Cherished Memories Of Devaney’s Huskers
Fraternity brother Pat McGinn recruited Bruce Christensen to become an assistant student manager for the 1967 Husker football team.
How do I know? Since I’ve become publisher of this magazine, I keep running across fabulous people who have great stories about Nebraska athletics. Allow me to share this one:
Christensen wasn’t too excited about the job until McGinn explained that he, Christensen, would be in line to be the head manager for Bob Devaney’s team in 1968.
That piqued Christensen’s interest.
Back then, there were three managers: The head manager, an assistant and a helper.
The head manager was not paid but got to eat at the training table and received four tickets for home and away games. The head manager also was provided a red blazer and gray slacks from Ben Simons clothing store to wear to away games.
Suddenly, putting in a year as the assistant sounded pretty good to Christensen.
“We had a lot of responsibilities on the road games,” Christensen said. “We had to keep track of the gear and the players. We also had to do the bed checks and wake everyone up.”
By 1968, the 80-man roster flew to all away games. The team bused from the airport to the hotel and to the stadium.
“I screwed up one time,” said Christensen, by then the head manager. “That was in Minneapolis when we were playing the Gophers. I had a checklist of all the players and had to make sure they were on the buses.
“Devaney asked me if everyone was accounted for and I said yes.”
So off the buses went, headed for the stadium. But Christensen missed one player. Starting quarterback Frank Patrick.
Patrick came out of the hotel to see the last of the buses driving away.
“Luckily for me, there were alumni there and they drove him to the stadium,” Christensen said.
Everyday during the season, Christensen would go into Devaney’s office and find out what equipment was needed for each practice station: sleds, tackling dummies, ropes, cones, whatever. He’d then set them up.
He was always sure to get it exactly right. Holding up practice would have been a big problem for the exacting coaching staff.
As head manager, Christensen would stay with the team the night before games on East Campus. If Devaney was friends with the opposing team’s coaches, Christensen would get a car, pick the coaches up at the Holiday Inn and take them to dinner at the Legion Club.
“I was 21 at that time, so I got to go in and have supper with the opposing coaches,” Christensen said. “I would just sit there and listen to the stories.”
In 1968, Oklahoma dealt Nebraska a 47-0 loss.
“I knew Oklahoma was for real,” Christensen. “On the opening kickoff, Mick Zigler was hit so hard, he had some teeth knocked out.”
Afterward Devaney was not happy. Christensen remembers the coach addressing the team after the beatdown: “Seniors, we appreciate your contributions to this team. To the rest of you, this will never happen again.”
At the football banquet, Devaney presented Christensen with his varsity letter and a senior watch, just like the senior players received.
“Devaney was a great guy,” he said.
Christensen graduated from Nebraska with a business degree and went on to start his own company, which he sold after 27 years. He’s now retired and living in Lincoln.
Christensen cherishes his days as a Husker football manager. Afterall, he was part of Nebraska football history. But at the time as a college senior, he was just enjoying being with the team. He had no idea how much those days and being around those people would positively affect his life.
“It was a great experience,” he said.