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Leave it to an offensive lineman to come up with the ultimate gift that will just keep on giving every time his junior high school or high school needs to go somewhere. Yes, Husker All-American Russ Hochstein is as pragmatic as he is creative, so Hartington (Neb.) Cedar Catholic Junior-Senior High School students and athletes have been riding in style this spring to track and field meets, a district music contest and a trip to Omaha’s world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo. Too bad there’s not enough trumpets and trombones to salute the man who donated the bus and handed the keys to Cedar Catholic Principal Terry Kathol, who considers the 55-foot, 59-passenger bus the perfect gift from a loyal, hard-working Nebraska graduate and Hartington native … Russ Hochstein, beginning NFL season No. 12 with the Denver Broncos.
How can anyone forget Hochstein, who started the final 29 games of his Husker career before going on to play in three Super Bowls for the New England Patriots? Hochstein set Nebraska’s school record with 23 pancake blocks in the Huskers’ 27-24 overtime win over Notre Dame in 2000 at South Bend, Ind. Let the record show, however, that he wasn’t the only person irritating the Irish that day. That game will be forever etched in the minds of both teams because it was the first and only time in Notre Dame’s storied history when the visiting fans almost outnumbered the home fans. A consensus first-team All-Big 12 player that year, as well as a team captain and first-team Sporting News All-American, Hochstein spent his first NFL year in Tampa Bay, the next seven years in New England and begins his fourth year in Denver.
The Yankton (S.D.) Press & Dakotan published a story explaining why Hochstein, No. 71 in your program but No. 1 in your heart, bought a bus to benefit his hometown. “Since the school launched him on the road to success, he wanted Cedar Catholic students and their Trojan teams to hit the road in style and comfort,” the story said. Makes perfect sense to me, especially from Hochstein, who lays low and does everything humanly possible to stay out of the limelight in any situation, including Super Bowls. I’m guessing here, but I think the bus would meet his criteria as a sound investment and a mixture of bells and whistles and common sense. The bus has been in service almost as many years as Hochstein has played in the NFL, so he must figure the wheels on the bus keep going round and round, just like he does. We should point out there’s some measure of extravagance. The 2001 model has a rest room and five movie screens besides heating and air-conditioning.
His principal says Hochstein and his family always have been very good about supporting the school, and he sees that support as an extension of his Catholic faith and staying true to one of the strongest influences in his life. “He’s a person of very good character, and a lot of people look up to him,” Kathol said. “He’s always worked hard and he’s stuck to that work ethic and enjoyed a long football career. We’ve always had the Nebraska fans. Then you’d see a lot of New England fans, especially at the elementary schools. Then they became Denver fans.” Now, they’re simply Russ Hochstein fans because the veteran pro is enabling them to travel like first-class passengers – something he never got to do when he was their age. Somehow, I think I know what he’d appreciate most in return – for everyone who sits down in that bus to work as hard as he did when they get off that bus.
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