Give Tom Osborne credit for reading between the lines.
It was the summer of 1959 and he was a young quarterback looking to latch on with the San Francisco 49ers. Problem was, there were a couple of talented players in front of him on the depth chart, and they weren’t going anywhere any time soon.
“Red Hickey was the coach and he called me into his office,” Osborne said. “He said, ‘We’ve got two quarterbacks – Y.A. Tittle and John Brodie – and we’re only going to keep two. If you think you can beat one of them out, go ahead and do it.’
“I kind of got the drift of what he was saying, so I just said, ‘Well, I guess I could try to be a receiver.’”
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The 49ers have been long-time benefactors of Tom Osborne’s Nebraska football programs over the years. The iconic college football coach won three national titles during his 25-year reign at the helm of Nebraska’s program, and also helped mold a select group of players into future 49ers.
Not only did Osborne recruit Roger Craig and Jamie Williams out of Davenport Central High School in Iowa, but he recruited Tom Rathman out of Grand Island, Neb., a city about two hours away from Lincoln.
“We offered him fairly early and he accepted,” Osborne said of Rathman. “But if he had lived in Chicago or someplace, he would have had 30 or 40 schools after him.”
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