An Interview with Jesse Kosch
Trivia question for Nebraska football fans: How many father/ son combinations hold all five Nebraska National Championship Rings between them? Answer: one.
Jesse Kosch and his father Bill Kosch are the only father son combination to hold all 5 pieces of Nebraska Championship Hardware. I was lucky enough to spend a morning with Jesse in his Nebraska sports store, Big Red of the Rockies, located in Estes Park, Colorado. You read that right, Colorado.
Husker Pulse: The first question I have to ask is, what was it like growing up in the shadow of a father who had two college football championship rings?
JK: (laughs) He didn’t really talk about it much (when I was) growing up. Obviously we knew he played, but he just let us do our own thing. If we wanted to play baseball, soccer, or track he never really said anything. Once I got into junior high, when Nebraska had fewer games on T.V. in the late 1980’s, we’d always go out to the dead end streets in Columbus get the radio out and go kick. He was always outside with me helping me with that.
HP: Weren’t you a quarterback in high school?
JK: No, I was a running back and linebacker.
HP: Did you ever imagine that you would end up with more rings that your father?
JK: (laughs again) Well, when I got there I was just happy to be there. Obviously as you could tell we had really good teams.
-At this point in the interview a customer came in. He commented that he had “no idea such a place existed”. He told Jesse and I that his father had played baseball for Nebraska in the 1940’s and asked if that made it OK for him to be in the store. He had to ask the question, “Are they going to be any good this year?” and Jesse was quick to point out that the Huskers are undefeated. We joked about how much you can tell from these early games, and about other teams in the Big 12. That’s something that makes Big Red of the Rockies unique, you can talk college football with someone who’s been there and has the hardware to prove it, but also comes across as just one of the guys.
HP: You were voted into the “All Century” team by Husker fans. What does it mean to you to have been voted into the “All Century” team?
JK: Well it was a great honor to see the hard work pay off. A lot of that was actually based on timing. Being there on National Championship teams and towards the end of the century helped. I mean, who remembers the punter in 1901? He didn’t have much of a chance. I’m sure being a Nebraska kid helped a lot. It was fun; I still have my plaque hanging on the wall here.
HP: Timing is one thing, but you still hold several records with Nebraska:
-Top 10 longest punts (74 yards)
-Top 10 Season Punting average (44.7 in 1996)
-Top 10 Career Punting average (41.92 in 1994-1997).
Yet you did this with only 101 punts in your 3 years as a starter including the fewest punts ever in a season 29 in 1995. This brings me to my next question. What did you do with your time in 1995 when the team wasn’t punting that often?
JK: Those punting numbers… I’ve always had a problem with looking at just numbers. In order to have the longest punt you need to first have an opportunity. 1995 was my first year starting, it was my sophomore year and I was pretty nervous. I practiced a lot on timing, making sure I was fast enough to avoid getting blocked. Kris Brown was a freshman place kicker and it was his first year also. So all we heard all year was how great our Offense and Defense were, and that our Special Teams were the weak spot. Which we probably were, but we just wanted to hold our own. We had good leaders on the punt team like Aaron Graham, our deep snapper, who told me, “You’re fine, you’re fine you’ll be alright.” I think there was one game that year we didn’t punt at all, and a couple games where I’d only have one punt. In fact, I think the most I had that year was four in a game.
HP: Those are amazing numbers for so few opportunities. I recently re-watched the Championship game against the Gators, and even the announcers made the comment when you came out to punt late in the game that they didn’t think they were even going to see this guy today because the game was going so well. Can you tell me a little bit about that night and what you think that made it so special allowing everything to come together like that?
JK: I think back then teams weren’t quite caught up with us or our style. You obviously take physical over finesse if both are working. I was so nervous that game too. I think Chris Brown missed his first extra point that game and a lot of people actually forget that Florida was up 10-6 in the first quarter. So it wasn’t like we just wiped them out right away. Once we made a few adjustments we out scored them 29-0 in the second quarter and the game was pretty much over at that point.
HP: From a fan stand point that was just amazing to watch. I was one of those fools down at 72nd and Dodge in Omaha celebrating.
JK: That was a cool night, wasn’t it?
HP: Man, it was amazing. Just electric.
JK: (Even more laughter with obvious pride in his eyes)
HP: To keep making your face get redder and redder, that 1995 team is often referred to as “the Greatest College Football Team of All Time” and when sports writers and announcers start touting another team to be the next great team they always bring up your ’95 squad as a comparison. So no matter whom the new “greatest team” is, the ’95 Huskers are always brought up. Could you have possibly imagined in 1995 that 13 years later you would still be mentioned every time a discussion about the “greatest teams” comes up.
JK: You could tell, even at the beginning before we ever played a game, that this team was going to be good. Our closest game that year was Washington State; I think we won by 14. Once we got into the conference part of the schedule, the old Big 8, I don’t even remember what the closest game was. I’m not sure, by 20 0r 25 points? I think to wipe out the number 2 team like we did was what set us apart. Though I don’t know how you compare our 1995 team with ‘05 USC, or the ’71 Huskers it’s just a different game. It’s fun for people to discuss. (He says with a smile)
HP: Obviously your teams had amazing chemistry. What do you think Bo Pelini needs to do to get the current Huskers back on track and to have that sort of chemistry?
JK: You have to get the Nebraska kids, the walk-ons, back into the program. I was listening to interviews recently and you get these California and Texas kids that once they are there they hang around Nebraska kids from the farms that some even go and visit and see what hard work is here. Not that they don’t work hard, but it’s a different mentality. I’ve heard a lot of people say that Nebraska kids play FOR Nebraska and out of state kids play AT Nebraska. They don’t understand the passion that goes behind it without that interaction. We had a ton of walk-ons. I think the ’97 team had 9 of the 11 starters from Nebraska. Aaron Taylor, Scott Frost, Ahman Green, Makovicka, Tim Carpenter, Anderson, Mat Hoskinson… (He rattled off the top of his head.) That just shows when you get those kids in there and they develop over the next couple years eventually they can get on the field and make a difference.
HP: So you’re saying a good balance of walk-ons from Nebraska and some 4 and 5 star recruits is what you want. Looking back at the ’94 and ’95 teams they weren’t considered top recruiting classes nationally.
JK: You only need 2 and 3 star recruits if you have a 5 star coach.
HP: Ah, that’s a good one.
JK: Quote of the year. (More laughter)
HP: Now I’d bet that beating Colorado is right up there on your list. Many people probably don’t know that you own a Husker store, Big Red of the Rockies, in Estes Park, Colorado. What brought you to Estes Park and what gave you the idea to have a Huskers store here?
JK: Well, we used to family vacation here every year. I was out here before I was even one year old. I’ve always liked the mountains. I’m more of a winter type person. The store was originally started in 1996, by Gary Novotny, and his brother ran the store too. So I knew about the store. After I graduated with my masters in meteorology, I couldn’t really find a good job so I said to heck with it and moved up here to Estes. I didn’t have any notion of buying it then. I did some coaching at the high school, and then about 2 ½ years ago the opportunity came up to buy it. So I did, and moved it to its current location where things have been rolling along pretty good.
HP: Did I hear correctly that displaced Husker fans are able to watch the games here at your store?
JK: Yeah, in fact we had the first three games on pay-per-view here with about 40 to 50 people each game. There are a couple of TV’s here so they can always bring a chair, and we try to have some chairs here.
HP: Now I see, without naming names, that there is actually another Husker store in town. However, one would think with 5 National Championship rings that Big Red of the Rockies holds more legitimacy as far as Husker ties go. Would that be the correct assumption?
JK: Copycats will come and go.
HP: I just want to say thanks for your time, but one last thing before we let this go. You have to help me with a bar bet here. Someone once told me that you were awarded a Blackshirt. I don’t recall you ever playing defense. Can you tell me if there is any truth to this or what the story is behind it?
JK: Technically the punter is listed on the defensive side of the line up card, and the place kicker is on the offense. I never did get one, even though I was a three-year starter, but I guess I was only out there a few times a year. It would have been nice to have a brown one maybe. I did have one tackle in the 1997 Big 12 Championship game.
-Jesse has a great sense of humor and is a very down to earth “Nebraska kid”. If you ever want to talk to or even watch a game with a Husker Legend, be sure to pop into his store, the world’s largest Husker store above 7000 feet! Oh, and for the record I couldn’t find a player listed as the punter in 1901, but it was likely the quarterback, Ralf Drain.
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Jesse and his store can be found at:
Big Red of the Rockies
140 E. Elkhorn Ave P.O. Box 2406
Estes Park, Colorado
Downtown next to the Wheel Bar
Last updated by NeFan4Life Sep 21, 2008.