Memories.

Clearwater Public Schools grad and football standout Billy Legate has a lot of them.

Like the time the Cardinals played Butte in post-season play.

“It was a game before we met Falls City Sacred Heart. We had beaten Butte earlier in the season. We knew it was going to be a hard playoff game,” Legate said.

The Cardinals led - maybe by a touchdown - Legate said.

“They had us pinned with the nose of the football just out of our end zone.”

Third down.

“I just knew this play would work.”

Before Coach Rod Brummels even reached the huddle on the field, Legate told teammates what play to run.

Legate said Brummels told him to “calm down.”

“I convinced him to run this 44 option pass, basically I looked like I was getting the ball on an option. They (Butte) were keying on me the whole game and I knew I could get open because I was going to take a ball fake and go out for a pass,” Legate said, like the play happened yesterday instead of 25 years ago.

He told quarterback Seth Brummels, “Just throw it. I’ll catch it.”

And he did.

Legate secured the pass and scampered 79 and one-half yards for the touchdown, a Nebraska playoff record that still stands.

“It helped us seal the game,” he added.

Legate will be able to add one more moment to the memory book.

On Saturday, June 15, the former Cardinal was inducted into the Nebraska 8-Man Football Hall of Fame.

Legate, along with 16 other individuals, were recognized during halftime of the Sertoma 8-Man All-Star Football Classic, played at Hastings College.

Football was something Legate “always wanted to do as a little kid.”

“I just loved playing football. I enjoyed it so much.”

According to Legate, he couldn’t wait until he was old enough to put on the pads and become one of the boys of fall.

While in grade school, former Superintendent Jeff Hoseing and Brummels would oversee elementary students who learned the game on the Clearwater gridiron on Saturday mornings.

Saturday afternoons were spent listening or watching Nebraska football.

During junior high, Legate remembers playing flag football.

“We didn’t have an opportunity to play until we were freshmen in high school,” he said.

Legate’s freshman prep career was cut short due to an injury.

When he did take the field, he primarily played on defense.

“A crack in my foot,” he said. “Couldn’t play the rest of the season.”

During his sophomore season, he started, but broke his right arm.

Season over.

Injuries didn’t deter Legate from building his strength and building a solid bond with team members.

“We were really good our junior and senior years. Luckily, I played the whole season both of them.”

The Cards were stacked with athletes.

Jason Rittscher at receiver. Seth Brummels at QB. Brent Bolling, Jeremy Kester, Jeff Hankla, Jerry Joe Sisson, Blaine Blecher, Chris Greer.

Others, too, who deserve credit.

“Gosh, we had a lot of good guys,” Legate said.

Teamwork. Dedication.

It paid off.

Clearwater advanced to the playoffs three times during Legate’s career.

In November 1993, the Cardinals hosted Falls City Sacred Heart for the Class D championship.

Legate thinks between 2,000 and 3,000 people attended the game.

“You couldn’t get a seat,” he said.

The home team fell, 66-34, as FCSH claimed their 66th straight victory and fifth state football championship.

Nebraska sportswriter Bobby Mills said Legate “may well have been the finest pure tackling machine in the history of eight-man football.”

“To give you an idea what a force Billy was on defense, going into that state championship game, Sacred Heart’s leading tackler was Jason Lenard with 74 stops. Billy had 214 going in,” Mills said.

Legate was a two-time first-team all-conference and first team all-state selection as both running back and linebacker.

Legate ended his prep career with school records in career rushing yards, totaling 3,683; season yards, 1,807 and tackles, 232.

“I have a lot of good memories,” Legate said.

Kester said the eight seniors in their class had the same goal.

“Get to the finals, good leadership and everyone give 100 percent every play.”

Sisson said Legate’s work ethic, especially in the weight room, gave him an edge.

“He was always lifting weights,” Sisson said.

Legate chuckled. “Friends would tell you while they were having fun, I was asking for keys to weight room. I wanted to get stronger.”

Truth be told, things had to fall into place for everyone to find success.

“There was a lot of hard work from everyone,” Legate said.

He played in the 1994 8-man all-star game, earning defensive MVP honors.

Shortly after, he was off to Lincoln, to become one of the Huskers.

Smaller division schools, including Midland and Wesleyan, knocked on his door, offering a football future.

But once a Husker, always a Husker.

“I had gone to one recruiting meeting with UNL. They were interested in me as a walk-on.”

Legate didn’t make the cut and the ‘Skers weren’t offering a spot on the Team. The clock ticked on which school to attend .

He started the enrollment with Nebraska Wesleyan.

Fate - in the form of Brummels and Bill Kester - intervened.

Legate said they talked him into meeting with Frank Solich, running backs coach.

“He told me there may be an opening, I’d probably never see the field, but might have a chance to practice,” Legate said. “I remember telling Frank he needed to give me a chance and I’d prove I could play.”

Legate walked on with the Huskers and through a lot of hard work “and crazy things in practice that first year,” Legate earned the chance to play in 1995.

In 1994, Legate played on the scout team.

“It was pretty wild. We were running all the plays against the number one defense in the nation,” he said.

He worked his way up the depth chart.

Weightlifting helped.

“When I got to UNL, one of the assistant strength coaches - Brian Bailey -  he was a role model. That guy pushed you so hard. He’d push you to extreme limits. That’s how you got bigger and faster.”

During his junior season, Legate was back up for Joel Makovicka, competing for playing time at fullback.

“It was probably my best year at UNL,” he said.

Known as a special teams ace and fullback, Legate played in 44 Husker games.

He set the strength index record for his position and was a three-time First Team Academic All-Big 12.

Legate lettered all four years and was a part of three national championship teams.

In 1998, he received the Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp Trophy, in recognition of his unselfish dedication to the team with little or no self acclaim/recognition.

There’s a lot of hash marks between the years playing on the field and entering the hall of fame.

Legate purchased ground on his grandpa’s ranch, the place where he grew up, and works for Vulcraft, a division of Nucor, in Norfolk.

He said it was a neat honor to be recognized by the hall of fame.

“It’s recognition for hard work,” he said. “I was always trying to figure out how to get bigger and faster and stronger because I always wanted to play ball.”

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