By: Con Marshall
One of western Nebraska’s all-time outstanding athletes, Gary Hollstein, a native of Rushville, died on Friday, October 9 at Bickford Cottage in Sioux City, Iowa, of complications related to Covid 19. His wife and their two children were at his side.
Hollstein, 72, had a terrific senior year at Rushville High School in 1966-67.
He was the quarterback on the Longhorns’ football team that had a perfect 11-0 record, led the basketball team in scoring with a 16-point average and was undefeated in both hurdles, tying the Class C record in the 180-yard lows and breaking the record in the 120-yard highs at the state track meet.
He also was the all-class gold medal winner in the high hurdles at the state meet in 14.60 seconds. The mark was the Class C state record for 38 years until it was finally broken by Lucas Lavicky of David City Aquinas in 2005.
Hollstein had finished second in Class C at state in both hurdle races as a junior.
Following high school graduation as a member of the National Honor Society, he attended the University of Nebraska and earned letters as a member of the Cornhuskers’ National Championship football teams in both 1970 and 1971.
The Rushville football team that Hollstein quarterbacked in the fall of 1966 was a juggernaut. The Longhorns outscored their opponents 490 to 54 points (44.5 to 4.9 per game) and outgained them 4,458 to 1,157 yards (378 to 105 per game). They breezed through the regular-season at 9-0 and won the Rangeland Conference and Panhandle C Conference championships by defeating O’Neill and Minatare, respectively, in playoff games.
He was a standout on both offense and defense. While the Longhorns had three excellent running backs who combined to rush for 2,189 yards, he ran for 354 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He also completed 51 of 107 passes for 684 yards and nine touchdowns.
Hollstein also was the team’s return specialist. He returned six kickoffs for 254 yards, an average of 42.3 yards, and 19 punts for 289 yards, an average of 15.2 yards. His kickoff returns included touchdown runs of 85 and 87 yards and punt returns of 48 and 57 yards that went for TDs.
While playing safety, he participated in 42 tackles and intercepted five passes that he returned for 132 yards, including one for a touchdown.
At the end of the season, Hollstein earned first-team Class C all-state from both the Omaha and Lincoln newspapers and he was selected to play in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl the following summer.
After graduating from UNL in 1971, he joined the FBI and spent the first two years at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on the training staff before being assigned to the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for eight years.
He left the FBI in March 1981 and returned to Rushville to work in a bank with family members. In 1989, he built and opened seven Arby’s restaurants in and around Sioux City, Iowa.
In January 1992 when he was in his early 40s, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and left him with physical limitations. However, he remained positive and joyful the past 28 years. He joined his high school football teammates in Lincoln in 2016 when the Longhorns were recognized as a Golden Anniversary team by the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Survivors include his wife Karen, who was his high school sweetheart, son Paul and daughter Carolyn, grandchildren Andrew and Natalie, his father Bob, brother Jim and sister Dianne Hollstein Brooks.
He was preceded in death by his mother Geraldine and brother Don.
Due to Covid restrictions, a memorial service is pending.