Former Nebraska great Dave Humm ‘never complained’ during battle with multiple sclerosis

Former Nebraska great Dave Humm ‘never complained’ during battle with multiple sclerosis
Nebraska went 27-7-2 during three seasons with Dave Humm as the starting quarterback. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — David Humm had a fiery side, and every so often, the former Nebraska quarterback would show it, said friend and former Husker linebacker Jerry Murtaugh.

“But he’s a quarterback,” Murtaugh said Wednesday. “So he was pretty laid back.” Which, given Humm’s circumstances in recent years, always impressed Murtaugh. Humm was tough in the face of a disease that put him in a wheelchair and later had him bedridden. He didn’t complain. He called ex-Huskers “brother.” His ex-teammates thought so much of him they gave a quarterback an honorary Blackshirt — a black jersey with the No. 12 on it — in 2013.

An All-America passer who battled multiple sclerosis for 30 years, Humm died Tuesday in his hometown, Las Vegas, from complications of the disease. He was 65. He was the last quarterback of the Bob Devaney era and the first of Tom Osborne’s head coaching career. He started for NU in 1972, ’73 and ’74 — setting the Husker record for career passing yards that stood for more than 30 years — before he moved on to a 10-year career in the NFL, mostly with the Raiders. He won two Super Bowl rings with the franchise, and was so beloved by former owner Al Davis that he remained on the team’s payroll — appearing on Raider radio broadcasts, helping sell suites — decades after his playing career had ended.

“He was hurting so bad,” said Murtaugh, who through his Nebraska Greats Foundation helped pay Humm’s medical expenses in recent years. “They had to put him in a facility a couple weeks ago on account of the pain. The man’s fought it for 30 years. I’ve never seen a tougher man in my life.”

Osborne talked to Humm every 10 days or so. He’d heard of Humm’s passing on Wednesday.

“He was always talking about what a great life he had, whereas I think most people would say it wasn’t all that good,” Osborne said. “And yet I never really heard him complain.”

Playing in an era when quarterbacks had far fewer rules advantages than they do today, Humm passed for 5,035 yards, leading NU to three bowl wins and a Big Eight title in 1972. He was a first-team All-American in 1974, when he set a then-NCAA record for consecutive completions (15) in a 56-0 rout of Kansas.

“I had no idea about the streak,” Humm told The World-Herald in 2015. “Coach had pulled me, because like a lot of those games we were so far ahead at halftime. But he came over, told me to go back in and run this short screen pass. I ran back out, threw it, came back out and they said, ‘Congratulations, you just broke the national record.’ ”

In the same interview, Humm said he wasn’t a big fan of the option. Osborne said Wednesday that Humm was capable with the play, but clearly a better passer — one of the most accurate Osborne had.

The Raiders drafted Humm in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL draft. His locker was right next to Raider great and NFL Hall of Famer Kenny Stabler. Humm was a backup 10 seasons, throwing 137 career passes. He started one game, in 1981, for the Baltimore Colts. He spent his last two years in Los Angeles, playing for the Raiders and winning a second Super Bowl ring.

“The entire Raiders family is deeply saddened to learn of David Humm’s passing,” the team said in a statement Wednesday. “David was a true Raider in every sense, and the heart of the Raider Nation goes out to his family at this time.”

Humm started suffering from MS in 1988. A few years later, Humm had a daughter, Courtney. By 1997, he was in a wheelchair. After Murtaugh started the Nebraska Greats Foundation, he and Humm had regular conversations. Initially Humm was resistant to financial help, Murtaugh said. But eventually he agreed to it. In 2013, a reception was held in Vegas that included several ex-Huskers, some of whom presented him with an honorary Blackshirt.

“He’d always say, ‘Murt, everybody says I’m going to die, but I can’t die, I have a daughter.’ And that’s what kept him alive all these years. Unbelievable. He’s lived in pain forever, and now, no more pain, and he’s looking down at me, going, ‘Murt, you goofy bastard.’ Great man. Great human being.”

And the origin of one of the hottest recruiting battles in Husker history. When Humm was being recruited, signing day wasn’t until May, Osborne said, so top prospects went on “12, 13, 14 visits.” Humm was one of them, and Nebraska had to pluck him out of what’s now one of the top high school football programs in the nation, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.

Humm’s final choice came down to Nebraska and Alabama. Bear Bryant and Joe Namath — by then a Super Bowl winner — paid a visit to Vegas. So did Nebraska’s contingent, which one time included Osborne.

“Las Vegas is a strange place,” Osborne said. “I remember I was out there with David and his brother, and we were out till 1 in the morning. Not doing anything particular, but people just never went to bed out there.”

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