Oct. 18, 1947

Tom Novak earned his nickname “Train Wreck.”

Against Notre Dame in 1947, the sophomore from Omaha South was all over the field and played so well in NU’s 31-0 loss that Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy shook his hand after the game and said he was the best linebacker the Irish faced that year.

The Huskers returned to Lincoln to a large crowd of fans at the train station and were paraded around town in convertibles.

Novak had served in the Navy before going to NU — turning down a scholarship from Notre Dame. He played center and in the middle of the defense, missing just 30 minutes in an eight-game schedule in 1947.

In 1949, he capped his career with All-America honors and was the first Husker to have his jersey retired. He is NU’s only four-time all-conference player. He also was a three-year letterman in baseball.

Each year, Nebraska presents the Tom Novak Award to a player who “best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds in the manner of Nebraska All-America center Tom Novak.”

— Ken Hambleton

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