vote” and signed by Gov. David Butler on Feb. 15, 1869.
The university ultimately received 136,000 acres of federal land with its financing supplemented by a mill levy.
The governor appointed a Board of Regents to oversee the university, including three ex officio members -- which included the governor -- to serve six-year terms. Not until 1877 were the Regents elected.
On June 5, 1869, 105 Lincoln lots were sold for $30,000 to partially pay for the construction of University Hall which, although beset by large overruns, was not originally intended to exceed $100,000 in cost.
Allen Richardson Benton
The regents proceeded to hire the first chancellor and faculty. Because they had no experience or clear idea of what these salaries should be, one source says they decided to pay an equal amount as offered by Harvard University. To that end the regents offered the chancellorship to Rev. Allen Richardson Benton (shown at right) at an annual salary of $5,000. Benton, then president of Mount Union College in Ohio, had been paid $1,200 in Ohio, so it is of little surprise that he accepted. Each regent then proposed a potential faculty member who would receive $2,000 annually and a principal for the Latin School at $1,000. Benton, amazingly, said the offer to him was excessive and at his suggestion, began his tenure at a salary of $4,000.
Although another name was first proferred, Benton received a unanimous vote as the first Chancellor of the University of Nebraska.  Benton, who was not only chancellor but also professor of intellection and moral science, lived on the northwest corner of 12th and H streets.

CSC hosts annual Western District History Days

Students from Chadron and Crawford middle and high schools participated in the annual Western District History Day hosted at Chadron State College Friday, March 2. The theme for the competition was “Conflict and Compromise in History.” The top three students in each category will advance to the state competition Saturday, April 7, in Lincoln.

Thirteen CSC employees, along with 12 community residents, served as judges for the event. Student members of the CSC Social Science Club Cody Madrigal of Omaha, Neb., Katelynn Mendenhall of Terry, Mont., Andrew Smith of Chadron and Skyler Smyres of Crawford, Neb. helped staff members Christine Fullerton and Whitney Hensley organize on-campus logistics. Laure Sinn coordinated check-in and assisted with registration and the awards ceremony.

The judges indicated they reserved the right to not award first place to entries.

Crawford High School student Jada Mader, right, explains her exhibit to Randy Krueger of Alliance, Neb., during Western District History Day at Chadron State College, Friday, March 2, 2018, in the Student Center Ballroom. (Photo by Kelsey R. Brummels/Chadron State College)

Junior (Grades 6-8) Results
Individual Documentary
1, Tyler Kaus, Chadron, “Raze or Renovate: The Conflict to Save the White House.”
Group Documentary
1, Cassidy Nesheim and Jackson Smith, Chadron, “The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Individual Exhibit
1, Tylea Underwood, Crawford, “For the Love of a Horse;” 2, Kristin Rasmussen, Chadron, “Josef Mengele's Experiments;” 3, Maralee Rischling, Chadron, “Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.”
Group Exhibit
1, Macey Daniels and Jacey Garrett, Chadron, “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death;” 2, Riley Ambrose and Ayla Kephart, Chadron, “Ireland - Conflict and Compromise;” 3, Tatum Bailey and Olivia Reed, Chadron, “Nicholas Winton and the Kinder Transport.”
Individual Performance
2, Kylah Vogel, Crawford, “Why, Oh Why, Can’t I?”
Group Performance
3, Claire Fox and Gracie Jones, Chadron, “Modern Dance vs. Ballet - The Fight for Artistic Freedom.”
Individual Interpretive Website
1, Thomas Kaus, Chadron, “Poland: Creating Democracy from Conflict with Compromise;” 2, Brendilou Armstrong, Chadron, “The KKK in the 1920s.”
Group Interpretive Website
1, Bradd Collins and Noah Brown, Chadron, “The French and Indian War;” 2, Michael Sorenson and Dawson Dunbar, Chadron, “Harry Truman and The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb;” 3, Garrett Reece and Cody Hall, Chadron, “K - Syndrome: The Fake Disease that Saved Jewish Lives.”

Senior (Grades 9-12) Results
Group Documentary
1, Bryce Oetken, Nicholas Presson and London Gillam, Crawford, “The KKK: An Enigmatic Organization.”
Individual Exhibit
1(tie), Jada Mader, Crawford, “No Mama, I Didn’t Die;” 1(tie), Aysha Roos, Crawford, “The Danish: Refusing to Compromise;” 2, Ainslee Morrison, Crawford, “It Was an Education.”
Individual Performance
2, Alexis Konruff, Crawford, “Randall Forsberg and the Nuclear Freeze Movement.”
Individual Interpretive Website
1 (tie), Sydney Brown, Chadron, “Mars Exploration; A Conflict and Compromise in Budget;” 1 (tie) Hunter Hawk, Chadron, “The Battle for the Last Frontier: Racial Equality in Space;” 3, Jameson Margetts, Chadron, “The Mormon Trail.”
Group Interpretive Website
1, Grace Sorenson and Lauren Collins, Chadron, “Constance Markievicz: The Countess who Created Conflicts and Refused to Compromise;” 2, Lane Frahm and Hayes Frahm, Crawford, “Video Games: Conflicting Images.”

Special Awards
Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Great Plains: Ainslee Morrison, Crawford, “It Was an Education.”
Military Award: Brady Aschwege, Crawford, “Navajo Code Talkers.”
20th Century, Senior: Sydney Brown, Chadron, “Mars Exploration; A Conflict and Compromise in Budget.”
20th Century, Junior: Thomas Kaus, Chadron, “Poland: Creating Democracy from Conflict with Compromise.”
Women: Grace Sorenson and Lauren Collins, Chadron, “Constance Markievicz: The Countess who Created Conflicts and Refused to Compromise.”
WWII, Senior: Aysha Roos, Crawford, “The Danish: Refusing to Compromise.”
WWII, Junior: Kristin Rasmussen, Chadron, “Josef Mengele's Experiments.”

~~ CSC College Relations

Friday, March 2, 2018

Jim Butler had a full life – taught and inspired many

Western Nebraska – and all of us – have lost a very special man.   We've learned that Jim Butler, long-time resident of Dawes County, died Wednesday, February 28, in a Lincoln, Nebraska, hospital.  He was 99 years old.  He was a long-time educator, coach, and one-time Sheriff of Dawes County.

His passing was not a surprise.  Chadron writer and historian Con Marshall alerted many friends by e-mail that Mr. Butler had lost a battle to old age, following a series of setbacks over the past week or two.   After breaking his hip, he came through surgery, but before he could begin rehabilitation, he was dogged by not one but two strains of the flu – and then pneumonia.

But Jim Butler's was a full life.  Full of challenges but graced with so many achievements.  He was particularly proud of his family.

Funeral services are scheduled for 1:00 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at Chamberlain Chapel in Chadron. 

Here is a story – accompanied by a few video clips – that we posted last year as Jim Butler celebrated his 98th birthday.   It was a small tribute to a remarkable fellow, Jim Butler – A Diverse Life!

Also, here's a link to Jim Butler's obituary in the Lincoln newspaper.