Friday, May 1, 2009

Wistrom worthy of Hall-of-Fame honor

First of all, and I think all Nebraska football fans will agree to this, congratulations are definitely in order for Grant Wistrom.

Wistrom, who played defensive end at Nebraska from 1994-1997 and in the NFL from 1998-2006, is a entering the College Football Hall of Fame this year.
Wistrom, who played on three National Championship teams, holds the school record for tackles for loss with 58.5 for 260 yards and ranks second with 26.5 sacks, had his No. 98 retired during the 1998 season. His career totals include 206 total tackles, 26.5 sacks for 178 yards, one interception, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Wistrom was a two-time first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American and became the 13th Husker to win the NCAA's highest honor, the NCAA Top Eight Award, in 1997. He also earned the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Postgraduate Scholarship following his senior campaign and was the Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year for the 1997-98 season.
Wistrom was the 12th overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams (1998-2003) and later played for the Seattle Seahawks (2004-2006). Wistrom played in three Super Bowls, winning one in 1999.
Certainly, there are many players from Wistrom’s era that are Hall-of-Fame worthy but Wistrom is undeniably worthy.
Wistrom is one of my personal favorite Huskers of all time. There are many things I will remember about him – his intensity being the biggest – but what I remember most is he and defensive tackle Jason Peter (who was the No. 6 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers) opting to stay in school for 1997 instead entering the NFL draft. No one would have blamed either had they entered the draft because after all, both would have been Top Ten picks and already had two National Titles. They were leaders both vocally and by example in helping the Huskers get a share of the title with Michigan in 1997. Personally, I think Michigan was the second best team in the nation bu I digress.

What I remember about Wistrom was that the big money of the NFL never seemed to hange him like you see with so many others.

While I was a student at the University of Nebraska, writing for the Daily Nebraskan, I interviewed him at various times and saw him at the weekly press conferences.

In 1998, while I was working for the Napa Valley Register, I was assigned to cover a game in San Francisco between the 49ers and Rams. I was on the field during pregame warmups. Wistrom came out of the tunnell and looked at me a few times. You know, that look that says, “I know you from somewhere but can’t figure out where?” He walked over to the 30-yard line to stretch. Then he walked over to me and we started chatting. He was friendly as ever.

One year later, the Rams were in San Francisco again as I was assigned to cover the game. The Rams, who had been terrible for a decade, were on their way to a Super Bowl winning season. The 49ers, meanwhile, had been a perrenial power from 1981-1998 but were sinking to the depths that season.

I remember going into the Rams locker-room. I sought out Wistrom and asked if he had a few minutes. He could not have been more welcoming.

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