Robert Rands salutes the crowd after setting a state meet record in winning the long jump during the 2005 State Track and Field Championships. Rands’ effort broke a 44-year record that had been held by NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers when he was at Omaha Central.

Bellevue East track and field and football standout Robert Rands is among 12 Nebraska high school sporting legends recently selected to the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.

It was just 15 years ago that Rands set the state record for the long jump, a record once held by the great Gale Sayers.

Rands set the new standard with a jump of 25 feet, 1/4 inch, bettering Sayers’ mark of 24-10.5 that stood for more than four decades.

“I was complete shocked really,” Rands said about the selection. “That was a long time ago in my mind.

“Just surprised and excited about it. I really have no words to describe it and I never thought something like that would happen. To be inducted in the Nebraska High School Sport Hall of Fame. I am honored for sure.”

Rands was a standout track and field athlete and football star for East who went on to play both at the University of Nebraska.

Rands’s main sport might have been track and field, but that did not stop him from rushing for 2,650 yards for his career at East and becoming a top high school running back in the state.

After one year of football at Nebraska, Rands shifted his attention to track full time.

Now he finds himself among the greats of Nebraska high school talents.

“I was very surprised, but from what everybody has told me they said I deserve it,” Rands said. “I had a lot of goals that I accomplished in my high school days and I did OK.

“I worked hard to accomplish those goals, but I had a lot of help from my coaches. Jerry Lovell on the football side and Deidre McKinley on the track and field side of things.”

Looking back on his high school days, Rands said the long jump record was always in his sights. With a lot of hard work and good coaching, he got it.

“My main sport was track and field,” Rands said. “After my freshman year in high school [the goal] was to get the record in long jump. It took me a while; four years of setting goals and working hard, and finally my senior year I was able to accomplish that.

“That was my most fond memory because it was something I worked so hard for and something that my coach, Deidre McKinley and I talked about and it came true.”

That it was NFL Hall of Famer Sayers’s record made the accomplishment even more sweet.

“He was a great athlete,” Rands said about Sayers. “Everyone growing up who participates in athletics wants their name to be mentioned with the greats.

“It takes a lot of hard work, and genetics does play a role I guess, and I was fortunate to have a great coach. Coach McKinley went to the Olympic Trials so she was a really great jumper back in the day in her own right, so if I didn’t have her, I probably wouldn’t have had the technique or the workouts or the capability of doing that. So it was very helpful and I was lucky to have her.”

Rands will be inducted Oct. 4 in ceremonies at Lincoln East. Tickets, available through the Nebraska Sports Council, are $25 for adults, $10 for K-12 students and free for children 5 and under.

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