The Redskins, as you’ve probably heard, selected three players from Nebraska in this year’s draft — Roy Helu, DeJon Gomes and Niles Paul — meaning Cornhuskers make up 25 percent of their draft class. Fans, brilliantly, have already labeled this trio the “Nebraskins.”
This was the first time the Skins have selected three players from the same school since 1975, when they also took three Cornhuskers. Which is sort of weird. So I went back to read the coverage of that 1975 draft, which took place in January, lasted 21 hours over two days, and ended with a guard from Nebraska, Stan Hegener, going to the Steelers.
“I would classify him as a sleeper,” Art Rooney Jr. told the New York Times, which failed to solicit Mel Kiper’s opinion on the matter.
(Overall, 12 players were selected from Nebraska that year, behind only Southern Cal (14) and Ohio State (13). Eleven players were taken from Maryland, tying a school record. Wondrously, The Post’s reported that both the Jets and Giants were booed for their picks.)
As for the Redskins’ haul, it was a chaotic affair, in which they didn’t have any picks in the first five rounds due to trades for guys like Duane Thomas and Alvin Haymond. The team also made four trades in the draft’s second day, acquiring defensive lineman Karl Lorch, who would spend six seasons in D.C.
That year’s Nebraskins were hardly hyped and barely noted by The Post -- “In the final rounds of the draft yesterday, the Redskins selected their second and third players from Nebraska, cornerback Ardell Johnson and guard Dennis Pavelka, a 6-3, 261-pounder. Washington had taken Nebraska tackle Mark Doak [in] the sixth round,” Ken Denlinger wrote.
Doak was listed at 6-3 and 265 pounds when drafted, and was the team’s second player selected behind Mike Thomas. Bobby Mitchell called him “the most improved player on Nebraska’s team last year,” adding that the tackle was “tough, aggressive, and very strong.” He was the only Nebraskin who rated a mention in George Allen’s post-draft wrap-up.
“We wanted a race-horse back (Mike Thomas), an offensive tackle who played against good competition (Doak), an offensive guard (Glenn Ressler), a blocking tight end who possibly could play tackle (Ray Parsons), a wide receiver with experience (Cotton Speyrer) and defensive ends who can rush the passer,” Allen said
Johnson was cut in late July, on the day when the headline was linebacker Dave Robinson generating 2.7 horsepower on a stationary bike, equal to half of an old VW engine. Pavelka was injured in training camp; his eventual release never even made The Post.
But Doak we know more about, since he was chosen by The Post’s Lenny Shapiro to share his training camp experiences. The 24 year-old was married with no children and a sheepdog at the time, though his wife stayed in Pittsburgh with her folks. He started training camp with the first-string offense, and his quotes could probably be plugged into training camp stories 35 years later without anyone blinking.
“That first day, well, it was like going from junior high and touch football to high school and tackle,” he told Shapiro. “I had butterflies, I was queasy about it. You know, it’s a do-or-die kind of situation. It’s not for fun any more. It’s a business, and if you don’t do it, you’re gone.”
Doak stuck around training camp as the roster was whittled, getting decent playing time as his weight fluctuated between 268 and 272. Then he forgot to take salt tablets, dropped to 260, and cramped dramatically while walking down a hallway.
“So I sat down; it seemed like the sensible thing to do,” he told Shapiro.
He spent 90 minutes in a hospital getting treated for dehydration, and came back talking about how he still had six (!) more preseason games to impress coaches. But Doak was cut less than two weeks later, and wound up starting that fall for Birmingham of the WFL.
None of the Nebraskins ever played a game with Washington.