Tuesday, November 14, 2000
Where Are They Now? Dean Steinkuhler
Nearly 17 years later, Dean Steinkuhler can't remember the actual name of the play that was called in from the sidelines that warm New Year's night. Then again, the college football annals have since named it for him. It's simply known as "fumblerooski."
On Jan. 1, 1984, the All-American center Steinkuhler and his No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers found themselves behind 17-0 early to underdog Miami in the Orange Bowl. The Midwestern boys were noticeably tiring in the Florida heat, and the defense was proving no match for Bernie Kosar's passing game. Nebraska needed to do something, and do something fast.
"We had worked on it all year in practice, once or twice a week in practice, but had never tried to use it," said Steinkuhler. "When the play came in from the sideline, I was kind of shocked, but I just said, 'Here we go.'"
The play, since banned in college football, involved quarterback Turner Gill leaving the ball on the ground as if there had been a fumble. Steinkuhler, the hefty lineman, picked it up and ran 19 yards for the touchdown to the amazement of 72,549 onlookers and, in particular, the television cameras.
"I think I showed my kids the tape a few years ago," said Steinkuhler, "but it's tough because (TV) didn't get a lot of the play."
Of course the Cornhuskers' trickery couldn't keep them from falling 31-30 in what was then considered a major upset. The Husker legacy that included Gill, Outland and Lombardi Trophy winner Steinkuhler, Heisman running back Mike Rozier and future NFL wide receiver Irving Fryar left school without a national title, but that couldn't damper Steinkuhler's time in Lincoln.
"It was definitely the highlight of my college career, playing in the Orange Bowl vs. Miami," he said. "All we could ask for was a shot at (the title). I still say we were the better team that year, but they were the better team that night. But hey, if you know you're going to win, you wouldn't play the game."
Steinkuhler's next football game would take place with the NFL's Houston Oilers, whom he played for through 1991. Though he enjoyed much success in the pros, it didn't compare with college. He had been spoiled by Nebraska's top-flight facilities, training and, of course, coaching. No one could compare with Tom Osborne, the Cornhusker coaching legend who retired last year.
|Former Nebraska center Dean Steinkuhler is infamous for the "fumblerooski."|
"I was never around a guy who was more sincere or caring," Steinkuhler said of Osborne. "We had 100, 125 guys on our team. I didn't even know everyone's name, but he did. And he knew something about every one of them, he knew where they were from, and, somehow, he always knew if they had a problem. He just had that sense, I guess.
"That's why, when I got to the NFL, I found out it was definitely a business. It really soured me on the whole idea. I still watch a lot of pro football, but some of the coaches, especially, you question their integrity and, often, their intelligence. I could teach more in an afternoon than some of these people know."
These days Steinkuhler resides in Syracuse, Neb., about 30 miles outside Lincoln, with his wife and three children. The self-employed Steinkuhler is a hard man to track down, as he spends his days operating a nearby car wash and renting home storage units, and his nights coaching his sons' football teams.
The easiest time to locate him is probably Saturdays and Sundays, when he's either in front of the television or in the stands at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. "You've got to understand, in this state on Saturday afternoons, that's all there is," he said.
Steinkuhler still follows the Huskers closely and is openly supportive of Frank Solich.
"Hopefully we'll get a good 10, 15 years from him," Steinkuhler said. "But then I've got a former teammate I'd like to see there." Which teammate? None other than current Husker assistant and the man that "fumbled" that ball, Gill.
|Dean Steinkuhler still follows his Huskers today.|