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Time For Kickoff

We are now just DAYS AWAY from a new Husker Football season.

2015 is no ordinary year.. we have a new head coach, a new mentality, a new style.  We lost powerhouse players like Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, but will see new faces like true freshman Dedrick Young, awarded his blackshirt just this week.

A new chapter will be written in the storied history that is Nebraska Football.  Every Thursday, I get to flip back a few pages (or more) and check in with the ‘legends’ of seasons past.

IT’S TIME FOR THROWBACK THURSDAY.

Like last year, I’m hoping to dabble in as many eras of Husker football as possible.  We’ll talk to guys hoping to continue playing in the NFL, guys who pursued other talents after graduation, and guys who built the foundation for decades of moments to come at Memorial Stadium.  This has been one of my FAVORITE series to put together in my career here at KETV, and I can’t wait for another season!  (To see who we featured in the 2014 season, CLICK HERE, or click the Throwback Thursday index tab at the top of the page!)

Who better to kick off 2015 then arguably THE BEST kicker in NCAA history?!?!

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#90 ALEX HENERY

Photo courtesy Huskers.com

Alex Henery, Nebraska’s place kicker/punter who played for the team from 2006-2010, set records not only at Nebraska, but in the college football history books.  He only missed EIGHT FIELD GOALS HIS ENTIRE CAREER.

Think about that for a second… HIS ENTIRE CAREER.

The Omaha Burke grad with the golden foot finished college with an accuracy rate of 89.5%, topping the previous NCAA record of 87.8%.  One kick in particular is STILL in Nebraska record books for longest field goal, a moment that set the college football world on FIRE.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON ALEX HENERY!

Nebraska was playing rival Colorado to close out the 2008 regular season.  The Buffaloes had just scored a touchdown, putting them up 31-30.  With less than 2 minutes on the clock and a looming 4th down, Coach Bo Pelini called in Henery.

My husband was on the sidelines shooting the game, so I was watching alone at home.  I remember I was putting away laundry, and heard the announcer say Henery was coming in… that his field goal attempt would be from 57 yards out.

WHAT?!?! 57 YARDS?!?!

I put down the laundry basket, and clung to our dog, Mack, watching to see what would happen.

“The big thing I remember is standing out on mid-field,” Henery told me recently.  “There was a commercial break, Jake Wesch looked at me and said, ‘you’re gonna be famous after this.’ I said, ‘right..'”

Do you remember?!? Click here to watch it all over again, thanks to HuskerAddict!

#37 knew what he was talking about.  The kick went in.  The announcers, 85,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and football fans all over the COUNTRY were in awe.  Nebraska won the game.

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Photo courtesy Spokeo.com

“Everyone I talk to, that’s the main thing they talk about,” said Henery.  “They know where they were, who they were high-fiving, and it’s fun to hear people’s stories.”

That one moment was a preview of the consistency and reliability Alex Henery provided for Nebraska. Husker fans reached a point that we knew if Henery was in, the Huskers would put up another 3 points, no questions asked.

That is part of what fuels Henery’s message to this year’s kickers and special teams players at Nebraska.

“Come through in the clutch; that’s all that matters,” said Henery.  “I think the coaches coming in, sounds like they’re great and the guys are buying in.”

He’ll be watching from his hometown of Omaha this season… maybe. After three years playing for the Eagles and Lions, Henery is now an NFL free agent, meaning his phone could ring (and has) at anytime, sending him to tryouts across the country.  In fact, Henery and I had to reschedule our initial interview because he was in Pittsburgh trying out with the Steelers.  Henery was at a charity golf tournament in Omaha when he got the call.

“Had to stop golfing and catch a flight out of town to make the tryouts,” Henery said.  Unfortunately this time around, Henery didn’t get the job.  We talked a little about the differences between college and the pros.. Henery credits great holders and snappers at Nebraska, and notes the business culture of professional football versus the fan adoration and fun many players have in college.

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His biggest fans are always waiting for him back in Omaha, his beautiful wife, Johna, and sweet little Landen, who just turned one year old.  How cool will it be for that kid to try on the jerseys hanging in the closet (the Burke High jersey right next to Nebraska and Philadelphia), to look at all of his dad’s plaques and awards from his years as a Husker, and to read all of the cards and newspaper clippings his dad kept as keepsakes?

“College was good to me and I have many good moments to look back on,” said Henery.

#90 Alex Henery courtesy Huskers.com and Nebraska Athletics

Photo courtesy Huskers.com

For more on #90 Alex Henery, CLICK HERE to read his official bio from Nebraska Athletics.

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NEXT WEEK… CLASS OF 2008 JOE GANZ!

Representing Nebraska

 We are now in Week 12 of Husker football season, and Week 12 of our Huskers Throwback Thursday series on KETV.  This has been one of my favorite assignments in recent memory, strolling down memory lane with different players representing different eras of Nebraska Football.  With each player, I tailor my questions to who they are and what they’re doing now, but I also have a handful of questions I ask in every interview.

What was your favorite moment as a Husker?

Do you have any advice for today’s players?

Who is your favorite Husker on this year’s team?

The vote has been nearly unanimous; Husker alumni LOVE Ameer Abdullah.  Their reasons are also similar; not only is he a tremendous player (many hope a Heisman contender!), he’s a great role model and representative for the University and the Nebraska football program.

This week’s Throwback Thursday Husker echoes those sentiments, and also hopes to be thought of as a terrific representative..  in a different way.

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Class of 2003, Quarterback Brett Lindstrom

Lindstrom had an unenviable job at Nebraska, playing backup to first Eric Crouch and then to Jammal Lord.  You may not have seen him much on the field, but he was always ready when his Huskers needed him, including helping the team get to the title game in 2001.

“Just the experience of going to the national championship game, the Rose Bowl in 2001, was probably one of the greatest experiences I had down there,” Lindstrom told me last week in a brief interview.  There’s a reason why it was relatively quick; Lindstrom’s got a jam-packed schedule as Senator-Elect, just voted into the Nebraska Legislature November 4th to represent Northwest Omaha.

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Lindstrom still laughs when called ‘Senator’.

“I’m not used to that quite yet,” said Lindstrom.  “Got jokes from some of my friends, laying it on pretty thick.  I still just like to be called Brett.”

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It probably feels good to laugh after several tough years of campaigning.  Prior to his run for the District 18 seat, Lindstrom ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in District 2, going up against incumbent Lee Terry in 2012.  He lost in the primary.  Less than a year later (his son, just 2-weeks old at the time!) Lindstrom announced his bid for the Legislature.  In 2012, Lindstrom told me it was his daughter that compelled him to run for public office.  He was concerned for her future.

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Lindstrom feeding 7-month old Barron while making campaign calls (pic from the Vote Lindstrom Facebook page)

Campaigning also brought Lindstrom back to his Husker roots.

“What’s interesting about the campaign trail, going door to door, I’ve actually run into some old players,” said Lindstrom.  “I don’t know who I’ll meet when I go to the door.  Lornell McPherson, I played with, he came to the door.  Damon Benning, he came to a door.  Probably half the doors I went to had a Husker rock, a Husker flag.  Obviously it doesn’t hurt when you can go up there and say, ‘I played for the Cornhuskers.’ It at least gives you a shot, people give you an extra second to listen.”

It appears voters heard Lindstrom’s message about his goals for Nebraska. (Listen for yourself in Alex Hoffman’s profile of the District 18 race, or by checking out the KETV ‘In Their Own Words’ section featuring Lindstrom.)  He won the election and a ticket to Lincoln in January, one of 17 incoming freshman senators.  Lindstrom will represent an estimated 37,000 people from his district.

“There’s a huge responsibility that we have moving forward,” said Lindstrom.  “It’s an exciting time.  It’s a new start for a lot of us and a new start for the state.”

Lindstrom follows a handful of other Huskers who have entered the political arena. Coach Tom Osborne became a Congressman, Pat Ricketts (Lindstrom’s teammate) just won re-election to the Millard School Board, and Jim Pillen became a University of Nebraska Regent.  Lindstrom says he’s surprised more Huskers haven’t become elected representatives.

“I think there’s a lot of correlation between athletics and politics,” said Lindstrom.  “The competitiveness of it, the perseverance it takes to go through it, getting knocked down, getting back up.”

Lindstrom’s advice for todays players: staying committed to the team will pay dividends later in life.  He hopes that still holds true as a Husker alumni planning to be in Lincoln a lot more for the next four years.

“I thought maybe I could give the University a call and see if I could go use the weight room if I have a little down time at the Capitol, to go workout,” said Lindstrom.  “I don’t know if the Capitol has a workout area, I doubt they do! See if I can drop my 40 and get my vertical back up!”

Maybe Lindstrom will be running sprints alongside his favorite Husker representatives, Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell.  Maybe they’ll call him ‘Senator Lindstrom’ in the weight room.  As this Nebraska representative prepares for a busy four years as a husband, dad, financial advisor and now Senator-Elect, he puts this victory in sports terms.

“It was just nice to come home with a W.”

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CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON BRETT LINDSTROM!

For more information about #15 Brett Lindstrom, check out his bio via Nebraska Athletics, his professional profile with UBS Financial Services or his campaign website.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 1987, John McCormick!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. the Class of 2005, Mike Stuntz!

Comeback Kid

I’m no sports reporter.  There are days I WISH I was.. like today.. at ‘the K’… cheering on the Kansas City Royals in Game 7.. yes, this is one of those days 🙂  Yes, sports reporters get to witness some incredible moments from amazing vantage points, but they are also some of the hardest working guys in TV News.  Andy Kendeigh, Thor Tripp and Matt Lothrop shoot their own material, write their own material, write their own sportscasts, and are often on set, anchoring, after working all day covering games and stories out in the field.  They don’t ‘sit back and watch the game’; they are keeping track of stats, editing while the game is in progress, and thinking about how they’ll present it all.  While fans watch and enjoy, sports guys (and ladies) work 20-hour days to bring those moments to the rest of the world.

They also know a RIDICULOUS amount of information about sports.  I’d like to think I know the game of baseball.. I love gymnastics.. I like football a whole lot.. but I’m no sports reporter.  I’m a sports reporter wannabe at best.

When I started profiling former Huskers as part of this Throwback Thursday series, I turned to our sports guys and my husband, ALSO a former sports photojournalist in TV News, to see who they wanted to hear from.

SEVERAL gave me this guy’s name.

Jammal Lord

#5, Nebraska Quarterback Jammal Lord, photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Even if you don’t know the ins and outs of this game, you can see this guy was impressive on the college football field by looking at his stats.  Lord made the record books for total offense in a season and in a career.  He set a record at Nebraska for a rushing quarterback in a single game and in a season.  His name appears among Nebraska’s greats at the position, Eric Crouch and Tommie Frazier.

Nebraska’s last true option quarterback also marked the end of an era.  As he left Nebraska at the end of 2003, so did his Head Coach Frank Solich, fired after a 9-3 season.

WHAT IF?  What if they didn’t have that 7-7 season in 2002?  What if there hadn’t been a coaching controversy?  What if Lord, who only had 2.5 seasons on the field after a torn PCL in his knee, had gotten all four years as starting QB?

Lord tells me he has no regrets about his time as a Husker.

“No, not at all.  I had fun at Nebraska,” Lord told me by phone last month.  “I loved the coaches I had from Coach Solich to Coach Gill.  Those guys were role models.  They showed me tough love and I needed that.”

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Thanks to Lord’s alma mater, Bayonne High School, for the photos

Husker nation again had high hopes for Lord as a pro player, drafted in the 6th round in 2004 by the Houston Texans.  He played safety, wide receiver, cornerback, eventually retiring from pro football with the Abilene Ruff Riders of the Indoor Football League in 2007.

Jammal Lord NFL pic

Lord then returned to his roots and the place where he developed his passion for football.  He became a football coach at his Alma Mater, Bayonne High School in Bayonne, New Jersey.  COACHING became his new passion, a role that eventually brought him back to Nebraska, coaching at Concordia High School alongside his friend, Steve Warren.

“I miss it every day, everything about football,” Lord told me.  “I miss coaching, the kids, helping the kids out.  Just seeing them grow.”

During those coaching days, even now, it’s hard to not miss PLAYING the game, too.  Lord says his favorite game came his junior year at Texas A&M.  John Oakey’s Aggies had the Huskers on the ropes in the 3rd quarter, down 31-14.  Lord and Nebraska charged back and WON 38-31, at the time, tying the school record for the biggest comeback in football history.  Jammal Lord was named Team Captain the following season.

“Just going out, playing hard and winning games,” said Lord.  “I miss my friends, mainly.”

Today, Lord is a long way from the friends he made in Lincoln, Houston, Bayonne and Omaha; he’s working in the oil fields of North Dakota.

WHAT?!?! For anyone asking the same question I did when I heard that, a quick Google search reveals the average annual salary of an oil worker in ND is more than $110,000.

“A friend of a friend had a business here, offered me a job,” said Lord.  “I said never! Then I caved in.”

It’s hard not to like this guy in talking to him on the phone.  In that answer and in so many others, he laughed throughout.  You could ‘hear’ his smile on other end.  Jammal Lord seems like a guy who truly enjoys life, whether he’s making a comeback on the football field or anywhere else.  He has a passion for life, just as he does for football.

And he still has that love for the Huskers.

“I like all of them,” he said of today’s players.  “I like Ameer, he’s doing his thing right now.  I like Tommy.  I’m biased for the quarterback position, you know what I mean?”

What about Coach Pelini, Lord’s then Defensive Coordinator who took over head-coaching duties in Lord’s last game with Nebraska at the Alamo Bowl?

“LOVE him.  Love him,” said Lord.  “Just the passion, he has passion for his kids.  He has passion for the game of football.”

Finally, to Husker fans who, like so many sports guys do, remember Jammal Lord and hold him as a Husker favorite, he’s got a message for you, too.

“I love you.  You’re number one in my book,” said Lord.  “I had fun down there.  It was a great time.  I love the fans, I love the stadium.  GO BIG RED!”

CHECK OUT KETV’S HUSKERS THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON JAMMAL LORD!

For more on #5 Jammal Lord, check out his bio courtesy of Nebraska Athletics.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2013, CJ Zimmerer!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. the Class of 1987, John McCormick!

A Family Affair

If you watched a Nebraska football game in the 2000’s with a visiting friend or someone who doesn’t really follow the Huskers, maybe you experienced this.  A HUGE sack by one of Nebraska’s Blackshirts.  The QB on the opposing team loses yards.  And 80,000+ Nebraska fans BOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

“Why are they booing??” your confused friend asked.

That’s when you explained that the fans weren’t booing, they were saying RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!

Yes, years before that one guy, Ndamukong Suh, made the response legendary in the NFL, two brothers from Lincoln created a legacy within Husker Nation, inciting tens of thousands to yell THEIR name after one of their hundreds of combined career tackles.  Their names: Barrett and Bo Ruud.

Barrett Ruud Bo Ruud

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photos!

“It started happening with my brother, then me,” Bo Ruud recently told me in an interview in Lincoln.  “Like I tell Suh, he owes us some money because that’s ours, he stole it.  It was copyrighted, trademarked.”

All jokes, of course.  Those moments, listening to a crowd going crazy because of something he did on the field, were simply ‘an amazing experience’ according to the younger Ruud.  Bo played for Nebraska from 2003-2007, racking up an impressive resume of accolades including First-Team All-Big 12, a multi-game Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and winning the Nebraska Guy Chamberlin Trophy.  Arguably his most impressive moment came against Iowa State his senior year, when Bo intercepted the ball and returned it 93-yards for a touchdown.  At that time, it was the third longest in school history and the longest ever by a Husker linebacker.

Click here to watch the KETV Throwback Thursday story on Bo Ruud!

Still, it’s hard for Bo to pinpoint one standout moment in his career at Nebraska.

“It’s such a large collection of just great moments, it’s like a feeling almost,” said Bo.  “Nebraska football, that was a dream growing up for me.  I’m a Lincoln guy.”

Bo lived about five minutes from Memorial Stadium and was surrounded by the Nebraska Football dynasty all of his life.  Great-grandfather Clarence Swanson played for Nebraska from 1918-1921.  Uncles Bob Martin and John Ruud were Huskers in the 1970’s.  Dad, Tom Ruud, earned All-Big Eight honors with Nebraska from 1972-1974.  Combine Tom and his boys, and you’ve got three of the top 30 tacklers in Nebraska school history.

Bo, now a medical rep working in Lincoln and traveling across the state, will be keeping a close eye on the position tied so closely to his family.

“Always watching the linebackers, that’s always first,” said Bo.  “You’re always watching and rooting for those guys to do well.  Randy Gregory’s a standout, I think he’s going to be really good.”

Bo also calls running back Ameer Abdullah the ‘heart and soul’ of the Nebraska team.

Brother Barrett Ruud may not be able to pick any favorites on this year’s squad; he’s one of their coaches.  Barrett Ruud is officially a ‘Football Intern’ as part of the Nebraska Football Support Staff.

Barrett Coaching 2 Barrett coaching

Photos courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

“I’m excited, really excited,” said Bo, when asked about watching his brother on the sidelines.  “It’s going to be different.  Different for him, too, but the whole family’s excited for him.”

And no doubt his players can learn a lot from their new coach.  Barrett Ruud played for Nebraska from 2001-2004; a team Captain, on the Butkus Award Watch List, and the 2004 Nebraska Defensive MVP.  He was a second round NFL Draft pic, and played several years in the pros.  Before Nebraska’s game against McNeese State, Barrett Ruud will officially be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

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14 years ago, these brothers were in Lincoln, playing under the Friday Night Lights for Lincoln Southeast.  They dreamed of high school state championships and maybe, just maybe, playing in front of tens of thousands in the stadium they grew up hearing about.  Now, they are back in Lincoln, each showing how their time as Huskers impacted their lives.  Barrett Ruud, by coaching a new generation of players.  Bo Ruud, by proudly wearing red every Saturday, and once in awhile offering commentary via sports talk radio with long time best friend (and Creighton Basketball legend) Nick Bahe.

With that, Bo Ruud has a message for today’s Huskers.

“Everybody’s going to tell them, but you’ve got to soak it up!” said Bo.  “Every second, enjoy it.  It’s the best years of your life, it really is.”

It may be awhile before Nebraska fans again here the rattling RUUUUUUD reverberating through Memorial Stadium, should the family legacy continue.  Bo Ruud is grateful for the fans who remember him taking down a quarterback and making that growl happen.

“It’s an honor, if that’s the case,” said Bo.  “Just continue being great fans and supporting the Huskers, because I will continue to do that, too.”

Click here to learn more about Bo Ruud, via Nebraska Athletics

Click here to learn more about Barrett Ruud, via Nebraska Athletics

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CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Class of 2006, Zac Taylor

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. Class of 2003, Pat Ricketts