2023 Banquet Speaker
Bill Busch Speaks Directly to Players
A banquet for the players, coaches, parents, officials, and Board is held yearly the night before the game. This year’s speaker was Bill Busch, former defensive coach for the Nebraska Huskers. Both he, along with our Board past president Jeff Bellar and head coaches Mark Brahmer and Greg Wemhoff, spoke to the players about seizing the moment when it comes. You just never know what your future holds! The meal was catered by First Choice.
Bill Busch, a Pender, NE native, earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Nebraska Wesleyan in 1988. Busch added a master’s degree in 1990 from Nebraska-Kearney. He married the former Laura Bonta in April of 2019, and the couple has three children: Sydney, Olivia, and Gianna. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Nebraska Wesleyan in 1989, after playing wide receiver there from 1985 to 1987. He has coached at LSU Rutgers, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Utah State, Utah, New Mexico State, with his first full-time coaching job at Northern Arizona State.
Busch served as a defensive analyst for Nebraska in 2021, helping the Huskers develop one of their best defenses in recent years. In 2022, Busch helped dramatically improve Nebraska’s special teams, as the Huskers ranked sixth nationally in punt return average (16.5), seventh in blocked punts (3) and 19th in blocked kicks (3).
Busch was elevated to interim defensive coordinator after the first four games of the season, helping lead a turnaround for the Blackshirts. After Nebraska allowed 35.5 points and 514.0 yards per game in the first four games, the Blackshirts limited opponents to 23.6 points and 364.6 yards per game in Busch’s eight games as interim defensive coordinator.
Busch served as an assistant coach at Nebraska from 2004 to 2007. In his first season, he coached the outside linebackers and served as special teams coordinator. Busch then coached the safeties and continued to handle special teams duties from 2005 to 2007. During his tenure, the Huskers blocked 16 kicks, including seven in 2005. Nebraska ranked in the top 25 nationally in net punting (24th in 2006) and punt returns (17th in 2005) under Busch. NU’s kickoff coverage unit ranked 15th nationally in 2006 after finishing 22nd the previous year.
Busch also spent four seasons as a graduate assistant with the Huskers from 1990 to 1993. Busch worked with the secondary at Nebraska, helping the Huskers to three straight Big Eight titles from 1991 to 1993.
Busch won a national championship as an assistant at LSU in 2019, and he coached in one national title game as a graduate assistant at Nebraska. He has served on the staff of three national championship head coaches (Urban Meyer, Ed Orgeron and Tom Osborne).
Coach Busch won Football Scoop National Defensive Backs Coach of the Year (2012).
During the halftime of the game, the Board recognized this year’s award winners for contributing to the world of football and life.
2023 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award
Tom Olson has been coaching for 41 years, both in Nebraska and South Dakota. He started in 1981 at Lexington, NE, where he coached football, basketball, and track for two years, followed by coaching the same sports in Eureka, SD, for three years. After that, Tom settled in Norfolk, NE where he coached football and track for 35 years. He is now coaching football at Bennington, NE. Tom has also coached in two Shrine Bowls (2004, 2006) and two NEN All Star Football Classic games (2014, 2016).
Tom attended Spearfish High School in SD. Black Hills State University in SD and received his Master’s in psychology at Wayne State College. He was a founding member of the NEN All Star Football Board and served as President in 2016. Tom also served on the NCA Board and Executive Board for 14 years, and as president in 2017.
Tom has been married to his wife Valorie for 43 years. They have four children, all Norfolk High School graduates, and 7 grandchildren.
2023 Outstanding Contributors Award
Jay Bellar graduated from Walthill High School where he participated in football, basketball, and track. Jay continued his post-secondary education at Wayne State College where he was a member of the basketball team for four years and football team for one. Upon graduating from WSC, Mr. Bellar taught physical education and coached football, girls’ basketball, and track at Trenton, Nebraska. While at Trenton, his girls’ basketball team qualified for the state tournament. Leaving Trenton, Jay spent 3 years coaching and teaching at Johnson-Brock Public Schools in Johnson, Nebraska. After teaching and coaching football, girls’ basketball and track for 1 year, Bellar completed his time at JBHS as head football coach, activities director and principal. During his tenure, Coach Bellar’s football team qualified for the state playoffs.
Crossing the river into Iowa, Mr. Bellar was hired at Tri-Center in Neola, Iowa as the principal/athletic director as well as head football coach and was honored as Coach of the Year as the Trojans qualified for the state playoffs. After7 years at Tri-Center, Bellar was hired at Battle Creek, Nebraska where he spent 20 years as the superintendent of schools. Although he hung up his coaching whistle, he continued to be involved in activities coaching his sons’ youth basketball team. As superintendent, Jay worked tirelessly to help the community pass a bond to build a new high school.
In 2015, Jay was named Superintendent of the Year for the state of Nebraska. In 2018, Mr. Bellar was honored, again, being named NRCSA Superintendent of the Year. During his time at Battle Creek, Jay was privileged to represent Northeast Nebraska as a board member for the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA), a position he held for 11 years.
Completing a 35-year career as a teacher, coach, athletic director, principal, and superintendent, Mr. Bellar accepted the position of Executive Director of the NSAA in 2018. As the Executive Director, Jay enjoys working with all activities offered by member schools for their students from speech and drama to athletic events including unified sports for special needs students. Although his job is certainly challenging at times, Jay feels the rewards of watching students compete and achieve easily outweighs the challenges and he is proud to play a role in the lives of Nebraska students and school personnel. After five years, Jay will retire from the NSAA, looking forward to a new chapter.
Jay’s supportive family includes wife, Lori, who is a school counselor for the Lincoln Public Schools and twin sons, Zach and Jared, who work for US Bank.