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Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Where Are They Now? Dave Rimington
By Mike Diegnan
ABC Sports Online
There was only one school Dave Rimington wanted to play football for. A star at Omaha South High School in Omaha, Neb., the offensive lineman yearned to suit up for the Big Red in Lincoln, just 50 miles away.
"I grew up in the '60s when Nebraska started playing good football," said Rimington. "I remember them beating Georgia in '69 in the Sun Bowl. That's when I really became a Husker fan. Then they won the National Championship in '70 and '71. I was like 9, 10 years old when that happened."
After his first game in his senior year at Omaha South, legendary coach Tom Osborne called and told him to keep up the good work and a scholarship would be waiting for him. A nervous Rimington thanked him.
Osborne kept his promise, and Rimington stayed close to home.
As a freshman, Rimington was the third center on the depth chart. In an early season blowout of Hawaii, he got to see his first action as a Cornhusker. To his dismay, the 6-foot-3, 288-pound lineman only lasted five plays before he re-injured a knee that he originally sprained in the high school shrine game after his senior year of high school. Instead, this time his cruciate ligament was torn.
"They took everything out," Rimington recalled. "They didn't know how to fix the cruciate back then, so I played without a cruciate and cartilage. I never did get it fixed."
After taking a hardship season that fall, Rimington came back and backed up All-Big 8 center Kelly Saalfeld during his first full season. The following year, Rimington moved into the starting lineup and the 'Huskers led the nation with 378 rushing yards a game.
In the fourth game of his first year as a starter, Rimington went head-to-head with Florida State nose tackle Ron Simmons.
"They sent PR pictures of him wrestling alligators and all this stuff," chuckled Rimington. "I was a sophomore coming in. I was like 'Oh my goodness, he looked like a Greek god. I am just a sophomore.' I worked hard just to compete."
During Rimington's junior year, Nebraska reached the national championship game against Clemson with Roger Craig and Mike Rozier splitting the duties in the backfield. Rimington was given much of the credit for leading the Huskers' offensive attack, and was named an All-American after the season. While working out in the weight room one day, he was also notified that he had won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman.
"I didn't even know I was in contention for that," Rimington said. "I was on cloud nine for a while.
"As a center, you're not going to get a lot of recognition unless your offense is playing pretty good football. You have to have guys that are producing. If we had that team in the pros, as far as the running game goes, we would have been a pretty good football team."
As a senior, the Rimington-led offense averaged 394 rushing yards and 41 points a game. At the end of the season, again he was honored with a number of personal awards. In fact, he became the only player to ever win the Outland Trophy twice, and when he was awarded the Lombardi Trophy, he became the first and only center to be named the nation's best lineman. Rimington wasn't invited to New York, but he finished fifth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy.
After closing out his career at Nebraska, the Cornhuskers retired his No. 50 jersey, and, in 1997, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Following his Husker career, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted the center with the 25th pick of the first round, and he was named to the All-Rookie Team his first season. Rimington would stay with the Bengals through the '87 season, but the Bengals would fail him on his physical the following season -- his knee has never been repaired -- as punishment for his role as a union representative during the '87 NFL strike.
Rimington admits that the Bengals' players worked hard to keep their teammates from crossing the picket lines to play in scab games.
"It was horrible because players stayed out," Rimington recalled of the 4-11 season. "We thought the games wouldn't count. It was a nightmare of a season."
While his former teammates in Cincinnati faced the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII the next season, Rimington moved to Philadelphia, where he played for the Eagles for two seasons before retiring in 1990.
Following his NFL career, Rimington worked as an assistant coach at Wisconsin and earned a graduate degree in international business. He was planning to go to Hong Kong to be with his wife, Lisa, when former Bengals teammate Boomer Esiason called and told him about his son, Gunner.
"When Gunner was diagnosed (with cystic fibrosis), it was a shock to everybody," Rimington said. "I was lucky because I played pro football for 7-8 years. I basically said, whatever you need, I would help with whatever I can."
Rimington has been with the Boomer Esiason Foundation (www.esiason.org) for seven years, and now serves as the President of the foundation.
"We have had a lot of success, and a lot of that has to do with Boomer and his dedication to find a cure for this thing," Rimington added. "When I got involved, I didn't know how much Boomer would be involved. But he is as hands-on as hands-on can be. We're always looking for ways to raise more money for cystic fibrosis."
Instead of Dave joining Lisa, it has been the reverse. The two have been reunited in New York, but Rimington is sure to get back to his glory days in Nebraska a few times a year.
Just as Rimington looked up to Rich Glover and Johnny Rodgers when he was younger, 'Husker fans remember their native son Dave Rimington today.
Mike Diegnan is the college football editor for ABC Sports Online.