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The road may be long and winding but it will always lead you home
Dan Lenzen
Antelope Staff
Photo courtesy of UNK athletic department
Kropp coaches at his Alma Mater with the UNK mens basketball.
Photo courtesy of UNK Athletic Department.
Starting in 1971, Kropp played football at UNK.

Before and after playing pro ball, for almost 40 years, Tom Kropp has contributed to UNK as a student athlete, an administrator and coach.

Kropp came to UNK from Aurora as a student athlete in 1971. With a dream to play professionally, Kropp chose to play both football and basketball thinking his best chance to get to the pro ranks would be through football.

“Basketball was my favorite sport, but I never thought I would go pro in it. I thought my best chance to play professionally was through football, so I chose to play both at Kearney State,” Kropp said.

Kropp would eventually get drafted in both sports. In 1975, he was drafted in the eighth round of the NFL draft by the Pittsburg Steelers as a linebacker. He was also drafted in the third round of the NBA draft by the Washington Bullets and by the Denver Nuggets of the ABA.

Kropp chose to sign with the Bullets and played one year with the team before he was traded to the Chicago Bulls where he played for two years and one game before being released. After his release, Kropp then played in Belgium for four years, and that is where his playing days came to an end.

Kropp’s favorite part of playing professional sports was the relationships he made with his teammates. “I really enjoyed my teammates and the relationships I made. I made some great friends,” Kropp said.

Unfortunately, during Kropp’s playing days, the money that athletes made were far less than what professional athletes make today. “There is a huge difference in the salaries today from when I played. The money when I played is probably one fifth of what the money is now in the NBA.”

After his playing days, Kropp came back to UNK in 1983. Now the co-head coach of the men’s basketball team, he  is also an assistant professor for the physical education department. Returning to UNK was an easy choice for Kropp. “I really enjoyed my experience here as a student and as an athlete, and I always thought that this would be my first choice to teach or coach if I got the chance,” Kropp said.

Kropp’s favorite part of coaching is working with all of the coaches on the staff and all of the student athletes. “Some of the people have been here for as long as I have, so you build great relationships with them, and of course I love working with the kids,” Kropp said.

Kropp said the greatest athlete he has seen come through UNK is Bart Kofoed who played basketball then got drafted in the fifth round of the 1987 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz.

However, the greatest athlete he has ever seen is still Muhammad Ali. “When I was with the Bullets, I had a chance to watch Muhammad Ali train and fight for the heavyweight championship,” Kropp said. The greatest athlete he has ever met is Michael Jordan in Chicago for a Chicago Bulls’ reunion.

Kropp said that of all the places that he has been, Kearney and the state of Nebraska remain unique because of the friendliness of the people, and as long as he enjoys coaching he has no plans to retire anytime soon.


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