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Laurel stand-out earns a spot in Neb. H.S. Hall of Fame

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LAUREL — Either by gridiron or through jumper, Steve Erwin got the job done for Laurel High School.

His performances for the Laurel football and basketball teams were so prolific by the time he graduated in 1971, he was headed to the University of Nebraska to begin a Division I career on the hardwood.

That legacy only cemented his reputation as a stellar athlete.

His accomplishments are now being honored as they have landed him in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony is set for Oct. 4 at Lincoln East High School. Tickets will be available through the Nebraska Sports Council. Erwin, 67, was an all-class all-state selection in football and basketball, playing quarterback for a Bear team that won the 1970 mythical state championship.

In basketball, he scored 1,427 points and collected 1,321 rebounds in his career.

At the University of Nebraska, he started 55 of 71 games over a threeyear span.

“Being in a Hall of Fame must mean I am getting older,” Erwin said. “It kind of feels like that. I guess, I really do appreciate it. I am kind of like anybody else, I am humbled to turn around and be honored.”

During Erwin’s football playing days, the state didn’t have any playoffs. The Laurel team steamrolled through a tough schedule, though, to earn the attention of state-wide media and coaches.

“The Cornhusker Conference had an East and West (division) and who won those played in a championship game,” Erwin said. “We won that game against Scribner. We lost that game to Scribner my sophomore year. We had good kids, good coaches. We were a lot of farm kids who had the time to play. Farms were different at that time.”

Erwin was a 6-foot-5 signal caller who could sling it, but also ran with it in the option attack.

“We had some guys who could catch it, which was good,” Erwin said. “We had played together since seventh-grade, which helps.”

He was able to play varsity hoops all four years including his first two with his older brother, Tom.

Basketball at Laurel was a family affair in a sense, as his teams had cousins and close neighbors on the roster.

“When I was a junior, we made it to the finals to the Class B tournament and lost to Cozad,” Erwin said. “The team before, we only got beat once and that was in a district final. There were no wildcards those days, so we had to go home. That was a good team and we played against good teams and good competition which always helps.”

He was pleased to see the modern Laurel-Concord-Coleridge Bears capture the D1 state title this year right before all sports were shuttered with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whenever you have success it’s just wonderful,” Erwin said of the team coached by Todd Erwin, whose dad, Rich, is Steve’s first cousin.

Steve Erwin’s high school years are remembered fondly.

“It was rewarding,” Erwin said. “When you have success in anything, you look back at it as a time where everything lined up for success. Success kind of feeds on itself. I was fortunate. My family always liked sports.”

Then he wrapped things up athletically with a successful Nebraska Cornhusker career before moving on to the real world.

“Everything has to line up correctly,” he said. “At that time, I don’t know how many scholarships Nebraska had and I was fortunate everything lined up for me and I was able to participate. At that level, you get to play against some of the best competition.”

The Cornhuskers played in a lot of big games, he said. “We played at Indiana and Arizona

“We played at Indiana and Arizona and we played at Kentucky – I never got into that game – and we played at North Carolina and got into that game,” he said. College basketball was different in those days.

“The Big 8 at that time was always competitive.”

Erwin worked 40 years in the banking business before retiring a few years ago, starting out at the Omaha National Bank and ultimately running a bank in Chadron, before wrapping up his career in Lincoln with U.S. Bank.

“Now, I basically have an agricultural operation out west and with my daughters I have an online beef company,” Erwin said. “I like to play golf, but I don’t play a lot. We do get to Cornhusker football and basketball, but I have grandkids, and that takes priority. It’s fun to be with them.”