Schlesinger made his mark as a body-rattling blocker in 12 seasons playing fullback for the Lions, but he has a soft spot for the legacy of his old Nebraska football teams.
Nebraska is coming up on the 20th anniversary season of reestablishing itself as college football’s national champion, with an even greater season to come in the eyes of one national authority.
Schlesinger played a starring role in capping an undefeated season for the 1994 Nebraska team with a bowl-game victory and No. 1 national ranking. That wasn’t enough to get the ‘94 Cornhuskers ranked in the Top10 in a recent poll conducted by ESPN’s Page 2 that ranked the top 10 college teams of all time.
Two Nebraska teams were ranked in the top 10. The 1971 team was No. 1, and the 1995 team was No. 3. Twelve schools outside the top 10 got votes. Some schools got votes for multiple seasons. In all, 29 teams got votes – but none for the 1994 Cornhuskers.
Schlesinger is satisfied with what the 1994 Cornhuskers passed on to get the 1995 team recognized as one of the greatest of all time.
“We had a lot of seniors who really showed the younger players how to compete at a high level -- how to train in the offseason, how to work in practice and how to play the game,” said Schlesinger, who taught school in Allen Park since his retirement after the 2006 season.
“I would say the 1995 team outscored teams more than we did.”
The 1994 team went 13-0 with a 24-17 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Orange Bowl. It gave Nebraska its first national championship since 1971 and ended a string of seven straight losses in bowl games. The 1995 team was also 13-0 and ranked No. 1.
Against Miami, Schlesinger led Nebraska’s winning rally with two touchdowns on runs of 15 and 14 yards in the last eight minutes of the game.
For the game, Schlesinger had six carries for 49 yards. His blocking helped Nebraska gain 199 yards on the ground.
Schlesinger’s winning run was on a burst up the middle through a hole vacated by Warren Sapp, Miami’s great lineman. Sapp made a futile swipe with his left hand, but Schlesinger was already by him.
“It was the perfect play at the perfect time,” Schlesinger said. “He was such a strong upfield rusher. We went right in that hole where he was supposed to be.
“Everything about that play was just perfect.”