I.M. Hipp has a life time membership to the All Name team. A fan favorite not only for his talent, but also for his unusual name which was more than appropriate for the times.
Isiah Moses Walter Hipp was his given name, and he went by Isiah growing up in rural Chapin, South Carolina. There was a time, when Hipp was being recruited, but that all apparently fell away when he was injured. Some how, some way, his family scrapped together enough money to buy him a one way plane ticket to Lincoln, Nebraska where the young Isiah Hipp would become a walk-on.
The 6-0, 200 Hipp would become the most famous of the many Nebraska walk-ons.
But, this story almost never happened. It’s a pretty mild climate around Chapin, South Carolina. In Nebraska, however, it’s a different story with the temperatures getting around the 0 mark pretty regular, if not below, and the wind is brutal on the High Plains. The young and naive Hipp didn’t even own a coat and it was so cold. Hipp wanted to go home and was practically on his way, when Tom Osborne, who liked what he saw in his walk-on, talked him into staying. Later, Hipp got enough money together to buy a coat.
Somebody at Nebraska came up with the idea of changing Hipp’s name from Isiah which he’d always gone by, to I.M. and it stuck. After playing on the freshman team in 1975, he redshirted in 1976. The Husker varsity had Tough Tony Davis and Monte Anthony at I-back in 1975 and Monte Anthony and Rick Berns in 1976.
Hipp burst onto the scene in 1977 and the nation got it’s first exposure to I.M. Hipp.
In his first start, which was against Lee Corso’s Indiana Hoosiers, Hipp ran for a Nebraska school record 257 yards.
During Nebraska’s 9-3 1977 season, I.M. Hipp outplayed the more experienced Rick Berns and ran for 1,353 yards. He was a national sensation almost over night. He was also just the fourth Cornhusker to ever top 1,000 yards rushing in a single season.
I.M. Hipp was a different kind of player than most. He loved lifting weights, which in and of itself is not unusual. Lots of guys actually enjoy pumping iron, but Hipp loved to lift on game day before the coming game. He was also the Nebraska power lifter of the year in 1977. He loved working out, which was undoubtedly the secret of his success at this level of football.
He was first team All Big 8 in 1977, a feat that he would only earn once.
The following season, 1978, Hipp ran for 154 yards against the California Golden Bears and he ran over Indiana again for another 123 yards. I have to wonder if Lee Corso has forgiven I.M. Hipp yet. Against Kansas, he ran for 184 yards and he finished the season with 1,002 yards rushing.
His sidekick and running mate, Rick Berns, also topped the 1,000 yard barrier and they became the first two running backs on the same team with over 1,000 yards rushing. Nebraska was still stuck
with a 9-3 season and even though they finally beat Oklahoma again, they lost to them in the rematch in the Orange Bowl which left a bad taste in the Husker’s mouths through the off season.
I.M. Hipp’s last season of 1979 started off with a bang. Against Utah State, he ran for 167 yards on 26 carries leading the Huskers to an easy 35-14 win over the Aggies. But, shortly after that game, Hipp suffered from turf toe and he couldn’t ever seem to get past it.
New sensation, Jarvis Redwine stepped up and ran for 1,100 yards as the Huskers won their first 10 games. They played their way to the 3rd ranking in the polls before they beaten by old nemesis Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. They lost their last two games by the exact same score of 14-17, with the loss to Houston in the Cotton Bowl following the Oklahoma game.
Hipp only was able to run for 585 yards that season giving him a grand total of 2,940 yards and a new all time rushing record for the Cornhuskers. That total still stands as 10th best in the history of Nebraska football.
During Hipp’s playing days at Nebraska, the Huskers finished with a 29-7 record and one conference championship.
Hipp was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 4th round of the 1980 draft. He didn’t make the team, but the Raiders picked him up. He played a total of one game in the NFL before being cut again.
Today, the cool one, I.M. Hipp lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia and works in property management. I can relate to that.
I.M. Hipp was not the greatest of Nebraska I-backs back in the Tom Osborne years. That honor would probably go to Mike Rozier, or Lawrence Phillips. Hipp would be a top 10 back during that time period which is no minor accomplishment considering the talent that played in Lincoln.
However, he would have been the best ever walk-on in a program that was known for it’s walk-on players, plus the coolest name of any running back to ever put on the uniform of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
When working on your all time all name team, I.M. Hipp has to be at the top of the list.