Life lessons in Howard prepared Rasmussen for success.
SIOUX FALLS--Before Wayne Rasmussen was a national champion, and a professional football player, he was a Howard Tiger. When he graduated in 1960, Rasmussen was a two-time all-state basketball player, an all-state football player and he also comp...
SIOUX FALLS-Before Wayne Rasmussen was a national champion, and a professional football player, he was a Howard Tiger.
When he graduated in 1960, Rasmussen was a two-time all-state basketball player, an all-state football player and he also competed in track and baseball.
"The city of Howard is very upbeat and supportive of their athletic programs," Rasmussen said. "You couldn't ask for much more. Just about everybody I went to school with wanted to be a basketball player or a football player. There was a lot of competition, and we tried to do our best."
On Saturday, Rasmussen was honored for his basketball achievements by being inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Sioux Falls. During his speech, he said he learned important lessons with his time with the Tigers, such as work ethic and timeliness.
"We had a (10:30 p.m.) curfew," Rasmussen said. "Well one night I wanted to go to a basketball game in Madison the night before we had a game. ... I ended up being 17 minutes late, and (coach Ed Wickre) made me sit 17 minutes the next game. Needless to say, I was ready to go after that."
In his senior basketball season, Rasmussen led Howard to the Class B state tournament. He went on to play football and basketball for South Dakota State University. He was named the MVP of the 1963 NCAA College Division National Basketball Tournament after leading the Jackrabbits to a 44-42 national championship win over Wittenberg (Ohio). In the tournament, Rasmussen accumulated 56 points in three games.
"I still get goosebumps even thinking about it," he said. "I probably never expected to do those types of things."
After college, Rasmussen was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1964 as a safety. He had 16 career interceptions, five fumble recoveries and two touchdowns in a 10-year NFL career-the league did not keep tackles as an official stat in his era.
"Getting drafted by the Lions and being able to play for them for 10 years, I feel really blessed," Rasmussen said. "It's a big thanks to the communities in South Dakota, because they supported athletes like myself."
But his accomplishments didn't go without a cost.
"I've got some bruises," Rasmussen said. "But I consider myself fortunate. I did play safety, and not to say safeties don't get banged up a lot, but I was lucky to only have minor injuries. I just feel fortunate to be able to walk around here (Saturday)."
Decades removed from his playing days, Rasmussen still makes it a priority to watch the NFL.
"I certainly do," he said, adding he'd like to see former SDSU running back Zach Zenner continue to get a shot with the Lions. "Once you've played the game, you realize it's changed a lot. Those guys are a lot bigger and stronger. They lift weights a lot more than we did."