LINCOLN — Bob Newton wasn’t sure what he would find coming to Nebraska in 1969, but he banked on at least some adjustment and culture shock as a junior college football transfer from California.
It helped to have somebody such as Wally Winter welcoming him as a Husker.
“Wally was one of the most genuine, sincere, friendly, helpful teammates that I knew at Nebraska,” Newton said. “I was a transfer from California, but he and I were immediately good friends. He was a good example of the goodness of Nebraska people.”
Winter died Friday in Bentonville, Arkansas, where he was head of sales for Winter Moving and Storage. He was 67.
Winter came across as a true Nebraskan to Newton. Winter’s family owned a hog and cattle farm outside of Eagle, and his father, Waldo, and an uncle, Hubert Winter, ran Winter Brothers in Lincoln and Omaha.
As seniors in 1970, Wally Winter and Newton were the starting offensive tackles on the Husker team that went 11-0-1 and brought NU its first national championship. Winter had moved to right tackle in 1970 after sharing the work at left tackle with Newton in 1969.
“He was a gem of a teammate and the same as a person,” Newton said. “Wally and I, because of our position, probably spent the most time together, and we were roommates my junior year when we went on the road.
“He was a hard worker and we pushed one another. He was a naturally big man. We were both pretty big for that era.”
Winter was listed at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds as a senior, and lettered from 1968 through ’70.
Jerry Murtaugh had Newton among his guests Saturday morning for the weekly “Legends Radio Show.” Newton, now living in Palm Desert, California, said it was “good to spend that time reminiscing.”
Murtaugh lettered the same seasons as Winter as a linebacker out of Omaha. The two remained close friends even as Winter lived in Detroit and Bentonville, and Murtaugh said they played a final round of golf together in recent months as Winter was battling cancer.
“They always talk about those gentle giants, and that was Wally,” Murtaugh said. “He was a quiet man, but you didn’t want to rile him.”
Winter was both an all-state football and basketball player at Lincoln Northeast before going to NU and scored 25 points in the 1967 Class A state championship game as the Rockets beat Omaha Central.
“He was something,” Murtaugh said. “I knew about him before I got there.”
John Winter, owner of Winter Moving and Storage, recalled Monday how Wally would return to the family home on Sundays to play football with his three brothers, even during Husker seasons. “He had a heart bigger than anything,” John Winter said.
Services will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at St. Theodore’s Episcopal Church in Bella Vista, Arkansas.
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