Wayne local goes way back with Dr. Tom Osborne

Nathan Pearson, Staff Writer

Gone are the days of the true all-round athlete in college sports.
But Wayne resident Jim Paige remembers his playing days with legendary Nebraska head football Coach Tom Osborne at Hastings College, where they competed together in three different sports.
Paige and Osborne played three years together on the football, basketball and track and field teams for the Hastings Broncos. Paige opted to play baseball instead of running track his senior year.
“You didn’t have to specialize back then,” said Paige, a retired WSC mathematics professor. “Sports seasons were shorter and didn’t overlap, and there were fewer students than there are now.
There was pressure to do multiple sports instead of just one.”
Today it is the exact opposite. Athletes are often pressured to choose just one sport in college while they may have excelled in three or four in high school.
Paige and Osborne were two of those multi-sport athletes. Osborne attended Hastings College from 1955-1959. Paige came a year later in 1956 and graduated in 1960.
“He made you feel very much at home being on the team,” Paige said, recalling the first time he met Osborne. “He leads by example.”
There wasn’t very much specialization in one sport either. Osborne played both quarterback and defensive back in football. Paige played fullback on offense while splitting reps at linebacker and defensive back on defense.
“It wasn’t uncommon for guys to play both ways,” Paige said.
Osborne was a forward in basketball, ran the 440-yard dash and threw the discus in track. Osborne was a state champion in discus in high school.
Paige was a guard in basketball and played second base in baseball. He ran the 440-yard dash, low hurdles and the 4×440-yard relay in track.
The 1957-58 sports season was a major success for Hastings College athletics. The Broncos were Nebraska College Conference champions in football, basketball and track that year. Osborne, an all-conference selection in football and basketball, was a key to their success.
“His physical stature and ability to run made him a very good player,” Paige said. “He was a fierce competitor. He was a lot tougher than he looked. He was a good physical specimen, but tougher mentally.”
The Broncos were 7-2 that year in football. They won the Nebraska College Conference with a 7-0 record before losing to William Jewell in the Mineral Bowl. Their only other loss that year was to Idaho State.
The basketball team went 13-5 that year, capturing another conference title. The Broncos went on to the first round of the NAIA tournament in Kansas City, but lost to Pasadena College.
Osborne was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, but never had a chance to play. After that he went on to play for the Washington Redskins. Following a short career in the NFL, Osborne coached at Nebraska as an assistant beginning in 1964, before becoming the head coach in 1973.
Osborne retired after the 1997 season with an overall record of 255-49-3. He led Nebraska to 13 conference championships and three national championships in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
“He’s tough-minded and a physically tough person,” Paige said. “He’s one heck of a leader.”