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JUNEAU, Alaska - The rod quivered as the monofiliment line was ripped from the downrigger ball, and Steve Glenn yanked it from the rod holder and began to reel.
A grin almost as wide as the Hubbard Glacier spread across the face of the former University of Nebraska offensive lineman as he felt the surging power of a coho salmon.
Glenn, now 51, was 18 the last time he caught a fish. Until this moment, the largest fish with which Glenn had ever tussled was that bullhead caught 33 years earlier on a cane pole from the west branch of Turkey Creek near Pawnee City, Neb.
"When I was a kid," Glenn said after a 10-pound coho was netted, "fishing was work to me because I wasn't very good at it. I spent more time untangling the line in the bushes behind me than I did with the line in the water."
Glenn hoisted the coho for pictures, then began to chuckle.
"Coach (Tom) Osborne will probably call me up now and want some tips on how to catch these salmon," Glenn said.
During the four-hour excursion to fish and view wildlife - a side trip while enjoying an Alaskan cruise - Glenn recalled a few mirthful moments during his Cornhusker career from 1974 through 1978.
Although not a fisherman, Glenn was a hunter. One morning he and several teammates shot clay targets. Afterward, Glenn stowed his shotgun in his football locker and placed some loose shells on the locker shelf.
Later that day - September 22, 1977 - the Husker locker room was visited by former President Gerald Ford, who had lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.
"I was sitting in front of my locker when he came in," Glenn said, "and I thought having a former president here was really cool. Then I opened my locker, and those shotgun shells rolled onto the floor.
"Those Secret Service guys saw my shotgun and threw me against the locker. They were going to throw me in the slammer. Some of the guys told them that we had been shooting that morning. They finally let me go after about five minutes."
Glenn recounted the time when he short-circuited Milt Tenopir and the late Cletus Fischer, who together coached the offensive linemen.
"One year," Glenn said, "I wasn't getting much playing time. So I just ran onto the field during a game. Clete thought Milt sent me in, and Milt thought Clete sent me in. For about three games, I played a lot. I never told either one what I did, and they never figured it out."
Glenn now is president of Executive Travel, a Lincoln travel agency, and recently led a group of about 40 people, most of whom are members of Indian Hills Community Church, on a cruise through Alaska's famed Inside Passage.
Glenn was among nine from the group who opted to fish with Marv Walter, a charter captain from Juneau. Five, including Glenn, fished from a boat operated by Walter's sons, Chad and Wade, who are college students.
A pack of charter boats were clustered in one area about a half-hour out of Auke Bay. Wade Walter, the oldest son who is earning a master's degree in sports administration from Belmont (Tenn.) University, gave the pack a wide berth.
"We're not one for following a pack," Wade said. "We just don't. We were born and raised here, so we're pretty confident in what we're doing."
Within minutes, chaos broke out on the 28-foot boat. Coho salmon, feasting on clouds of bait fish that hung from the surface down past the deepest downrigger ball, peppered the five rods. The five anglers provided slapstick comedy as they slammed into each other while trying to grab a hot rod.
None of the five had fished for ocean salmon before, and they all set the hook like they were back home catching largemouth bass and bullheads. After three straight salmon got off, Chad shook his head in dismay.
"Don't set the hook," he said. "Salmon have a really soft jaw. Any jerk you do is going to pull the hook right out. You want them to fight you. Don't fight them. Take your time with them, guys. We're not in a hurry."
Wade reeled up one of the rods, leaving four in operation.
"When the fish are hitting this good," he said, "I think you lose more fish if you have more lines in the water. You have more chances of tangle-ups; you have to move more rods when a fish gets on one. It's better to slim it down a little."
The catch rate showed immediate improvement, and the cohos averaged about 10 pounds.
"This is a blast," Glenn said, reeling in another salmon. "The biggest fish I ever caught before today didn't even weigh a pound. I'm coming up here the next time just to fish for salmon and halibut."
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