Meet the newest class of inductees into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame
Courtesy: Nebraska Athletics
One of the most accurate kickers in college football history, Alex Henery, and three-time national champion linebacker Jay Foreman headline a class of five players, including four Huskers, and one state college coach to be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in September.
Henery, a four-year starter for Nebraska from 2007 to 2010, hit on an NCAA-record 88.9 percent (68-76) of his field goal attempts during his career. He also scored a Nebraska-record 397 points by adding 193-of-194 career PATs. Henery, whose 68 career field goals were also a school record, earned first-team All-America honors for the Big Red as a senior in 2010. The Omaha Burke High School graduate went on to a four-year career in the NFL.
Foreman, who was a Butkus Award semifinalist as a senior at Nebraska in 1998, was a major contributor on Nebraska’s 1997 national championship team. He also helped the Huskers claim the 1995 title as a freshman after redshirting in his first season in Lincoln in 1994. Foreman finished his Nebraska career with 233 tackles, before going on to eight highly productive seasons in the NFL. He starred on defense with the Bills, Texans, Giants and 49ers, finishing his pro career with 527 tackles and five fumble recoveries.
A pair of All-Big Eight offensive linemen from the 1970s and 1980s join Foreman and Henery with a call to the hall. Mark Behning, a three-year contributor at offensive tackle on some of the most prolific offenses in Nebraska history in 1982, 1983 and 1984, earned Hall of Fame induction with his All-Big Eight honors as a senior in 1984. Behning went on to spend three seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Greg Jorgensen, a starting offensive guard for Coach Tom Osborne’s early Nebraska teams in 1975, 1976 and 1977, was a second-team All-American in 1977 and a two-time All-Big Eight choice.
The four former Huskers will be joined in their inductions into the Hall of Fame by University of Nebraska at Kearney wide receiver Richie Ross.
Ross, a two-time All-American, rewrote the UNK record books with 279 receptions for 4,882 yards and 50 touchdowns for the Lopers from 2002 to 2005. The four-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection’s record-setting efforts throughout his UNK career included a 317-yard receiving game against Fort Hays State as a sophomore in 2003, when he was named the RMAC Offensive Player of the Year. The Lincoln High graduate also earned a spot in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans.
Former Chadron State coach and athletic director Brad Smith will become the 36th coach and the first since 2012 to be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. He spent 18 seasons (1987-2004) as Chadron State’s head coach and was a three-time RMAC Coach of the Year (1996, 1999, 2001). Smith led Chadron State to a 10-0 regular season and a final No. 7 AFCA national ranking in 2001. His 2002 and 2003 teams also finished in the AFCA Top 25, while his 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001 teams all advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs. His 1989 and 1990 teams advanced to the NAIA Division II playoffs and finished in the top 10.
The Hall also will recognize Tom and Patty Hastings of Omaha with its Clarence E. Swanson Meritorious Service Award, while long-time Nebraska Athletic Department administrators Butch Hug and Shot Kleen will be honored with Lyell Bremser Special Merit Awards.
The Nebraska Football Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Nebraska Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. The College Football Hall of Fame opened its headquarters in Atlanta in 2014.
Prior to 2015, players must have been either an All-American or first-team all-conference selection to make the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame ballot. Beginning in 2015, Huskers who earned second-team all-conference honors dating back to the expansion of the Big Eight to the Big 12 (1996) and now the 14-team Big Ten, are eligible. Players are not eligible for the ballot until after a 10-year waiting period from the end of their collegiate careers. Major national award winners earn automatic induction. Active NFL players are not on the ballot.
This year’s Nebraska Football Hall of Fame class will celebrate together with an induction dinner on the University of Nebraska campus on Friday, Sept. 13. The class will be introduced prior to Nebraska’s football game with Northern Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14.
2019 Nebraska Football Hall of Fame Inductees
Greg Jorgensen (1975-76-77) – A three-year starter at offensive guard, Greg Jorgensen was a second-team All-American by the Football News as a senior and was a two-time honorable-mention All-American and a two-time All-Big Eight selection in his final two seasons for the Huskers in 1976 and 1977. With Jorgensen helping pave the way for Nebraska’s offense, the Huskers ranked No. 5 nationally in scoring offense at 32.4 points per game in 1976, while ranking 10th in total offense at 407.8 yards per game. The Huskers ranked seventh nationally in rushing offense (302.5 ypg) during his senior season, while ranking 13th nationally in total offense (415.4 ypg). Jorgensen helped the Huskers to 28 total wins and a trio of final top-10 national rankings in his three seasons as a starter. He helped the Huskers to an Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl win over Texas Tech in 1976 and a Liberty Bowl win over North Carolina in 1977. The Minden, Nebraska native was a 10th-round pick of the New York Giants in the 1978 NFL Draft. An agricultural major at Nebraska, Jorgensen is a farmer in Minden. He and his wife, Sharon, have two children, Emily and Scot, and six grandchildren.
Mark Behning (1982-83-84) – An All-Big Eight offensive tackle on dominant Nebraska teams in the early 1980s, Mark Behning helped pave the way for some of the most prolific Husker rushing attacks in history. As a junior, Behning helped an offense, powered by Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mike Rozier, lead the nation with 401.7 rushing yards per game. The Huskers also led the nation in scoring offense with 52.0 points while racking up 546.7 total yards per game, the second-best total in the country. Behning earned his first letter as a sophomore tackle for the Huskers in 1982, when Nebraska led the nation in rushing offense (394.3 ypg), total offense (518.6 ypg) and scoring offense (41.1 ppg). He earned All-Big Eight honors on and off the field as a senior in 1984, while helping the Huskers rank third with 311.1 rushing yards and 12th nationally with 427.5 total yards per game. Nebraska’s 32.6 points per game ranked sixth in the country. He started every game as a senior despite battling an ankle injury and competed in the 1985 Senior Bowl. In his three years as a letterman on the O-line, Nebraska finished No. 3 (1982), No. 2 (1983) and No. 4 (1984) in the final Associated Press rankings. He helped the Huskers to New Year’s Day bowl wins over LSU in the Orange and Sugar bowls and was a starter in the 1983 national championship game against Miami in the Orange Bowl. The 6-6, 290-pounder out of Denton, Texas, went on to be a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1985 NFL Draft. He spent the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons with the Steelers in the NFL. Behning, who returned to Nebraska to complete his engineering degree following his NFL career, spent 11 years as a teacher and coach at Denton High School. He is currently a senior project manager with Golden Sands General Contractors in Dallas. He and his wife have two daughters, two sons and four grandchildren.
Jay Foreman (1995-96-97-98) – A member of three national championship teams during his outstanding Husker career, Jay Foreman earned All-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior, while contributing for four straight seasons on the field. The linebacker from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was a Butkus Award semifinalist as a senior in 1998, when he recorded a career-high 97 tackles, including seven tackles for loss and three sacks. In 12 games as a starter for the 1997 national champion Huskers, Foreman added 61 stops, including five TFLs and 1.5 sacks. He finished with 233 career tackles, including 15 TFLs and five sacks to go along with 19 quarterback hurries and six pass breakups. He also forced two fumbles and recovered another, while pulling down a pair of interceptions, including one that he returned 21 yards for a touchdown against Colorado in 1996. He majored in business administration at Nebraska and graduated in December of 1998. Following graduation, Foreman was a fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 1999 NFL Draft. He played eight seasons in the NFL with the Bills, Houston Texans, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. He finished his NFL career with 527 tackles, 4.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries. During his NFL offseasons, he completed his MBA at Harvard. He is the president of The Foreman Foundation and continues to work as a commentator, professional speaker and author. Jay and his wife, Allison, live in Lincoln with their four children, daughters Soleil and Ciel, and sons, Logan and Grant.
Alex Henery (2007-08-09-10) – One of the most accurate kickers in college football history, Alex Henery earned first-team All-America honors as a senior at Nebraska in 2010. The 6-2 place-kicker/punter out of Omaha Burke High School was a Rudy Award finalist and a two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist. An All-Big 12 selection as both a place-kicker and punter in 2009 and 2010, Henery connected on 193-of-194 PATs in his career, while converting on an NCAA-record 88.9 percent (68-76) of his career field goals. From inside 50 yards, Henery hit 63-of-65 career field goal attempts. As a senior in 2010, Henery went a perfect 54-for-54 on PATs and hit 18-of-19 fields. He finished his Husker career with a school-record 397 points. His 68 career field goals were a school record, including a season-record 24 field goals as a junior in 2009. He also set the school and Memorial Stadium record with his 57-yard field goal against Colorado in 2008. While he rewrote the Husker record books as a place-kicker, he was also Nebraska’s starting punter his final two seasons in Lincoln. He averaged 43.2 yards per punt as a senior. He pinned opponents inside their own 20 on 26 of his 69 punts. As a junior, he buried the opposition inside its own 20 of 30 occasions and boomed a career-long 76-yard punt against Virginia Tech. In the same game against the Hokies, Henery hit on a career-high five field goals. The Omaha native was chosen with the 120th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2011, Henery set the NFL record for field goal accuracy by a rookie kicker (.889, 24-27) while also hitting all 46 of his PATs. In 2012, he connected on a franchise-record 22 consecutive field goals, while finishing 27-of-31 (.871) on the season. He spent the 2013 season with the Eagles, hitting 23-of-28 field goals (.821) while hitting all 45 of his PATs. He was also a member of the Detroit Lions in 2014. He and his wife, Johna, have a son, Landen, and the couple lives in Omaha, where he works for Tetrad Property Group as a project manager. Henery was a construction management major at Nebraska.
2019 Hall of Famers from the State College Ranks
Richie Ross (Nebraska-Kearney, 2002-03-04-05) – The most prolific wide receiver in the history of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, two-time NCAA Division II All-American Richie Ross caught 279 passes for 4,882 yards and 50 touchdowns for the Lopers from 2002 to 2005. In addition to his school-record receiving totals, Ross also threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score during his UNK career. The four-time All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection was the 2003 RMAC Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, after amassing a school-record 1,482 receiving yards. His top performance that season included 16 receptions for a school-record 317 yards against Fort Hays State. As a senior, he covered 1,360 yards on 87 receptions with 19 touchdowns. He added two more receiving touchdowns with 131 yards in the Division II All-Star Game at the conclusion of his senior year. After beginning his collegiate career with a basketball scholarship to South Dakota, Ross transferred to UNK to play football. In 2002, he was the RMAC Freshman of the Year, leading the Lopers to the RMAC title and their first-ever NCAA Division II playoff berth. One of only two athletes in the history of the state of Nebraska to be named both the Lincoln Journal Star Prep Boys Athlete of the Year (2000, Lincoln High) and the Journal Star State College Male Athlete of the Year (2006, UNK), Ross was a first-team Super-Stater in both football and basketball as a senior for the Links, while adding a gold medal in the triple jump. The 6-4, 200-pounder signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2006. He was a practice squad member for the Tennessee Titans in 2006 and made the Titans’ active roster in 2007. Ross was inducted into the University of Nebraska at Kearney Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. He was also inducted into the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. Ross will be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 22, 2019. He lives in Lincoln where he works for the Lincoln Public Schools. He has three children, Richard Jr., Quincy and Adrienne.
2019 Hall of Fame Coach
Brad Smith (Chadron State, 1987-2004) – Former Chadron State coach and athletic director Brad Smith becomes the 36th coach and the first since 2012 to be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. Smith spent 18 seasons (1987-2004) leading the Eagles and was a three-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Coach of the Year (1996, 1999, 2001). Smith led Chadron State to a 10-0 regular season and a final No. 7 AFCA national ranking in 2001. His 2002 and 2003 teams also finished in the AFCA Top 25, while his 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001 teams all advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs. His 1989 and 1990 teams advanced to the NAIA Division II playoffs and finished in the top 10, after he built the program from a 1-8 record in his first season in 1987. At the conference level, Smith’s Chadron State teams won the 1996 and 2001 RMAC titles and shared the crowns in 1998, 1999 and 2002. As part of the RMAC’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2009, Smith was named the RMAC’s all-time football coach. Although Smith retired from coaching in 2004, he continued as Chadron State Athletic Director until 2013. Smith got his start in coaching at Chadron State in 1972, after completing his college career as a cornerback at Western Illinois. He earned his master’s degree from Chadron State in 1973. After a brief stint as the secondary coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Smith spent three seasons as the head coach at Alliance High School. After four seasons as a high school coach in Wisconsin and six seasons as an assistant at Western Illinois, he returned to Chadron State in 1987. Brad and his wife, Pam, have three children.