Adrian Fiala, a rugged Nebraska linebacker during the late 1960s and a regular on local TV and radio for years, died Monday at age 67.
He succumbed to an incurable lung condition that he had been battling for eight years, according to his wife, Fran.
Friends remembered his prowess as an athlete and his passion as a broadcaster.
"He was so much about the Big Red Nation as a ballplayer and with his announcing — that was the love of his life, to be able to announce football," said former Nebraska running back Jeff Kinney, a close friend who was a sophomore at NU when Fiala was a senior outside linebacker in 1969.
In addition, Fiala for the past several years put ample energy into playing host to a golf tournament at Wild Horse Club in Gothenburg, with proceeds going to the TeamMates Mentoring Program.
Kinney was among the former Husker greats that played in the event.
"Adrian was just totally committed to those kind of things and making things better for other people," Kinney said.
Fiala was a hard-hitting linebacker and excellent athlete in general. He also played catcher for the Husker baseball team.
"He seemed like a tree trunk out there sometimes, the way he would hit you," Kinney said.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez played linebacker alongside Fiala at Nebraska.
"He always took the time to stay in touch with me," Alvarez said. "Just a great person. He touched a number of generations of Huskers and was very proud to be a Husker and what it all stood for."
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Alvarez added, "He was a very, very good athlete. Very physical player. Very smart player. And he was a great catcher. Probably could've played in the major leagues."
Kinney helped lead Nebraska to national championships in 1970 and 1971, after the Huskers finished 9-2 in 1969 and 6-4 in 1968.
"I was telling Adrian's brother (Doug) on Sunday that it was guys like Adrian, those seniors in 1969, that really provided leadership and kept a lot of us sophomores in line, took us under their wings, and got things turned around again for Coach (Bob) Devaney and the Big Red program."
Fiala gave a speech last April at the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame banquet on behalf of the players on the Omaha Ryan/Pepsi baseball teams that were considered some of the best in state history. The 1964 team took third in the American Legion World Series, and the 1965 squad finished second.
For years, he has been co-host for the popular "Big Red Wrap-Up" weekly football show on NET. He was color analyst for Nebraska football broadcasts for years, working with Jim Rose from 2000-07.
"He was so generous, we had to take an extra 15 minutes just to get in the press box, because he talked to anybody and everybody who had a question or comment," Rose said. "How lucky I was to work with him and travel with him. I know people who cherished a minute talking with Adrian, or just hearing him on the radio."
In January of 2010, however, the Husker Sports Network decided to go a different direction with its game-day broadcasts. But Fiala rejuvenated his career in August of 2011 when he became a regular on Lincoln's then-new 24-hour sports station, The Ticket (KNTK 93.7 FM).
Rose said Fiala was close to Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich.
"They saw his positive, go-get-'em attitude," Rose said.
Fiala is survived by his brother Doug, sister Marlis and wife Fran. Fran said there will be a celebration of life in coming days.