Tom Rathman: The Islander

By: Rudy Mezzy Email
By: Rudy Mezzy Email

From the endzone in two different Memorial Stadiums to the sidelines of Super Bowl XLVII, Grand Island Senior High alum Tom Rathman is continuing a legacy that might make you say, "He's probably THE Islander!", as current Grand Island Senior High Athletic Director Joe Kutlas refers to him.

Greg Uhrmacher, who was on Grand Island Senior High's coaching staff during the time Rathman played football for the Islanders agrees.

Uhrmacher says, "He was just one of the best athletes that you would ever be around. Great personality, he really wanted to play football for Grand Island Senior High School."

And he did, leading the Islanders to a State Championship in 1978, but that was just the beginning.

"Great credentials here, then of course, he goes on to Nebraska and considered by most to be one of the all time fullbacks to play, maybe the greatest of his generation," says Kutlas.

"Then obviously gets drafted in the NFL and right place, right time, right system, starts catching passes and was part of two Super Bowl Championship teams. Now he's gone on to coach and has a chance to win a Super Bowl as a coach as well."

Rathman started the jump from high school, to Nebraska, to Super Bowl champion, on the field at Grand Island Senior High and some say his ability to jump may have even been better than his football ability.

"He was an amazing high jumper. Unbelievable. 205 or 6 pounds and could high jump 6' 7". He ended up winning the State high jump," says Uhrmacher.

"You know, you're talking about a guy that normally when you look at high jump champions, you're looking at guys that are long and lean," says Kutlas, "and the thing you find out in this building that people who were around him say the same thing over and over again is what a flat-out tremendous athlete he was. He did amazing things. He could stand under the basket and dunk it, just an amazing athlete."

Rathman owes much of his success to his head coach as an Islander Ken Fischer, who Rathman admits, gave him the foundation for football. Now, as the San Francisco 49ers running backs coach, Rathman has found his own way to stay around the game.

"He really took to coaching and I think coaching became the same type of importance that playing was playing football," says Uhrmacher. "He just loves coaching, he won't quit coaching."

Kutlas says, "We should all be proud Sunday night when Tom Rathman takes the field with his team that this is a guy that went to school here. He's one of us. So, we're part of that same family that he's apart of. So, it's very exciting!"


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