1953 Football Team
Coached by Hall of Fame Inductee Jerry Lee, the ‘53 Islanders were the last undefeated state championship team at Grand Island Senior High, finishing a stellar 10-0. The ‘53 squad also captured the Big Ten East Division title as well as the overall Big Ten championship. The 1953 Team was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
The 1969 Lincoln Journal Star Athlete of the Year, Randy was an All-State running back for the Islanders and one of the premiere all-around athletes in the history of Grand Island Senior High. Randy led the Islanders to a 6-3 record and Top 10 state ranking his senior year. Randy was also selected to play in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl where he was voted the most valuable offensive player. In addition, Randy helped lead the Islander track teams of 1968 and 1969 to state championships. One of the greatest hurdlers in state history, Randy won seven all-class gold medals during his high school career. Randy continued his football and track career at the University of Nebraska where he lettered in track in 1970, 1971 and 1972. After transferring to Kearney State College late in his collegiate career, Randy earned honorable mention All-American honors as a running back in 1975 and was later drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One of the greatest Islander football players of all time, Phil Ellis earned All-State honors for the Islanders in both 1989 and 1990 as a linebacker. Also a standout offensive guard, Phil earned the distinction of being selected as the state’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1990. Selected to play in the 1991 Shrine Bowl, Phil went on to star at the University of Nebraska where he was a four-year letterman, two-year starter and a member of the 1994 and 1995 National Championship teams. Phil was elected a team captain of the Huskers in 1995 and was selected honorable mention All-Big Eight and was on the Butkus Award Watch List.
An Islander All-State selection in 1928, Lawrence went on to become one of the greatest offensive linemen in Husker history. Lawrence was named All-Big Six in both 1931 and 1932, was a first team All-American center in 1932 and was a Nebraska Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1974. As a senior in 1932, Ely helped Nebraska to a 7-1-1 record that included a Big Six Conference title with a perfect 5-0 record. Following his NU career, Ely played in the East-West Shrine game in San Francisco.
One of the greatest all-around Islander athletes of all time, Jeff was an All-State performer in both football and basketball and also excelled on the track. Jeff was selected as an All-State performer as both a tight end and defensive end in 1976. Jeff played in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl and went on to star at the University of Nebraska where he started three seasons at tight end. A Summa Cum Laude graduate at Nebraska, Jeff was a second team All-Big Eight selection in 1980 as well as being named Academic All-Big Eight and Academic All-American. Jeff earned nine varsity letters as an Islander and still holds the school records for single game, season and career rebounds in basketball.
An All-State safety and running back for the Islanders in 1970, George was a three-sport Islander standout. George was honored for his excellence on the gridiron by being selected to play in the 1971 Nebraska Shrine Bowl. Following an outstanding athletic career at Grand Island Senior High, George went on to become a three-year lettermen and a starter at safety for the University of Nebraska. George was selected Academic All-Big Eight in 1974.
An all-time Islander great, Bob Smith was a standout all-purpose back for Coach Jerry Lee in 1949 and 1950. Bob earned All-State honors for the Islanders in 1950 and then went on to a stellar career at the University of Nebraska from 1951 through 1954. Bob was then drafted into the NFL by the Cleveland Browns as a halfback and also played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Bob was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
One of Nebraska’s greatest high school football coaches of all time, Coach Jerry Lee left a legacy that is unsurpassed. Lee took over the Islander program in 1942 and lead the program until 1959. In 1954, Lee was named Nebraska High School Coach of the Year. He was elected Nebraska Coaches Association president, and was selected as a coach for the first ever Nebraska Shrine Bowl in 1959. Lee’s football teams at Grand Island Senior High School were undefeated four times. Coach Lee’s teams at Grand Island won three state championships (1947, 1948, 1953) and five Big Ten championships. Coach Lee’s overall record at Senior High was 101-23-5. Also a fine track coach, Lee’s track teams produced many state champions. In 1997, Coach Lee was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. Coach Lee’s overall record (including stints in Shelton, Neligh and York) was an incredible 153-38-5.
Doug Van Buskirk
A loyal Islander supporter for over three decades, Doug Van Buskirk was in charge of the Islander “chain crew” for over 30 years. Doug made his debut in 1981 with Bud Jeffries, Jim Johnson and Jim Kelly and manned the chains every year after. Doug’s fondest memories during his tenure were the many Islander playoff wins and the playoff atmosphere at Memorial Stadium. Doug considers himself to be very lucky to have been able to be a part of the Islander football program.