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Don Kane, football standout at what's now Wayne State, dies at 90

Don Kane, football standout at what's now Wayne State, dies at 90


Don Kane helped Wayne Teachers College compile a four-year record of 29-7 on the football field and later entered Wayne State’s hall of fame.

The biggest crowd ever to see a game in Crete got its money’s worth that Friday night, Nov. 4, 1949.

Doane hosted undefeated Wayne Teachers College (later known as Wayne State). The Wildcats, in front of 4,000, rallied from a 13-7 halftime deficit and took the lead on Don Kane’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Al Bahe, securing a 9-0 season and a Nebraska College Conference championship.

Kane, the first World-Herald state college athlete of the year (1951), died last week — 71 years to the day after Wayne’s crowning achievement. He tested positive for COVID-19 at his assisted living facility in Missouri Valley, Iowa. He was 90.

Kane devoted his career to public education in Missouri Valley, most notably as a middle school principal. He officiated thousands of football and basketball games, earning induction into the Iowa Officials Hall of Fame in 2002.

But Kane’s roots were in Nebraska, where he graduated from Stanton High. In college, Kane shined in basketball and track and field, where he dashed 100 yards in 9.8 seconds. He was best known on the football field, though.

In 1949, he rushed for 681 yards and passed for 547 yards on Wayne’s standout team. The Wildcats went 29-7 in his four seasons.

The World-Herald tradition of naming state college athletes of the year produced some big names: Tom Osborne (1959), Roger Sayers (1963), Marlin Briscoe (1968), Tom Kropp (1975). Kropp, in fact, was Kane’s nephew.

But Kane was the first. He graduated from college and earned a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers but opted for the military. In 1979, he entered Wayne State’s athletic hall of fame.

Kane found new passions in retirement. A devoted fan of Nebraska football and Creighton basketball, he showed off his golf achievement on his license plates.

Two holes in one.