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Shatel: Red-letter day for former Husker fullback Burton Burns
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES

Shatel: Red-letter day for former Husker fullback Burton Burns

Jerry Murtaugh’s Nebraska Greats Foundation gives back to former athletes. But there was a new twist on Monday.

Burton Burns, the University of Alabama running backs coach, made an appearance at the first Nebraska Greats Foundation golf outing at Omaha Country Club.

Burns was a guest of Tony Davis, his old teammate at Nebraska and one of NU’s greatest running backs. Burns was a fullback at NU from 1971-75, but due to knee injuries, he hardly played and never lettered.

Until Monday.

NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst presented Burns with a Nebraska letter jacket at the event’s lunch. It was a very cool moment — thanks to Davis, who came up with the idea to honor his friend, and Eichorst, who made it happen.

“Just a great player,” Davis said of Burns. “His first year, he blew out his knee in the spring. He had three or four knee injuries. Back in that day, our medicine wasn’t as good, the recovery, the way they operated, pre-arthroscopic or anything.

“So he goes through the whole thing, kept practicing, wouldn’t drop out. He stuck it out.”

Burns earned his degree in 1976 and would get married in Lincoln. But this was only the second time Burns had been back to Nebraska — and the first since 1990. Kenny Wilhite gave Burns and Davis a tour of the new Memorial Stadium facilities on Sunday. And the four-time national champ from ’Bama was wowed.

“It’s like, I lost my way around there,” Burns said. “It was awesome. Facilities are state of the art.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time, and it sounds like a broken record, but there are so many similarities between Alabama and Nebraska. It’s almost like they copied off of Nebraska. There’s a lot of connections, Devaney and Bear Bryant, on and on.

“When I got the job at Alabama (nine years ago), they figured out I was from here. They asked me about that Orange Bowl game (38-6 NU win over Alabama on Jan. 1, 1972). That was their number one question.

“The fans remember. Alabama fans are like Nebraska fans — 24-7.”

It’s a good comparison. And wait until Burns shows Nick Saban his cool new jacket.

» Trivia question: When was the last season that Nebraska and Creighton both made the NCAA baseball regionals?

Time’s up. It was 2007.

Trick question: When was the last time that NU, CU and UNO all made it?

That answer would be never. This is UNO’s first year eligible for the NCAA Division I baseball tourney.

Could any or all of those things happen this season? Yes, sure, maybe.

Nebraska: The Huskers have the best shot of the three for an at-large bid. NU finished second in the No. 7 RPI league, and has an RPI of 36. The Huskers have been consistent the last month and are trending up. They would have to go two-and-out at this week’s Big Ten tourney to risk missing out.

Creighton: The Jays were up as high as No. 20 in the RPI a couple weeks ago, but they couldn’t finish with the Big East regular-season title and now are at No. 41. The best thing the Jays have going for them are two wins over BYU (48) and one over NU. It doesn’t help that CU lost the Big East title to Xavier (27-28, RPI 94). In any case, the Jays might be able to sneak in by making the Big East final, but just to be safe, they should plan on winning the Big East tourney.

UNO: The Mavs are eligible for their first NCAA tournament and are coming off a big series win over Summit League champ Oral Roberts. The bad news: The league’s NCAA bid goes to the winner of the league tourney, which is played at ORU’s J.L. Johnson Stadium — where ORU is 19-3 this season. UNO definitely needs to win the four-team tourney. After last weekend, hey, you never know.

» The news that NU men’s basketball coach Tim Miles signed a big man last week was welcomed by another Husker big man.

“I sent Tim a text saying, ‘The good thing about this is, I don’t have to come out of retirement,’ ” said Dave Hoppen, before the Nebraska Greats golf outing Monday.

Hoppen said he’s seen a few videos of Jordy Tshimanga and called him a “solid get” for the program.

“He looks good,” Hoppen said. “Whether he is going to be an All-American or All-Big Ten, the biggest thing is, if they wouldn’t have gotten him, it would have looked really bad for Coach Miles and the team. They put so many eggs in that basket.

“To me, the great thing is what this will do for (Ed) Morrow and (Michael) Jacobson. To be able to move them to the (power forward) spot is going to be huge. And Morrow is going to be much better off the ball because he’s an offensive rebounding machine. Put him on the opposite block, let him get rebounds, he’s going to be good.”

» Jake Guentzel is officially a Pittsburgh Penguin after signing a three-year entry level contract. This will be a career worth watching. The former UNO scorer played for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this spring on an amateur tryout, and had 14 points in 10 playoff games — including a game-winning goal in overtime. Can they suit him up for Game 6 in Tampa?

» Keep an eye out for a couple of old College World Series friends this week. The posse is coming after Texas coach Augie Garrido, whose club is 22-30 and set to miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Mark Marquess’ seat is hot on the Stanford farm, too. The Cardinal (28-23) finished ninth in the Pac-12.

Garrido wants to go out his way — finish out the final year of his contract next season — as does Marquess. But there aren’t many graceful exits for old legends. I’m sure somewhere, Florida State’s Mike Martin and Wayne Graham at Rice are paying attention.

» Talk about a “home” stand.

This week, members of the Omaha Storm Chasers will make appearances at Rebuilding Together, Twin Rivers YMCA, the Ronald McDonald House, the Open Door Mission, Children’s Hospital, Keep Omaha Beautiful and will go bowling with Down Syndrome Alliance families.

Most of the players in Triple-A don’t want to be here and don’t want to stay here. It’s nothing personal. They’ve got places to be, a career to build. So it’s terrific to see them giving up time to help a community where many are just passing through. That said, it’s a community that appreciates having them around.

This week, even more.

» One more and I’m outta here: Alcohol is not served at University of Nebraska athletic events, but it will be served at TD Ameritrade Park at the Big Ten tournament — which will resemble a Nebraska home game at times.

So how will the Husker crowd handle it? I believe it will be fine. This is a run-through for alcohol being served at the CWS this year, and I think it will be fine there, too. There might be some unruly types who had a few too many at-bats, but I think they’ll be policed by the crowd — or the actual police.

Of course, there’s another deterrent. Those beers aren’t cheap.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com, twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

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The Omaha native was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and will return to the court in 2016-17. He’ll join fellow returning starters Tra-Deon Hollins and Tre’Shawn Thurman with the Mavs.

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