David Humm is prideful. A bit ornery, too.

He told Jerry Murtaugh he didn't want his help.

"He said, 'Murtaugh, I don't need your help, I don't need your pity,'" Murtaugh said Sunday, recalling a conversation from 18 months ago.

"I let him rant and rave," Murtaugh said. "I think he went on for about 10 minutes. I didn't argue."

Murtaugh, an All-America linebacker at Nebraska in 1970, waited patiently. He then reminded the former Husker quarterback of all the times they talked about their strong bond -- formed over decades -- the kind of bond that becomes a brotherhood.

Murtaugh's voice oozes passion and energy when he speaks of the fraternity of former Nebraska football players, and Husker athletes in general. Murtaugh and Humm talk like brothers. It can be a rough, blunt discussion. 

So, Murtaugh kept pressing the issue: The Husker family wanted to help Humm. The 61-year-old Humm wanted nothing of it. Finally, Murtaugh asked him: If we're so close -- you know, brothers and all -- then why in the hell won't you let your family of ex-Huskers help you?

Humm fell silent for about 30 seconds. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988 at age 35, the Las Vegas resident requires 24-hour care. 

"Dave said, 'All right, I'll allow it if you use me to help others, if that means making commercials or getting in front of a camera, whatever. I need to help others worse off than me,'" Murtaugh recalled.

That statement alone provides a window into Humm's character.

Murtaugh was thrilled. His nonprofit organization, the Husker Greats Foundation, had its first recipient. With Humm on board, Murtaugh hopes others in need will put aside their pride -- as difficult as that may be -- and accept the generosity.

The foundation is only 11 months old. Murtaugh created it to help former Husker athletes -- men and women who lettered -- with medical and/or emergency needs.

"I told Dave, 'This is one thing we want you not to worry about -- your bills. They're covered,'" Murtaugh said. "He said it was the biggest blessing in his life."

John Melton, the former Nebraska assistant coach who recruited Humm, says Humm's health is such that he endures in 24 hours more than many of us go through in 24 years. Humm lost use of his legs 16 years ago.

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Folks remember Humm as an outstanding passing quarterback. He's one of the best players ever to come out of Las Vegas, recruited by several high-profile programs. His final choices were Nebraska and Alabama. 

"It would change from week to week," Melton said Monday. "His dad was on our side. That helped a great deal."

Humm helped lead Nebraska to victories against Notre Dame in the 1972 Orange Bowl, Texas in the 1973 Cotton Bowl and Florida in the 1974 Sugar Bowl. His 5,035 career passing yards stood as the school record until Zac Taylor topped him in 2006.

In the NFL, Humm was a backup to Ken Stabler when the Oakland Raiders won Super Bowl XI and played behind Jim Plunkett when the Raiders captured Super Bowl XVIII. Humm spent his pro career as a backup.

He worked for years as an analyst for Raider games on radio. The late Al Davis, Mr. Raider himself, told Humm he had a job for life.

"Al Davis was a great man," Murtaugh said. "But doctors told Dave that by the end of the year -- this year -- his vocal cords are going to shut down."

The NFL, thanks in large part to the urging of an ex-Husker great who didn't want his name used, wrote the Husker Greats Foundation a check for $11,000 to help Humm.

Several former Raiders have stepped up. Plunkett, Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff and Bill Romanowski are among those who have made donations and offered support. A slew of ex-Raiders and ex-Huskers will be on hand for a benefit golf outing June 17 in Las Vegas.

Murtaugh, hoping for a huge turnout, encourages the public to attend. Go to huskergreatsfoundation.org for details.

Murtaugh is convinced Humm's situation can prod the NFL to do more to help former players who have suffered head trauma and other ailments.

Humm would be pleased if that occurs, obviously. Remember his directive to Murtaugh -- Humm was adamant about helping others worse off than himself. Amazing.

And kudos to Murtaugh. What a huge heart. He regards the Husker Greats Foundation as the Husker family's foundation -- not his foundation. He takes no credit. He's stern about that. Even stubborn.

Humm would understand.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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