Bob Terrio was a junior college transfer from Fullerton College and played on both National Championship teams in 1970 and 1971 which were both undefeated teams. During his entire college career he only had one loss which was a 15-14 game his sophomore year at Fullerton.
He helped secure Nebraska's first national championship by intercepting a Bert Jones pass with 45 seconds left in NU's 17-12 victory over LSU in the 1971 Orange Bowl. A year later in Miami, his first-half fumble recovery deep in Alabama territory helped the Huskers breeze to victory over the previously unbeaten Crimson Tide.
In 1971, Terrio helped the Blackshirts earn top-five national rankings in rush defense (85.9, second), total defense (202.9, fifth) and scoring defense (8.2, third). He was one of seven Blackshirts named first-team all-conference that year.
This interview with Bob was done by David Max on May 29th, 2004.
DM Where are you from originally?
BT I am originally from California. I was born in Long Beach and raised in Fullerton.
DM Who recriuted you to Nebraska?
BT Tom Osborne. Coach Osborne came to California. He said it was his first year out there and he was looking at some films at Fullerton College where I played and called me up and said that they were pretty much interested in me.
DM Were you impressed at that time or did you know who Nebraska was?
BT I had no idea who Nebraska was. I had no idea who he was. Basically, my interest was in going to USC. I was waiting for USC to come by and offer me a scholarship.
DM And they didn't do it, obviously.
BT No. They came to me after high school and I had a knee injury that was operated on after my senior year in high school so they said go to Fullerton College and prove out that knee and we'll give you a scholarship if that knee proves out. They just didn't follow through.
DM Did anybody recruit you besides Tom Osborne?
BT I had letters from all over the place. As far as being contacted, I was contacted by Arizona and a lot of smaller schools around California plus the USC contact out of high school.
DM Tell us about your trip to Nebraska in the VW bug with Bob Newton.
BT The trip to Nebraska in the VW bug was after we signed the letter of intent.
The recruiting trip that I took was also with Bob Newton. We flew from LA through Denver and in the Denver airport they sell Coors beer to people that are 18 and so here was Bob and I at the age of 18 and we said "Let's go buy ourselves a beer." So we went and sat down and had a couple of beers and waited for our transfer flight to continue on to Lincoln not realizing that there was a time difference between our California time and Denver time and we almost missed our flight. We had to run through the terminal to get to it and they had already closed the door but luckily they opened it and let us get on.
It was January this time and here it was a nice sunny day and a breeze and everything looked beautiful out there. It looked like California weather looking through a plane window. Not realizing that when the plane landed you had to walk to the terminal from outside and the temperature was zero degrees with a wind chill of about 10 below. We ran to that terminal I tell ya. Coach Osborne was waiting inside, naturally. Bob and I looked at each other as two California guys with sweaters and thought we probably won't last around here. We both ended up signing and coming back.
When we came back in the fall I had a Bug and the two of us fitting in this thing crammed in shoulder to shoulder driving across states until we arrived in Lincoln on a Friday or Saturday night. There was a basketball game going on at the Fieldhouse. We drove up and met Tom (Osborne) there at the Fieldhouse.
DM What was your playing weight at Nebraska?
BT My playing weight at Nebraska was somewhere around 215 pounds give or take a few. They tried to get me to gain a little bit when they put me back to linebacker but that usually didn't work too well because once I drank the liquid stuff and ate all those steaks and gained a little weight I lost it on the practice field.
DM What position did you play in your first year?
BT I was recruited as a fullback. I was a quarterback/running back in high school. I went to Fullerton College and was the all conference fullback for two years. Nebraska recruited me as a fullback. My first spring ball as a fullback I was more of a runner than a blocker and I wasn't quite the type of blocker that they needed. During spring ball Bob Devaney came up to me and said "It looks like we've got some good fullbacks coming in so we'd like to put you at linebacker for 10 practices and at tight end for 10 practices." I could catch the ball pretty good. The first day of spring ball I was the 4th team weak side linebacker. In spring ball the 4th team always scrimmages the 1st team offense and the next day Coach Melton came up to me and threw the black shirt at me and said "You're the first team weak side linebacker." So that's where I was. Never went to tight end.
DM What was it like coming from Fullerton College to Nebraska and playing your first game in Memorial Stadium?
BT Oh, it was awesome! It was awesome!! We had a good following at Fullerton. We were State Champs my freshman year and we only lost one game my sophomore year down in San Diego 15-14, and both of the state championships we played at Angel Stadium and there was some pretty good crowds but nothing compared to what it was in Lincoln. It was just awesome!
DM What was it like to play in the Game of the Century at Oklahoma?
BT You know what, it's really hard to say. Now that you think about it, it was fantastic. It was a lot of fun but at the time you didn't think about it. You think it's just another game that you have to go out there and win. We were all together and we knew that there was a job to do and we went out there and did it. And then afterward you start thinking about it and you think "You know what. That was awesome! Really awesome!!" We took one game at a time and we kept rolling them up and rolling them up and we just kept going until we got to that game and then we did our business.
DM Is there a particular regular season game that sticks out in your memory?
BT Of all of them I would say it was when we came back to the Coliseum and played USC and tied them 21-21 my junior year. I always wanted to play in the Coliseum even when I was playing around here and that was something else. That really was.
The other one would be that Oklahoma game on Thanksgiving Day. That Game of the Century.
DM Do you have a favorite Bob Devaney story?
BT You know what. He's got so many of them it's kind of hard to remember them. The thing that I remember most about Bob Devaney was the day my son was born. It was the day that we played Oregon and it was the first game of the season my senior year and my wife was due the following day. The whole time I thought she was in the stands she was at the hospital and everybody knew except me. Even at halftime Bob Devaney came up to me and said "Your wife's doing fine. There's nothing to worry about. Continue with business and go in there and have a good game." Thinking that she just sent a note down or a message down from the stands I didn't think about it and when the game was over Bob Devaney came up and said to me "Has you wife had the baby yet?" I said "No, she's fine. She's probably waiting for me to leave." Bob said "We all heard that she went to the hospital this morning because her water broke and she was having contractions." I said "You're kidding!" He said "No, you better hurry up and get to the hospital." I didn't even shower. I took my uniform off and threw my clothes on and ran out there and fought that traffic leaving the stadium. I remember distinctly getting in the hospital a little after 5 o'clock and hearing a baby crying realizing after I got in there that my wife was the only one delivering at the time. He was born at 5:02 so I just made it. The nurse came out and said "Your wife wants to see you."
DM Do you have a favorite Tom Osborne story?
BT It's like Bob. He's got so many good ones. He was always to the point. When he talked you sat up and listened because you knew what he was saying was going to be right. I remember that he was always wanting people to go to class and keep up with their grades.
I remember the time that Dan Schneiss and I had a class and we were getting C's or maybe C-'s and Tom came up to us and said "You know, your grades are kind of slacking a little bit." We said "Yea, we know. We'll pick it up. We're maintaining a C average and we're doing the best we can." He said "I think you need a little help. Why don't you come to the training table on Thursday night and there will be a tutor there to help you out with your classes." We said "OK." Well, you know Dan and I didn't show up that Thursday night and the next time we saw Coach Osborne he said "You know what. You guys didn't make it that night." We gave some excuse about why we couldn't make it and he said "Tomorrow morning, 6 AM, meet me in the Fieldhouse." At 6 AM the next morning he had us out there on the track and he had us running circles with him and I'll bet you he lapped us three times by the time we finished what we were running. That's why I think Tom is just one tremendous guy.
DM You intercepted a pass against Bert Jones with less than a minute to go in Nebraska's first National Championship game. What was that like?
BT Oh, that was fantastic!! I don't know how I ended up being that deep but for some reason I was. I think I was about 20 yards deep from the line of scrimmage. I remember seeing that ball and my eyes got big and all I could do was jump up there and bring that ball down. I didn't think anything about running. I just wanted to catch that ball.
DM What was the celebration after that game like?
BT Oh, it was tremendous! It was tremendous!! We were just all jumping all over everybody. We were just hoping that we would get that berth as being Number 1 because we already knew that the other two schools had lost. It was just the anticipation of sitting there waiting for the cork to fall off the champagne bottle.
DM Do you have any other Bowl Game memories?
BT The game against Alabama in the Orange Bowl. That one was my last one at Nebraska. That one was special. We went out there and I was thinking this is my last game and I wanted to prove myself and went out there and recovered a fumble and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun and I ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
I did get invited to play in the All Star Game in Chicago. We played the Dallas Cowboys. That was when Bob Devaney and the coaching staff was asked to coach it and he invited me to come up there. I went along with Tagge and Brownson and Kinney and we went up there and played Dallas. That was a lot of fun.
DM Tell us about the Sports Illustrated cover picture. What was the scenario behind that?
BT That was the situation where we had them on their 5 yard line and they tried to give the ball off to Johnny Musso and he fumbled it between the 5 yard line and their goal line. Just all I could think off was holding that ball up in the air and everybody just jumping around. It was in the first half when the game was still in doubt. That's when the picture was taken.
DM Do you still stay in touch with teammates that you played with?
BT I still see and talk to Bob Newton quite often. He's close here in Palm Springs. Bill Bomberger. I get together with him and his wife over in Tucson. Pat Morrell up in Washington. Bill Sloey is here in town. John O'Connell and Bruce Hoge in Sidney, NE. I'm going to stop and see them on my way back to this thing in July.
DM Do you still watch Nebraska games?
BT Oh, you bet. Every chance I get. Even when it's on pay per view I pay for it.
DM What are you doing now?
BT I worked on the Fullerton Police Department for 28 years and just recently retired. Right now my 5 year old granddaughter is waiting for me to come pick her up. I love being retired. It seems like I have so much going on now I don't know where I found time to work 10 hours a day.
DM In all the years as a police officer didn't you ever arrest anyone that recognized you as a former player from Nebraska?
BT No. Other than Jeff Winter (Bob Terrio Classic organizer) who is a prosecutor there was a detective in La Habra (next to Fullerton) who was from Nebraska. His mother and dad are just avid Nebraska fans and when he realized I was working in Fullerton he called me up and we got together and had lunch a few times. He brought a few things over for me to sign and said "My parents have a museum down in the basement with nothing but Nebraska football stuff."
There's a few people that found out I worked at the Fullerton Police Department that sent their copies of the Sports Illustrated cover and I signed them and mailed them back to them.
DM Bob, thanks for sharing your Husker memories with us.