Then & Now: JF Hoffman
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)
Hoffman played at Nebraska from 1991-1992, and was a
member of the 1990-1991 team that went 26-8. Winning was
a normality for Hoffman, as during his two years on
varsity, Hoffman saw the Huskers go 45-18 (.714) while
appearing in two NCAA Tournaments.
guard from Holbrook, Hoffman is our latest guest in this
Sunday's version of "Then & Now."
HHC: Nice to
talk to you again. Did you have fun at P.O. Pears back
in February (at the HHC 1990-1991 Team Reunion Banquet)?
I had a great time. When I first got the invitation, I
thought, “Well, we’ll run down to Lincoln and go through
the motions somewhat and come home.” And the fact that
virtually everyone showed up, it really exceeded my
expectations. I ended up staying longer than I thought,
and really enjoyed seeing them again.
HHC: Awesome, and good to hear. You are
from Holbrook (NE.), but went to Cambridge High School
and graduated in 1988. While at Cambridge, you were a
C-1 Second-Team All-State performer in both your junior
and senior seasons, and as a senior, averaged 23.4 PPG
and 6.6 RPG while leading your team to the state
tournament. How fun were those days?
JH: I had a lot of fun. We were able to go
to the state tournament my junior and senior years, and
of course, that’s the ultimate goal. Cambridge is a
football school, and I was somewhat of a rare commodity
being a basketball player in a football town.
HHC: You were also an
All-State quarterback in high school, and played for the
South squad in the 1988 Shrine football game. Did you
receive any football interest from colleges?
Yes, I did. I actually had a few offers from NAIA
schools to play both sports, and I certainly was
recruited much harder to play football than basketball.
But probably two reasons brought me to Lincoln.
basketball was my second love. And my first love was my
wife, and she was going to Nebraska Wesleyan. She’s a
year older than me, so I had to find a way to get to
Lincoln somehow, someway. We started dating when I was
14 years old. My wife is the greatest thing that ever
happened to me.
HHC: Which schools recruited you in both sports?
JH: In basketball it was Hastings, Midland
Lutheran, and some JUCO’S, which were North Platte and
McCook. I really was not recruited to play basketball
because everybody thought I’d play football.
As far as
football goes, I had legitimate offers from Fort Hays
State, Midland Lutheran, and Doane. And, I had contact
with other schools, and I think it was a foregone
conclusion that I was going to play quarterback, so
basketball schools didn’t come after me that hard except
for the smaller schools that thought I might want to
HHC: Did you
know you would be a walk-on for the basketball team
before arriving on campus, or was that something that
you didn't realize until arriving in Lincoln?
JH: I had talked to Coach (Danny) Nee
because I had been to Nebraska’s basketball camp a
couple of times. He had watched me play my junior year
at the (state) tournament right when he arrived at
Nebraska, so I had a relationship with him, and he’d
invited me to come to camp in Lincoln the summer prior
to my senior year.
So, I had
some communication with him during my senior year and
through that communication, I don’t exactly remember if
I requested or he asked, but we basically agreed that
I’d have the opportunity to walk-on. So, before I came
to Lincoln and enrolled in school, that was another
opportunity I had on the table.
HHC: What did the walk-on process consist
of back then, as far as trying out for the team, and did
you know you were already on the team going in, or was
it a dogfight?
JH: Basically, there were a hand full of
guys, and I want to say three, who were invited. Alex
Brickner and Matt Marr were two of them, I think. And, I
was for the most part on the team, although there were
no guarantees in terms of anything, and I’m talking
travel games, practice, etc. Early in my freshman year,
I didn’t even get to practice very much, so it was a
building process for me.
HHC: What was your initial impression of Danny
JH: To be quite honest with you, Danny’s
personality was unlike anything I’d ever been around.
Here I was, a kid from Southwest Nebraska coming out of
high school and we’d had a lot of success, and the
coaches and people I’d been around in athletics didn’t
have Danny’s type of personality. So, when the blue eyes
got open and iced over and the curse words started
coming out, it quite frankly was pretty shocking to me.
HHC: Did you
have to fight to stay on the team from year to year, or
was that never much of a concern?
JH: The way it was, the first two years
for me weren’t about fighting to stay on the team, but
fighting for me personally to accept my role. What that
consisted of was mostly practice, and even in practice I
was not a major part, in terms of game planning and
things like that. So, the big thing was, do I stay here
as a nobody, not knowing where this is headed, or do I
get out right away and go somewhere where I could play,
because I knew I could play at the NAIA level, and at
that time, maybe didn’t have the confidence that I could
go to a good Division 2 program, although later in my
career, I thought I could.
thing for me was to get out on the practice floor and
get in the pickup games, and it was a tougher adjustment
for me coming from the style and level of play I came
from than from a kid coming from Chicago. So, it took me
a longer period of time to adjust to the size and speed
of the game.
HHC: Your first season at Nebraska was
1988-1989, and you sat out the year as a redshirt while
the team went 17-16 (4-10, 7th) and made the second
round of the NIT. What did you focus on that first year?
JH: I stood around a lot, if you really
want to know the truth (Laughs). Aside from the drills,
I ran some scout team, and worked out hard. I made some
big strides physically in that first year or two.
HHC: 1989-1990 was your second season at
Nebraska, and you practiced with the team, but did not
appear in a game. The team went 10-18 (3-11, 7th) that
season, and was victimized by the injury bug. Was it
frustrating not being able to play that year, or were
you still not ready to compete at that level?
Well, I can speak for that year or any other year in
that I was frustrated I wasn’t able to play, but I
wasn’t frustrated that I thought I should be playing. In
other words, I never had an issue with my playing time
as long as someone was better than me, so I never had an
issue with playing time. The bigger issue for me was not
should I be playing, but should I be somewhere else
honesty, the fact that I wasn’t out there on the
practice and playing floor getting the repetitions that
the frontline players were getting made the process even
slower for me.
HHC: 1990-1991 would turn out to be one of
the best basketball teams in Nebraska history, as you
guys went 26-8 (9-5, 3rd) and made the NCAA Tournament
(Xavier). How amazing was that to be a part of?
JH: It was quite a cast of characters, and
going into the season, I wasn’t quite sure that all the
egos involved and personalities could gel together. It
was very diverse in terms of personalities. And I guess
one of the things that sticks out were the pickup games
in pre-season and all the trash talking that went on. My
background was that trash talking was relegated to only
the opponent, and not to your own teammates. And I was
shocked at all the trash talking that was going on
amongst the players on the same team, although I came to
realize that’s the way it was.
my background, I hadn’t been exposed to that, and in
retrospect, I see the competitiveness of that team.
There were some unbelievable competitors on that team,
and that was the difference. That, and size in the
lineup, with Rich at 7’2”, Tony at 6’10”, Carl at 6’8”,
Beau at 6’8”, and Cliff at 6’2”. That was a big team.
man, I was watching tape of that team the other day and
you guys were just so long on the defensive end,
especially in the 1-3-1.
Yeah, we had an excellent 1-3-1 trapping zone defense.
You’ve got guys like Cliff and Beau Reid, who was 6’8
and 230, and you’ve got him playing the two guard.
That’s a tough matchup.
an excellent passing big man, as good as anyone, and
Tony could really run the floor. You had a guy like Jose
Ramos coming off the bench who was an incredible
competitor, and Keith Moody, a guy who could really
pickup the tempo, and not only was that team big, but
the big guys could run the floor and the ball handlers
could push it.
HHC: That season was also your first on
varsity, as you appeared in six games and were named to
the Big 8 All-Academic Honor Roll. How sweet was it to
play in games after two years of hard work?
JH: That was an exciting season because
the crowds were unbelievable. I can remember students
lining up a couple of hours before the game to get a
seat down on the bleachers, and really, it was just a
tremendous amount of fun being involved in the
atmosphere that was involved in the Devaney Center.
HHC: It has been said by some of your
teammates on that 1990-1991 team that the late-night
start against Xavier might have contributed to the loss.
Is that just an excuse, or is there some validity to
JH: Well, I certainly don’t believe in
excuses. My memory of that game was that we were
sluggish, and that game went by so fast, that I just
don’t think we ever recovered from that slow start. It
was just too late; we were just sluggish that entire
know how you put your finger on it, because there were a
lot of factors; first trip to the tournament for
everyone, late night start, although I don’t personally
believe that was a factor, and the Metrodome was quite a
different environment, and there was a lot of
distractions. I remember LSU was another team in the
region, and Shaq (Shaquille O’Neill) was there, and we
dressed in the Minnesota Twins locker room, so there
were lots of distractions, but there are no excuses.
about the NCAA Tournament is that you have one chance,
or you’re done, and we just didn’t happen to play well
HHC: Prior to
the start of the 1991-1992 season, which was also your
senior year, Coach Nee awarded you a scholarship for all
of your hard work. Talk about what you remember about
that and what it means to you today?
JH: I’m proud of that. I felt like I did
have a role on that team, and even though I wasn’t a
major contributor in terms of minutes, I thought that I
had a stabilizing effect on the team in the locker room
and executed on the practice floor in terms of what was
asked of me.
married prior to my senior year, and so I think I
brought a level of maturity to the team, too, and I
think a certain level of toughness. Even at 6’1” 200
pounds, I prided myself on being physical and executing.
And the scholarship was a nice gesture by Coach Nee, and
I was grateful for that.
HHC: 1991-1992 was your last season at
Nebraska, and the team went 19-10 (7-7, 5th) while again
appearing in the NCAA Tournament (Connecticut). What
sticks out most about that senior season?
That team was different from the ’91 team in terms of
its personalities. I just remember that probably as a
group, we got along really well, and I’m not going to
say the ’91 team didn’t get along, but it was just a
little more cohesive unit as a whole in ’92. And really,
I had a blast that year. We had a lot of guys on the
team that I had good relationships with. Chris Cresswell,
my roommate. Eric (Piatkowski), Bruce (Chubick), Carl
Hayes, were just guys that were fun to be around, and we
had a lot of fun that year.
HHC: How tough was it to end your career
in a loss like that?
Well, UConn was pretty good as I remember. Scotty
Burrell, Chris Smith, were good and played for them.
my memory of that game in Cincinnati was that UConn was
a better team. I didn’t feel that way in ’91 at all.
HHC: What would you say was your best game
while at Nebraska?
JH: I’m sure my friends will bring it up,
and let me pause and think of what it was… It was the
last game in ’92 at the Devaney Center, and it was
against, I think, K-State (Editors Note: It was, and a
91-62 Nebraska win). I got in at the end of the game,
and we were ahead, and we were in our man-to-man
offense, and Dapreis (Owens) had the ball at the top of
the key. I popped out to the wing, and we had
instructions on our team that if you were going to go
back door, you show the fist. I show my right fast, go
back door, and he hit me with a perfect bounce pass, I
laid it up and in, and it was on Regional TV, and I
remember Jimmy Dykes was the color man. I was running by
the camera, and I pulled the guns out and waived the six
guns at the camera. And Jimmy Dykes the next week in
Norman brought it up and we had a good laugh about that.
HHC: (Laughs) Nice. What are your favorite
overall memories of your times at UNL, both on and off
JH: Well, it was pretty fun going to
different arenas in the Big 8, and I remember going to
East Lansing, Michigan to play Michigan State. I don’t
know if this is the time for the Danny Nee story, and I
got a lot of them, but I remember we played there, and
they had Shawn Respert and lots of other guys, and they
started blowing us out of the gym in the second half.
And he calls timeout, the place is rocking, and he pulls
us out on the floor, way out on the floor, and says,
“You know why I called this timeout? Because you guys
are playing like (expletive). And this is what we’re
going to do during this timeout. We are going to stand
here and listen to the crowd.” And that’s all we did
Gosh I love that guy!
Yeah (Laughs). Sorry to get off task, but I just
remember that. But we had a great time off the floor.
Before I got married, I lived with Chris and Kelly
Lively, and we did a lot of things together. When you’re
on the team, it’s a serious commitment, and you really
don’t have a lot of time to be out and about like some
of the kids in the fraternity system, so we did a lot of
things together as a team.
HHC: Which of
your former teammates have you stayed in touch with, and
do you follow the current program at all?
JH: I do. And I stay in touch with Chris,
and I’ve been off and on in touch with Beau and Rich,
and Derek Lodwig, and Keith. I had kind of lost track of
Kelly, but the reunion this year got me back in touch
with him, and I really enjoyed that. Obviously, Eric
Piatkowski has gone his separate ways, but it was good
to see him, and Bruce. I’m kind of isolated from some of
those guys now.
HHC: How would you describe the current
state of Nebraska basketball. Is it healthy, unhealthy,
or in the middle?
JH: Well, it’s very tenuous right now. ’06
is a very important year, and I think the pressure has
even been turned up another notch with some of the
change in other Big 12 schools, and I think the
perception is that a lot of the other programs are on
the up trend, and I think the perception of the Nebraska
program is that maybe it’s flat lining right now, in
terms of maybe not making enough steps for improvement
that people would expect to see.
frankly, I think there’s a lot of pressure on the
program to win right now in ’06. And, when I define
winning, I think everyone who has an investment in the
program, whether it be a fan, booster, former player,
whatever, defines success by going to the NCAA
Tournament. Anything less than that is going to be a
HHC: And before we get to today, you said
you had lots of Danny Nee stories. Can you give us a
JH: Oh I can,. I’ve been waiting for that
1990-1991, pre-season, if you remember, there was a lot
of pressure on Coach Nee at the time. And he knew it,
and he had brought in all these new players, guys like
Tony Farmer and Jose Ramos, and it was still an unknown
at that time how things would work. And I remember the
first day of practice, we come out on the floor, and
here comes Coach Nee with these spring loaded hand
squeezers, and he’s got these in his hand, and I’m
thinking, “What the heck?” And practice went on awhile,
and something happened, and he stopped practice and
says, “You see these hand squeezers that I got? I have
these because my doctor has advised me to use them. You
guys are ruining my health, but I’m going to tell you
this; I’m not going to get mad anymore. I’ve made a
decision that I’m not going to get mad. But I will tell
you this; I’m not going to get mad, but if you piss me
off, I’ll run you (expletive) until you die.”
Oh my Gosh.
And here’s my other one. 1991, we were in the NCAA
Tournament in the Metrodome, and we played the late
game. We dress in the (Minnesota) Twins locker room, and
after the game, X number of guys, 2 or 3 or 4, were
randomly selected to be drug tested, and I was one of
them. And I remember Keith Moody was one too, and the
reason I remember that is they took us into this big
shower room, and you had to fill out your paper work and
go in with the NCAA representative. And when you went,
it was just you two in the shower with you in your
underwear, and the guy had to stand two feet in front of
you. And you had to drop your underwear below your
ankles and pee in the cup. And I remember it because it
was so embarrassing and I remember Keith Moody couldn’t
pee because he was so dehydrated.
walked in the locker room and was done, and Coach Nee
was there waiting because the first bus left with all
the guys, and it was late. So all the guys who didn’t
get tested went to the hotel, and he stayed back. And we
were waiting because some of them besides Keith couldn’t
go, and I can’t remember who else, but they had to stay
there and drink because they couldn’t go.
finally, when they aren’t coming, Danny gets tired of
it, he wants to go, and he walks into the “goody room”,
which was big, and probably 15 by 25 feet full of
nothing but treats. We’re talking Gatorade, sunflower
seeds, gum, pop, everything you can think of, and so he
goes in there, comes out with a case of Bud Heavy, and
there’s one guard in the room who had been there the
whole time. He walks up to the guard, and I don’t know
if he was a Metrodome employee or what, but he asks the
guard, “Can I have this?” And the guard says, “I
suppose.” And Danny walked out of that locker room with
a case of Bud Heavy under his arm and I don’t know where
HHC: (Laughs) That guy is classic!
He’s a character man.
HHC: (Laughs) Hey, what is J.F. Hoffman up to
today, and what has he been doing the last 15 years?
JH: I’ve been married for going on 15
years, and I have three children. Two boys, who are 11
and 8, and a girl, that’s 3. And after graduating from
college, I came home to the Cambridge area and farmed.
And I just recently downsized my farming operation and
moved to McCook, Nebraska, to take a job with McCook
National Bank. I’m still farming some on the side as
well with my brother in law. And my life revolves around
my children and their activities, more and more all the
HHC: Sounds like everything is well. We've
set you up an e-mail account at
[email protected] Are you interested in
taking some e-mails from our readers?
HHC: Great! Thanks a lot for your time.
Anything else you'd like to say or add?
JH: I appreciate everything you’re doing
with the website, and really enjoy getting back in touch
with some of the guys that I haven’t seen in awhile. I
appreciate everything you did to help with the reunion,
and the site. And thank you for featuring me on a Then &