Sam Francis, a two-sport star for the Huskers in the 1930s, was announced as the fifth member of the 2020 University of Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame class on Tuesday, April 14. Francis is being inducted posthumously, as he passed away on April 23, 2002, at the age of 88. Francis was a decorated member of Nebraska’s football and track and field teams from 1934 to 1937. As a fullback on the gridiron, Francis was the 1936 Heisman Trophy runner-up, a consensus first-team All-American and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1937 NFL Draft. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977 and his No. 38 jersey was retired by Nebraska in 2017. Francis was also one of the top shot putters in the world during his Husker career.
A two-time All-American and four-time Big Six Conference champion in the event, Francis was the 1937 NCAA shot put champion, and he finished fourth in the event at the 1936 Olympics. Francis’ athletic ability was on full display during an 11-month period from August of 1936 to June of 1937. During that time frame, he finished fourth at the Olympics in August, was the Heisman Trophy runner-up and the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in December and won both the indoor and outdoor conference shot put titles in the spring on his way to the NCAA title in the event in June. In addition to his impressive individual resume, Francis helped the football and track and field teams win a combined six conference titles in his three seasons with each sport. Nebraska posted its first-ever top-10 ranking in football in Francis’ senior season (No. 9 in final 1936 AP poll), after he played a key role in the track and field team’s eighth-place finish at the 1936 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.