Nebraska Hall of Famer coach retired twice, then heeded the desperate call of his hometown team |

CREIGHTON, Neb. — It all started with a recruiting pitch.

Two teenage boys waited for the last school bell, climbed into a pickup truck, drove a mile across town and parked in the driveway at 601 Millard Ave. A new green ranch. They got up their courage and walked to the front door.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

This was January 2015. Snow covered the sidewalks. Sam Morrill and Austin Diedrichsen had a basketball game that night, but Creighton was a football town without a football coach. This took priority.

Weeks earlier, the coach who’d led them to the state quarterfinals — the school superintendent who’d pushed a failed consolidation plan — announced that he was taking another job. How were they going to replace him?

That’s when players started hearing rumors of a coaching legend hiding in plain sight. Two Class A championships at Papillion-La Vista? Two hundred career wins?

“How the hell did I not know about that guy?” Morrill said.

“I didn’t even know he was in our town,” Diedrichsen said.

Trouble was, Gene Suhr was 66 years old and he’d already retired twice. He’d never played or coached eight-man football. He wasn’t interested in walking the sideline anymore on an aching right hip.

Until those two kids sat on his couch and cut to the chase: You know our situation. We need a coach, and we know you’re a pretty decent coach.

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