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Wayne Nelson / Forum Communications Co., Published April 21 2012

Ex-Vikings player Osborn marvels at what UND has become

GRAND FORKS – Times were different when Dave Osborn played football at the University of North Dakota.

“We played outside on grass and in small stadiums,” Osborn said. “Now, you play in beautiful facilities like this one.”

The beautiful facility Osborn talked about was the Alerus Center, where he served as an honorary coach during UND’s annual Green-White spring football game Saturday.

“The whole game has changed,” he said.

It’s been nearly 50 years since Osborn made his mark as a running back at UND. After UND, he played 12 years in the NFL, the first 11 with the Minnesota Vikings. But the former Cando (N.D.) High School standout still has fond memories of UND.

“This was a lot of fun,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been to a spring game since the last one I played in 48 years ago.”

Upon his return, he was reminded that his No. 41 jersey is the only one UND has retired.

“I forgot that,” he said. “But the older you get, the more important these days become.”

Osborn and former Sioux standout Dan Martinsen served as the honorary coaches. Both did their coaching from the sideline, where they saw a program that is much different than it was when they played.

“The game now has moved up so many steps,” Osborn said. “No. 1, the guys are so much bigger, faster and quicker.

“I’m not saying the guys now are tougher than we were back when we played. But they are bigger. And stronger.”

He watched the Sioux defense deliver a few crunching hits. And that, too, brought back some memories.

“I watch these guys out here now and see some of the hits they take,” Osborn said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Man, I’d hate to get hit like that.’ But we probably did get hit like that back when we played.”

Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald