COLUMBUS — One of Nebraska’s finest home-grown talents is getting inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in Lincoln Sunday.
LaVerne Torczon, a former standout athlete from Platte Center, is getting the nod after excelling in football, basketball and track and field. The 76-year-old Torczon played six-man football and once scored 46 points in a game as a running back, racking up seven touchdowns while adding four extra points.
On the hardwood, Torczon once outscored the entire Humphrey St. Francis basketball team, as he scored 36 points to St. Francis’ 32.
After high school, Torczon walked on at Nebraska and played football under coaches Bill Glassford and Pete Elliott from 1953-56.
Torczon remembers the day he lined up with over 100 other freshmen for coach Glassford to evaluate. Only six of the freshmen were scholarship athletes, according to Torczon.
When Glassford got to the 6-foot-2, 209-pound Torczon, he asked who he was and why he was there.
“To play football,” Torczon replied.
“He asked, ‘What position do you play?’ So I said, ‘Running back.’ He said, ‘Running back? Look up and down the line, you’re one of the biggest guys here, you’re going to be on the line,’” Torczon said.
So Torczon made the transition from a bruising high school running back to playing defensive center. Playing on the Nebraska freshman team, since freshmen were ineligible in those days, Torczon led the team in tackles through its four-game season. He impressed the coaches so much that he earned a scholarship the following semester.
“I played right on top of the center, and I ate those centers up,” Torczon said.
Torczon got his first real game experience as a sophomore against Iowa State. With Nebraska in control, Torczon got in the game in the fourth quarter and made the most of his opportunity, as he returned a fumble for a touchdown on his first collegiate play. The Huskers beat the Cyclones 39-14.
Torczon was named to the 1955 and 1956 All-Big Seven teams and won the Tom Novak Award in 1956. an award presented annually to the senior who “best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds in the manner of Nebraska All-America center Tom Novak.”
After excelling at Nebraska, Torczon was drafted in the 18th round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns as a defensive end. His first contract was for $6,900.
However, Torczon was told he wasn’t big enough to play his rookie season, so the Browns shipped him off to finish the season with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, where he played in four games.
He spent his next two years in the Army and made his professional football debut shortly after he received an honorable discharge.
Torczon signed to play with the Buffalo Bills because the man that signed him with the Browns was then the general manager of the Bills. Torczon went on to make the All-AFL team in 1960 and played in the AFL’s first all-star game after the 1961 season.
One thing Torczon had that made him a successful football player, both in college and the pros, was his speed.
“If you want to play football any more in college or pro, you better have some speed,” Torczon said. “That’s the only reason I played pro football for seven years.”
After playing for Buffalo, Torczon also played for the New York Jets (known as the Titans prior to 1963), and ended his pro career in 1966 with the Miami Dolphins.
Torczon doesn’t have too many meaningful memories from his days in the pros, but he does remember his lone career interception. He picked off a screen pass thrown by the Raiders’ Tom Flores and returned it for a touchdown.
In 1987, Torczon was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame, and now, after 59 years, he’s about to take his place in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.