Danny Woodhead stood his ground.

“Wouldn’t you rather play wide receiver than running back?” he got asked his freshman year at North Platte.

“I still remember to this day. I’m not going to name any names, but they said, ‘Um, you’re a little bit small. I don’t know if you should play running back. You should play wide receiver,’” Woodhead said during his Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame induction acceptance speech.

“Today I stand up here glad I was a running back. I think it worked out for me pretty well.”

After the chuckles subsided, the nine-year NFL veteran at running back said how much his induction meant to him.

“It is such a cool, cool honor to be recognized in the state that you grew up in,” Woodhead said.

He was the last of the athletes to take the stage Sunday, having watched the likes of Scott Frost and Damon Benning come earlier in the alphabet and in the induction order.

“I remember listening to the radio and Damon was playing. Not trying to make him sound old, but I was listening to the radio,” Woodhead said. “Scott was one of my all-time favorite Huskers. And I’m not saying that because he’s here. Because he’s not.”

By then, Frost was back on campus for his Sunday game-week prep.

Obviously, the Husker coach commanded much of the attention in entering the hall of fame with his father, former Malcolm eight-man standout and longtime prep coach Larry Frost. But the other acceptance speeches were some of the most heartfelt and reflective given since the hall started 25 years ago.

Andrea Conner from Millard South and Jenny Green from Grand Island Central Catholic told how they overcame gender obstacles.

Conner said she got into gymnastics at 6 or 7 after she was doing more hanging than dancing with the ballet bar in dance class near her home in Elk Horn, Iowa. Her mother drove her several times a week to gymnastics training in Council Bluffs — a 120-mile round trip. The family moved to Omaha when she entered high school.

When she was 8, she was competing in the Presidential Physical Fitness Award and was told girls had to do flex arm hangs only and not pull-ups. Not her.

“I did more pull-ups than many boys and I actually got pulled aside and told I was in trouble because I made the boys feel bad,” Conner said. “At home I told my mom what happened and she said, ‘Don’t let anyone ever marginalize you for your abilities. Stand tall, because you’re a girl and you can do anything.’”

Green was the state’s first 13-foot pole vaulter, but encountered resistance in middle school. At meets, she often was told that either she could vault with the boys, “which didn’t make me very happy,” or not vault at all “simply because I was a girl.”

“I’m really thankful for my courage to never quit and also more thankful that I was stubborn to never take no for an answer,” she said.

Sheila (Miller) Estes from Omaha Central, who played in the first NSAA girls basketball state tournament in 1977, said among the reasons she was on stage was “having someone be my champion.”

“When I think about the visions that high school sports makes for participation and inclusion, they still don’t and can’t address the social and economic disparities that many athletes face,” Estes said. “Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity for the high schools, and more importantly, a missed opportunity for athletes to reach their full potential.

“With that being said, my hope is to create a path for those athletes that fall through the cracks through no fault of their own to participate and to become fully engaged in their formative years of high school. More to come.”

Insight like theirs made a 3½-hour ceremony much more bearable. So did some of the one-liners, so let’s wrap up with maybe the best from baseball coach Curt Shockey from Ralston:

“There are no T-shirts being sold that say ‘Shockey Advisory.’ I know, because I looked.”

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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