MARQUETTE - It was a long time coming, but Carl "Buck" Nystrom of Marquette says being inducted into the Michigan State University Sports Hall of Fame is an "honor and a privilege."
"I was thrilled to learn I'm being inducted," he said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his camp in Gwinn. "I was anticipating it would happen, but was surprised it came, anyway.
"You never know when something like this would happen. I didn't know if I'd be alive to see it, as I turn 81 in August.
Carl “Buck”?Nystrom gives direction at a Munising High School football practice in the fall of 2005. Nystrom has been inducted into the Michigan State University Sports Hall of Fame for his exploits with the Spartans during the mid-1950s. He later spent nearly four decades in a variety of coaching capacities, including at MSU?and Northern Michigan University. (Journal file photo)
"It's a thrill and an honor," he added. "I'm just ecstatic."
A three-year letterman and two-year starter as a lineman for the MSU football team in the 1950s, Nystrom has also been inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame (1975), North Dakota State University Sports Hall of Fame (1994) and the Northern Michigan University Sports Hall of Fame (1997).
"This MSU honor is frosting on the cake for me," he said.
Nystrom, who helped MSU to a 21-8 record in those three years, a share of the Big Ten title in 1953, a national championship in '55 and two Rose bowl victories in '54 and '56, said Pat Gallinagh of the Bessemer-Ironwood area helped him gain entrance into the MSU Hall.
Gallinagh was a starting defensive tackle and First Team Academic All-American on MSU's 1966 undefeated football team.
"He wrote an updated letter to the selection committee," Nystrom said. "(Former MSU coaches) George Perles and Hank Bullough helped, too."
A former all-state fullback at Marquette's Graveraet High School, Nystrom earned First Team All-America honors in his senior year at MSU in 1955.
He captained the Spartan team that won the 1956 Rose Bowl game over UCLA, 17-14.
"We won that game in the last 20 or so seconds," Nystrom recalled. "And earlier that season, I played all 60 minutes as an offensive and defensive lineman in a 21-7 win over Notre Dame.
"Those are two great memories."
MSU's Most Valuable Player in 1955, Nystrom became the first Spartan football player to earn All-America recognition as both a player and a scholar.
He spent 38 years as a college football coach, including six years at MSU and several at NMU. He was an assistant coach with Northern's 1975 NCAA Division II championship team.
Nystrom said he has been battling cancer for a couple of years, but despite undergoing four chemotherapy sessions and 10 radiation treatments, he says he feels "good" at the moment.
He said he plans to attend the formal MSU Hall induction ceremonies Sept. 18.
"Even if I have to crawl," Nystrom said.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.