There is no doubt, in my mind, the best pure athlete that the city of Lincoln has seen in the past 20 years is Barrett Ruud.
At Lincoln Southeast, Ruud ran rough shot over opponents out of the Knights backfield in football, helping them to state titles in 1998 and 2000. He was a member of the Knights varsity team that won a state championship also in 1997.
Ruud ranks as Southeast's all-time leading rusher, which led to him earning a scholarship and played linebacker at Nebraska for four years, before embarking on an NFL career for eight seasons.
What some don't know about Ruud is that he was a great basketball player, too. He played on Knight teams that went to state in 2000 and 2001, all early exits after suffering first round losses, but had tons of athleticism.
Regardless of sport, it seemed Barrett Ruud could be a guy that could get the ball down field in between tackles or bang and crash close to the basket to get a rebound.
Already an inductee into the Southeast Athletic Hall of Fame, Ruud will now be enshrined into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 1 at Lincoln East High School. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for K-12 students, while pre-kindergarten kids are free.
Thinking back to when Ruud was at Southeast, sports in Lincoln were practically at its peak for talent in a long time. Lincoln Northeast was coming off of four-straight Class A boys basketball titles, the Southeast girls were still a juggernaut in basketball, after their mid-'90s three-peat. Southeast football was in the middle of big runs to state championships.
Aside from Ruud, teammates Alex Gordon, Jake Muhleisen and Nick Bahe were excelling not only on the football field but in other sports, such as baseball and basketball.
Across the city, Jimmy Motz was scorching the nets and throwing fastballs while earning all-city and all-state recognition in basketball and baseball at Northeast.
Shawn Redhage was on his way to becoming a college and pro basketball sensation after back to back All-Nebraska years at East High, while his underclassmen teammates; Jesse Shaw, Dwight Williams and Jesse Bouwens were prepping for a miraculous basketball run to a state title in 2001.
Pius X was coming off a great run to a Class B boys basketball title in 2000, with all-stater Nick Heiser leading the way.
Lincoln High also saw a resurgence in boys basketball, with Seth Miller, Ty Graham and Richie Ross helping the Links to trips to state in 2000 and 2001. It would be 2003 they would win Class A for the first time in 44 years.
The 1990s and early part of the 2000s were a great time for high school sports in Lincoln and among some of the great athletes mentioned, Barrett Ruud somehow rises to the top.
Ruud is one of 11 athletes, five coaches, one contributor and one official that are part of this year's hall of fame class.
Former Husker volleyball stars Renee Saunders (Omaha Marian), Kim Behrends (Chappell) and Laura Pilakowski (Columbus), along with Richard Knaub (Scottsbluff), Daryl Stovall (Bellevue West), former Husker football greats Frosty Anderson (Scottsbluff), Ruud and Leodis Flowers (Omaha Central) are part of this years class. Rounding out the the athletes are Erin Gundmundson (Kearney Catholic), Anne Shadle (South Sioux City), and Olympic swimmer Scott Usher (Grand Island).
Also being honored are the Omaha Westside swimming teams from 1973 to 1988 coached by Cal Bentz and Doug Krecklow, where 24 state titles were won between the boys and girls teams. They're being honored as the Dominant Dynasty.
Taleah Williams of Norfolk is being honored with the Ron Gustafson Inspiration Award, for being born without a left forearm, but had a great career in basketball and track.
The Pat Novacek family of Gothenburg is being honored with the Fischer Family Award with Wyoming football standout and All-Pro tight end Jay Novacek, Nebraska football walk-on and 16-foot pole vaulter Bump Novacek and oldest son, Jay Novacek, who was a silver medalist in the vault.
Schuyler's boys basketball team of 1968 and Scottsbluff's state champion football, cross country, wrestling and boys track teams of 1967-68 are the Golden Anniversary teams.
The Silver Anniversary teams are the undefeated St. Paul girls basketball team of 1993 and the Lincoln Southeast championship teams in boys and girls cross country, football, girls basketball, girls gymnastics, boys swimming and boys golf in 1992-93.
Looking back at that 1992-93 school year, it was action packed at Southeast. From afar at Northeast, I saw and competed against the Southeast boys cross country teams.
Banti Iteffa and Courtney Lamb are two runners that come to mind who helped the Knights be so dominant. It was amazing how they were able to keep their pace and led the pack of runners quite often.
It was such a great time for sports in Lincoln. All great memories for some. Hard to believe they're already hall of fame bound.