It was said they were like brothers.

“When Cary came in as a freshman, I took him under my wing,” said teammate Tim Golden, a retired Eau Claire police officer. “But I think he taught me more than I taught him.”

The two close friends would go on to write their names in bold letters and from opposite sides of the line of scrimmage in the annals of UW-Eau Claire football.

Cary Osborn, 49, died well before his time on Sunday.

“I stopped at his house Wednesday,” Golden said, “and we talked about the old times, all good.”

Golden could not say enough about Osborn.

“He was a phenomenal athlete. He gave 100 percent in everything he did,” said Golden. “He dedicated himself to everything.”

Osborn came to Eau Claire from Augusta in 1987 and helped make the Blugolds a championship contender the next four years as a running back.

He broke in as a freshman and went on to rush for 3,262 career yards, which nearly three decades later still ranks fifth on the all-time list. He also ranks second in touchdowns with 48.

“For his size, it was unbelievable how good he was,” said Geno Golden, Tim’s uncle and an assistant coach at the time. “He wasn’t that big, but he was fast and quick and tougher than heck.

“He had no fear running the ball. He could run inside or outside and when he was going to be hit, he just put his head down and bowled the defender over.”

Tim Golden, who was team MVP as a defensive nose tackle in 1989, said it took opponents a while to find out how good Osborn was.

“He was extremely undersized and extremely underestimated. But it didn’t take long for people to realize how talented he was and how tough it was to face his tenacity and will to win.”

Osborn was second team all-conference as a sophomore and first team as a junior and senior and was the Blugold captain and MVP as a senior. He played in 20 Blugold wins.

The talent was inherited and also came from a disciplined training program. Osborn and Tim stayed for a time at Geno Golden’s home lifting weights and working out together.

Cary was the son of Jim and Lynda Osborn. Jim was an outstanding passer at Augusta and later Superior State, where he was good enough to attract the attention of the pros.

At Augusta, Cary made quite a name for himself. He is one of the few athletes in Northwest Wisconsin history to make the All-Northwest first team as a basketball and football player.

Listed at 5-9 in 1987, Osborn scored 630 points as a basketball senior and ranks as one of only a handful of players to average 30 points a game in one season to this day. He had a high game of 42 and totaled 1,385 career points.

That was coming off a Beavers’ 8-3 football season that saw him rush for 1,678 yards and score 149 points with the help of his outstanding ability as a placekicker. He scored 297 points in his last two years.

But he pushed his accomplishments as an athlete aside in recent years as a proud and dedicated spectator at Regis football, basketball and baseball games in which sons Cody and Cade followed in his footsteps as standout athletes.

But he was crushed when Cody, a senior, suffered a broken leg in the first game and missed the entire 2016 football season.

It was no secret that Cary, who was involved with well-known people in successful developments and investments, struggled in recent years.

“He did everything full speed; he never slowed down,” Tim Golden said. “He didn’t know how to relax. That may have caused some issues for him.

“He had a lot of people helping him. He was in the hospital last fall but got out and was back in full health.”

Osborn will be remembered for much more than being an athlete.

“Everybody got along so well from being with him,” said Geno Golden. “He was the best friend you could ever have.”

“He had that perpetual smile on his face and was a guy everybody wanted to be around,” said Tim Golden.