Gregg List could have gone to another school and probably would have started, but he wanted to walk on at Nebraska.
"My father (Jerry List) played there in the early ‘70s, so I grew up with Nebraska football and the tradition of being a Husker," List said. "I just wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and be a part of the great tradition of Nebraska football."
As an all-state selection for Valentine High School, List was a three-year starter and played quarterback and defensive back. He also was a state track medalist in the 100- and 200-yard dash and 400-yard relay, so he had the talent to excel at the next level in football.
"I had full rides to Colorado State, Iowa State and Colorado, and then Division II schools like UNK, UNO and Concordia," List said. "Dan Young was in charge of my recruiting from Nebraska. He was a fun guy to talk to and I had a relationship with Coach Osborne through my father. I was an athlete and grew up around the game of football, and the fact my dad played there, they thought I had to have some type of football sense."
So List turned down all those full rides and became a part of the Nebraska football program. He never started a game in his career, which spanned his redshirt season of 1995 through 1999, mainly because at his position (rover) he played behind all-time Husker greats Mike Minter and Mike Brown.
"What I learned most from Mike Minter was be a student of the game," List said. "Minter and Brown were two of the smarter football players to ever set foot on the University of Nebraska [campus]. The reason they made so few mistakes was they knew not only their job, but what the jobs were of all the other players."
But all athletes want to play, so because he was a back-up and role player, List at times thought about the "what ifs." What if he had gone somewhere else, where he could have started and possibly starred on a team? Then he drew inspiration from a former Husker assistant coach, Craig Bohl, who reminded him what playing at Nebraska was all about, and that he was part of a team that accomplished a lot in a short time.
"Craig Bohl told me during my junior year in college that I could have gone to a lesser Division I school and played all four years, but I wouldn't have gotten the experience I did being at Nebraska," List said. "He said that I was going to walk away with an experience that very few college football players can say they had. We won two national championships and played in three BCS bowl games. It made me realize how important my role was as a special teams player, and my value to the team as a role player."
After redshirting during the Huskers' national championship season in 1995, List lettered and played in each of his next four years at Nebraska, something most players, especially a kid from Nebraska, could only dream of doing.
"I thought I had the talent to play all four years at Nebraska," List said. "I came from an athletic family, and my parents instilled in me a work ethic, and if you work hard, good things will happen."
Good things did happen for List, on and off the field. He played mostly on the kickoff and punt teams, felt comfortable at Nebraska and enjoyed his experience there.
"I met so many great friends and had so many great people [be] a part of my life that I knew it was the right fit for me."
List also made good things happen in the classroom. A 1999 graduate with an economics degree, he was on the Big 12 Commissioner's Fall Academic Honor Roll three times (1997, 1998, 1999) and was a second-team Academic All-Big 12 selection as a senior.
"As a student-athlete, academics come first and foremost," List said. "The student-athlete is something the University of Nebraska prides itself on. It was always a great honor to be named on the Big 12 honor roll, and I walked away with a degree in four and a half years and am happy about that."
List is also happy to have been named as a Nebraska Lifter of the Year Award Finalist in 1999. "It is voted on by your teammates, so that was special to be named as a finalist. I worked hard in the weight room, prided myself in that and enjoyed doing it."
List also prided himself as being one of if not the first kid from Valentine to go on and play football at Nebraska. "I am the only one from Valentine that I can think of that went to Nebraska," he said.
So you can imagine what it was like for him to go back to his hometown when he was a Husker. "It was a really big deal when I went back to Valentine," List remembers. "You go back to a high school basketball game and kids ask for your autograph and people would ask what was going on with the team and such. So you get to enjoy a little bit of celebrity status, but being from a small town you are grounded enough to not let it go to your head."
List added that the town of Valentine is one of those small towns where everyone is friendly, a great environment and a great place to grow up. He said he enjoyed his time there, especially in the summer going down the river.
"Sports were real important there, from football to basketball to wrestling to track. The community support was outstanding. It didn't matter whether it was boys JV basketball or freshman football, there was always a great turnout," he said.
Obviously, the whole town's support of Nebraska football was enormous, especially with a native son playing on the team.
"They were so happy to watch Nebraska on Saturdays and see a kid from their town play and say that is the kid from Valentine," List said. "That pride of being from Nebraska, especially in Valentine, in western Nebraska; they live and die for it. It truly is what game-day weekends are planned around. That is what makes it so special being from Nebraska and on the team. It is so special for your town, family and the people of Nebraska having Nebraska kids on the team. I am proud to have Valentine as my hometown."
As a co-owner of three Lincoln businesses (Lazzari's Pizza, The Bar and The Downtown) and the father of a one-year old son, List doesn't get up to Valentine as much as he would like. But he still remembers the spectacular nature of the thunderstorms up there.
"I remember there was a huge storm and after it passed through Valentine you could see the lighting and the red clouds, and as a little kid, it was scary. The storms up there are out of this world, scary and beautiful at the same time. They would come out of nowhere, and next thing you know, they're gone."
Much like the Big Red Football Machine List played for during his college career at Nebraska.
*** Uploaded by Josh Harvey ***
Want to read more stories like this one? Subscribe to Big Red Report magazine and Big Red Report.com. Click Here