When Blackshirts Were Blackshirts: Grant Wistrom
No Husker defensive player had a better collegiate career than Grant Wistrom. He played on three national championship teams and won four straight major bowl games. He played meaningful downs as a true freshman and was a starting player by his sophomore year. His charmed life seemed to continue as he quickly won a Super Bowl for his home state’s St. Louis Rams just two years after graduation.
Wistrom arrived on campus, long, lean and fast in 1994. He had 6.5 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hurries in his freshman year. The Big 8 coaches named him Defensive Newcomer of the Year. A year later Wistrom started every game and tallied fifteen tackles for losses and thirteen quarterback hurries even topping All-American defensive end Jared Tomich in tackles. Wistrom was named third-team All-American and first-team All-Conference as the Huskers ran away with a second straight national title.
In 1996, the Husker team took a step backward as they won “only” 11 games. But Wistrom was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the year and a first-team All-American. He tallied twenty tackles for losses, blocked two kicks, forced a fumble and picked off a pass.
In 1997, he rose from Big 12 alpha male, to college football’s dominant force. He spent the offseason getting his team to recommit to conditioning for a title run. Then he went out and had not only a All-American season, but a Lombardi trophy season. He might have taken the Outland too, if it hadn’t gone to teammate Aaron Taylor. His signature game that year was the 69-7 demolition of Oklahoma that was also Tom Osborne’s 250th win. Wistrom had 10 tackles (9 of them solo) and 4 of them for a loss (including two sacks). Wistrom forced three fumbles and recovered one against the Sooners. The Huskers converted those fumbles into 17 of their first 27 points that day (and three more came from a fumble forced by Mike Rucker).
There have been many better blackshirts, but none had a better career at Nebraska.
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