Tag Archive | bo pelini

When Good Guys Win

We’ve done it!  Two Husker wins in a row!  In a season that’s been, at times, one to forget, most Nebraska fans will celebrate every victory and milestone with enthusiasm and a smile.  In fact, in our Sunday poll on ketv.com, a majority of voters said they think the Huskers will BEAT the #5 undefeated Hawkeyes on Black Friday!  Who knows!!

For KETV producer Jay Roberts, the secret to Nebraska’s recent success is pretty simple.. I’m NOT covering the games.

I was in LA when USC beat Nebraska in 2006.

I was at Memorial Stadium when Nebraska BARELY lost to Texas a few weeks later.

I was in Kansas City when Nebraska lost in the Big XII Championship game that December.

331105_258913344147155_1924201494_o

I was at Camp Randall when Wisconsin crushed Nebraska 48-17 in 2011.

And I was at Ohio Stadium when the Buckeyes blanked the Huskers 63-38 in 2013.  Actually, I think it was at this game I shared my 0-5 Reporter Record with Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell, who then responded ‘maybe you shouldn’t go on the road with us anymore!’

Assistant News Director Vonn Jones, hasn’t let me cover the Huskers since.

BACK TO OHIO STATE… I will always remember a handful of moments from that trip.  The Buckeyes Athletic Department, for whatever reason, provided FREE McFLURRIES IN THE PRESS BOX, and I think I gained 19 pounds in 3 hours.  While I am a HUGE fan of the Pride of Nebraska Husker Marching Band, the Buckeye Band was downright PHENOMENAL, performing a halftime show based on old-school Nintendo games. INCREDIBLE.

Finally, the professionalism and kindness exhibited by Nebraska star Rex Burkhead.

JSHXJTOVUOAZDTV.20130130210221

#22 Rex Burkhead, Nebraska I-Back 2009-2012 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

Burkhead had a hell of a game that day.  He recorded the longest run of his career, pushing his own total at Nebraska to 3,046 (only the 7th Husker in history to reach the 3K mark), and he marked the 13th 100-yard rushing game of his career.  Then, in the 3rd quarter, Burkhead went down, badly injuring his left knee.  Even up in the press box, we could see that Rex, who’d taken hit after hit throughout his time at Nebraska, was hurting. The following week, he started against Northwestern, but left the game.. and didn’t return for the four following games.

After each game I covered, I tried to find players or coaches willing to do a live interview with Jon/Andy during our Big Red Zone post-game coverage.  Burkhead was a clear fan favorite and had talked to us several times before.  Looking back to Ohio State, I wonder how much pain Rex Burkhead was in both emotionally and physically, perhaps already worrying how much of his senior year he would miss because of his injury.  Not knowing at the time how bad it was, I once again approached him after the game.  He could’ve just ignored me.  He could’ve cussed at me, or shot me a dirty look.  Rex Burkhead APOLOGIZED, saying he was sorry, but wasn’t up for it.

 A moment for me that revealed character and maturity, probably isn’t even a blip on this guy’s Husker Memories radar.  He was the Team MVP, Team Captain his senior AND junior year, a Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American, a Doak Walker Semifinalist, Guy Chamberlin Trophy winner, and a First-Team All-Big Ten member.

Those are just his awards for his work ON the field. 2011 in particular was a remarkable year for Burkhead, still arguably one of the best rushers in Nebraska history.

Click here to watch KETV’s Throwback Thursday feature on #22 Rex Burkhead!

“Probably my favorite [moment] was the Ohio State game my junior year,” Burkhead told me recently.  “It was our Big Ten opener and we were down by a hefty margin.  I think, at the time, it was the biggest comeback in school history.  We came back and won in the final few minutes.  The crowd was going crazy; it was just an unbelievable atmosphere that night.”

Burkhead also loves that game because a friend of his got some national attention for the first time.

Jack-Hoffman

KETV’s Thor Tripp was interviewing Burkhead for a profile story, and asked why he was wearing a ‘Team Jack’ bracelet on his wrist.  Burkhead told him about a little boy with brain cancer who had asked for an autograph; instead, Burkhead invited him to Memorial Stadium to look around.  An incredible gesture, one that to this day, Burkhead doesn’t take credit for.

“Really, it all started with Coach Pelini taking him in, allowing him access to practice, then putting him up in a suite during a game and really, Jack just becoming another teammate with the guys,” said Burkhead.

KETV OCTOBER 2011: Click here to read about Jack’s first Game Day, and how the Huskers all became Team Jack fans.

PHNTCVEWXDBMDAL.20120930022027

Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Pelini, a father of 3, and Burkhead brought back Jack and other children with pediatric brain cancer, to take part in team activities and traditions.  Through that, Nebraska fell in love with these kids.. and we also learned the terrible truth about this horrific disease.  Isaiah, the little boy in this photo with Jack doing the ‘Tunnel Walk’ with the team before the Wisconsin game in 2012, died just a few weeks later.

KETV MAY 2012: Click here to learn about Jack Hoffman and his family’s mission to spread national awareness of pediatric brain cancer.

8-million people and counting saw what happened next.. the Nebraska Cornhuskers rallied around Jack, bringing the pint-sized player onto the field during the Spring Game in 2013. Wearing his friend Rex’s #22, Jack Hoffman ran for a touchdown, cheered on by 60,000 fans.  In the weeks and months that followed, the Hoffman family was invited to the White House to meet President Obama, they won an ESPY for Best Moment of 2013, and best yet, THE WORLD was talking about pediatric brain cancer.

Click here to read my blog about Jack’s incredible moment at Memorial Stadium: See Jack Run.

Nebraska Fullback CJ Zimmerer (another Throwback Thursday Husker!) was the brainchild behind that magical moment, but the connection, THE FRIENDSHIP between this little boy and Nebraska football players and coaches began because of Rex Burkhead.  He was named Captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, a 3-time member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team and the 2012 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion.  Since Rex Burkhead responded to the Hoffman family’s request in 2012, just asking for an autograph, the Team Jack Foundation has raised more than $2 million dollars for pediatric brain cancer research.

MF61450

“Myself and Jack and Andy and his family never would’ve thought it would expand like it did,” said Burkhead.  “It’s been unbelievable just to see the expansion of the Team Jack Foundation, how much support is still out there, not just in the state of Nebraska but across the country as well.”

CQfKRIoVAAAh0J1

Rex and Jack still keep in touch, the Hoffmans even going to see Burkhead’s new team play.  After graduating from Nebraska, Burkhead was drafted by the Cincinatti Bengals, a team that’s only lost ONCE so far this season.

“I’m really enjoying it, it’s a great team and a great bunch of guys on our team who love the team camaraderie aspect of the game,” said Burkhead.  “It’s a lot tougher to do that in the NFL, just because of the business aspect.”

Burkhead also follows his alma mater, and calls Nebraska’s firing of his coach, Bo Pelini, very tough.

“Bo was a huge reason that I went to the University of Nebraska,” said Burkhead.  I just loved everything about him.  I loved the character he was instilling in the program with the players.  How he taught me not only things on the football field but off the field as well.  Very disappointing and sad to see them make that move, that switch.  Even though I may not have agreed with it, I’m still always going to support the Huskers no matter what.”

Burkhead adds that he met Coach Mike Riley in the spring and that he seemed like a great guy.  Fitting, coming from a guy I once heard described as ‘the most beloved Husker football player since Brook Berringer.’

To the Huskers fighting to the finish line of 2015, Burkhead says keep going forward and stay positive.

“Keep fighting, you never know what can happen toward the end of the year,” said Burkhead.  “Just know the former players have your backs and we look forward to Saturdays every weekend.”

DFXOGUDGGQTIBIV.20120202193843

And to all Nebraska fans, from the Hoffmans watching from Atkinson, to the parents who named their baby boys ‘Rex’ (we met two of them!), to the journalists who remember a star athlete and all-around nice guy, Burkhead says he’s honored you DO remember.

“Definitely an honor, a privilege,” said Burkhead.  “That’s Husker football for you.  The support there is unbelievable.”

CSftR7rUkAAhUWg

(Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

Click here to read more about #22 Rex Burkhead via his bio with Nebraska Athletics!

Click here to learn more about the Team Jack Foundation on their website; Click here to connect with Team Jack on Facebook

***

PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 1982, Dave Rimington!
NEXT WEEK.. Class of 1994, Dr. Rob Zatechka!

Put Me In, Coach!

I love softball.

I used to be alright.. even good as a kid.  I remember once getting an in-the-park homerun when my friends came to watch my summer team in high school.  Not a lot of power, but I was quick.

Two babies and xxx pounds later.. I am slow.  No, really, you can hear Chariots of Fire playing in the background as I hustle to first.  And since I still don’t have a lot of power, I also earned the nickname 1-3, courtesy of my friend and current ESPNU superstar, Matt Schick.  STILL, I love softball.  So I was pretty geeked up when I was asked to take play in this summer’s Celebrity All-Star Softball Game as part of the 2015 AAA-All Star game at Werner Park.

11745597_896300047075145_5700511024558861208_n

I was pretty terrible.  In fact, I was the only girl of the four of us who did NOT get a hit.

CLICK HERE to watch Matt Lothrop’s ‘highlights’ from the game.. at least Thor was good!

The MVP of the game was also one of the most popular targets for autographs after..

CJvwvJaVAAAvevn

Joe Ganz not only PUMMELED the first home run of the game, he casually mentioned that he actually planned to be a baseball player rather than a college football quarterback.

What?!?!

JGAJXNLBCVQAWLA.20061012205816

Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

CLICK HERE TO WATCH’S KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY ON #12 JOE GANZ!

THIS is the Joe Ganz most people know and remember, the guy who started as a backup behind quarterbacks Zac Taylor and Sam Keller, then took Nebraska on an offensive thrill ride when he became the go-to QB in the second half of the 2007 season.  All of this might never have been in a different place and time.. picture a scene from the Sandlot, in south side Chicago, with a shorter Joe “The Jet” Ganz playing baseball with his buddies.  It may not be so far-fetched; sources tell me Ganz’s Palos Heights Pony League team once played Papillion’s 10-year olds in a bid for nationals.

“I love baseball, it was my first love, growing up I played it and it’s all I wanted to do,” Ganz told me recently.   “Before Bill Callahan got here, I was going to play baseball for the University of Illinois-Chicago.”

That all changed the summer before Ganz was supposed to leave for college, when his parents received a phone call while Ganz and his siblings were on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

“They called me upstairs after I got done packing and they told me Nebraska offered me to play football,” said Ganz.  “The first memory I have [of Nebraska] is Tommie Frazier’s run against Florida.  I was hooked, both my Dad and I.  It was really a dream come true.”

WCLDRFCLWCCQSVE.20071103191449

Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Fast forward to the Texas game in 2007.  Sam Keller hurt his shoulder late in the game.  Joe Ganz took the field and brought Nebraska within 3 points of clinching the game, finishing a touchdown drive and converting a 2-point play.

Two games later was one of Ganz’s favorite moments.  He started the game, and his parents and friends got to hear his name announced and see him on the big screens at Memorial Stadium.  He also TROUNCED one of college football’s biggest prospects, Josh Freeman. The Huskers beat Kansas State that year 73-31.  Ganz shattered several Nebraska records that day including 7 touchdown passes, and 528 yards of total offense.

“It was just something about beating Josh Freeman that really got me going,” said Ganz, who beat Freeman TWICE in his collegiate career.  It was a highlight for a team that saw plenty low points and ultimately, ended with Coach Bill Callahan losing his job in November.

Ganz was the starting quarterback when Coach Bo Pelini took control in 2008, not only learning a new offense but embracing it.  Ganz was named one of four team captains, the Husker’s MVP of the 2008 season and the MVP of the 2009 Gator Bowl.  When he threw a football for the last time as a Nebraska athlete, he held 23 Nebraska school records.

RIRGFLUMPYNQOBP.20111103160907

“You wish you were still out there playing the game,” said Ganz.  “For me, I only got 16 games to play, so I always wanted to play more, play more.”

And clearly, Coach Pelini still wanted Ganz around, hiring him as an assistant.  Ganz learned an entirely new element of the game under his mentors and coaches, Bo Pelini and Tim Beck.

awb_2013_10_05_Illinois-at-Nebraska_0743-e13892101708351

“I had some great teachers that really taught me how to teach kids the game of football, not just to go out there and coach,” said Ganz, who says he formed an extra-special bond with one player in particular.

tommy

“Probably the kid throwing the ball a little bit.  I’m always pulling for #4,” said Ganz.  “Tommy [Armstrong] and I are so close, to this day.  We talk all the time, I text him, wish him the best of luck.  He’s got all the talent in the world.  Now, it’s just–can he understand the different steps of this West Coast Offense Coach Riley and Coach Langsdorf are going to bring in?”

And Joe Ganz will be watching how that plays out much like every other Husker fan.  He was released from the Nebraska coaching staff along along with Pelini and his other assistants last fall.  Ganz talked quite a bit in our interview how difficult that is for coaches after recruiting these players, spending countless hours with them and their families, and building incomparable relationships with them in an environment few get to experience.. you just MISS that.  Ganz hopes he’ll get another opportunity to coach at the college level in the near future.

For now, Ganz is putting his Communications degree to use, offering radio analysis every week through the fall on The Bottom Line with Mike’l Severe.  The Chicago kid calls Nebraska home for now, often flying under the radar among Nebraska fans who don’t always recognize him.

“I don’t have the Kenny Bell afro, I’m not the polarizing figure,” said Ganz.  “Everyone always says ‘you looked a lot bigger on TV’, everyone thinks I’m really small.  I’m like, I used to be bigger, but after you’re done playing, you don’t want to go up!”

To those who do know and remember Joe Ganz, #12 hopes to show his appreciation.

“It’s very flattering,” said Ganz.  “I always take time to try and talk to everyone I can because you never know when that’s going to run out and people are going to forget your name.”

From what I saw this summer, the line of dozens upon dozens of fans standing in blistering heat for an autograph and a handshake, no one is forgetting Joe Ganz anytime soon.  It’s just one of those things about Nebraska Football; these aren’t just players, they ARE statewide celebrities.. often during their time on the field and sometime years after when they trade that football jersey for a Sunday softball replica.

“Soak everything up.  Relish everything,” Ganz says to today’s players.  “When you’re done, you miss going to work every day, going to practice the game that you love.  Relish it.  Embrace everything Nebraska’s about.”

DJVOJZRKICQTNEG.20061012205818

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the Photo!

For more on #12 Joe Ganz, CLICK HERE to read his official bio from Nebraska Athletics.

**

WEEK ONE… CLASS OF 2010 ALEX HENERY!

WEEK THREE… CLASS OF 1971 JEFF KINNEY!

**

For a full list of KETV’s Throwback Thursday Huskers, click on the Throwback Thursday index at the top of the page!

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?!?!

FAKLJCRNFIXUGDF.20101026180330

#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.

alex_henery_2008_11_28

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.

11944956_10102084706233963_2136067800_n 11948206_10102084706258913_1340345698_n

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.

**

NEXT WEEK… CLASS OF 2008 JOE GANZ!

The (Shocking) Season Finale

All season during this Husker Throwback series, I’ve tried to post these blogs the day or two before the story has aired on KETV.  There have been a few exceptions.. Monte Anthony had an ‘encore’ post thanks to Pearl Jam in Lincoln, and in our final week, legendary coach Milt Tenopir took a backseat to a terrible head cold.  (No one puts Coach in the corner!)  I fully intended to sit down at my desk Sunday and give Coach Tenopir the write-up his storied career at Nebraska deserved.

Then we all got the email that changed everything.

‘University of Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst has dismissed Head Football Coach Bo Pelini effective immediately.’

I’ve been sitting here,  contemplating what to type next.  The truth is, as I’ve written before, I don’t KNOW sports.  There are journalists, commentators and analysts who make a living sharing the whys, the what ifs and the could bes.  They research and study programs and team histories; they KNOW the game.  One of the things Pelini told me himself in our interview last April was that there were sure a lot of people outside of his program who THOUGHT they knew everything.

me and bo

Yes, that’s part of the job, and Pelini was the first to say that in our interview.  Yes, he got paid a good salary, a GREAT salary, for that job.  Still, quite an unenviable position to have tens of thousands of people criticize your EVERY. MOVE.

I KNOW I don’t know.  Does ANYONE have all the answers for the success of Husker football?

COACH TENOPIR

From 1974 to 2003, Offensive Line Coach Milt Tenopir sure knew a lot.

“Here’s an example, the offensive line had zero, ZERO penalties,” said Tenopir of his 1995 team.

ZERO PENALTIES. ALL SEASON.

Milt Tenopir was the man behind that original Pipeline of sheer, impenetrable muscle.  The coach who was often off camera, calling plays upstairs, looking down at the field inside Memorial Stadium.  The role model who turned out hundreds of young men he says became beloved friends.

pipeline

The 1994 Pipeline, an unbreakable Husker offensive line.  4 of the 5 starters that year went on to play pro ball.  (Photo Courtesy Brenden Stai Golf Classic)

“I never demanded respect.  I felt you had to earn respect whether you were a coach or whomever,” Tenopir told me last week.  “If the kids believe in you and you believe in them, you’re going to develop a friendship.  And we had a friendship, you know.  There’s not many that would come through that door today that we wouldn’t hug, maybe shed a tear, because there was just a bond set up there.”

Tenopir was a players’ coach (“I beat ’em up if they didn’t say that,” he joked), but it wasn’t because he went easy on them.  Tenopir says today’s players run 50-70 snaps, MAX, at practice.  His players ran 110.  ALL of his players, starting or not.  THAT, he says, is how his Huskers dominated their opponents on the field.

“The reason for that success was we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot.  We didn’t have a bunch of jumps offsides, we didn’t have a bunch of chop blocks.  We didn’t have a lot of holding stuff,” said Tenopir.  “We beat everybody we should’ve beaten and a lot of times we beat people maybe we shouldn’t have beaten.  We never lost a game that we were supposed to win.”

There were losses, of course, but not many.  Tenopir credits his longtime head coach, Tom Osborne, who suffered two of those losses back to back at the start of his head coaching career.

“Coach Osborne was in our locker room before you could even get your clothes off to shower, he was not a happy camper,” remembers Tenopir.  “He wanted change, and he got change.  We ended up winning nine that year.  The following game we played Colorado and we thumped ’em pretty good.”

That is one of the things Tenopir says bothers him about so many programs today; the inability to make adjustments, especially during a game.  He says in 95% of Coach Osborne’s games, he brought a team back after halftime that performed better than in the first two quarters.

“When you look back at coaching 25 years, 255 wins, that’s an average of ten games a year.  That says something,” said Tenopir.  “Being in Coach’s presence made you all better people.  He was just that type of a guy.”

milt 2

There are other things Tenopir would like to see done differently at Nebraska.  He’d like to see the Big Red get back to a run-first mentality.  He says his coaching strategies, practice and consistency were not perfect but were proven.

“If they have repetition and the ability to make it second nature to them, then they’re going to be better.  I see that as an area of change that needs to be done,” said Tenopir.  “You’ve got a red N on your hat and that means something.  It means you don’t ever give up.  It means you try to be a perfectionist in everything you do.”

That red N might as well be tattooed onto Tenopir’s heart; though the 74-year old’s coaching days are over, he is still living by that Husker motto to keep fighting.  Tenopir battled cancer and won, twice. (He is currently in remission, hoping he’ll be able to continue therapy at home in January.)  This latest bout with leukemia, diagnosed in May, and the treatments that followed, drained Tenopir of his strength.  When the 1994 National Championship team was honored during this season’s Nebraska vs Miami game, his fellow coaches pushed Tenopir onto the field in a wheelchair.  On his lap, he held the ’94 trophy.

tunnel walk

Photo Courtesy Huskers Illustrated

“It was heavy,” said Tenopir, smiling.  “It was a thrill to me to be with those kids and the fact so many of them showed up.  Rob Zatechka, Brenden Stai, Aaron Graham, Joel Wilks, Zach Wiegert, those were some pretty special kids.”

As for Tenopir’s favorite?

“Can’t tell you that, I coached so doggone many,” said Tenopir.  “There’s not a kid I coached that I didn’t fall in love with.”

And from all accounts, the feeling is mutual.  Even during our interview, Coach Tenopir stopped to wave back at people passing by, even hugging a woman working in the athletic department.  11 years out from his retirement from coaching and he’s still beloved in Husker Nation.

091507-USCNeb-MemorialStadium

Something has been verified for me time and time again putting together these Throwback Thursday stories.  To be a Husker is something very, very special, both to the players and to the fans.  It’s not just a game in Nebraska.  It’s tradition, it’s prominence, it’s a dynasty.  It’s hard work, it’s adrenaline, it’s victory.  It’s something we collectively look forward to and join together for.  It’s more than the games, yet it IS the games, the players, the coaches that make all of this happen.

Will we ever have another coach like Milt Tenopir, like Tom Osborne, like Bob Devaney?  Will Nebraska ever win another national title?  Will ANY program see another team become a legacy like the 70-71 Huskers, or the 90’s powerhouse Nebraska teams?

Less than a week before Coach Bo Pelini would be dismissed, Coach Tenopir told me every head coach will take the blame for what goes wrong with his team.  He added, you can’t put it all on one guy.  In my interview with Coach Pelini, he was honest, down-to-earth, and seemed grounded by the things that are truly important; his family, and helping young men develop as players and people.  KETV Sports Director Andy Kendeigh said it best tonight during our 10pm newscast: “He’s truly a good man.”  Coach, I wish you the best.

For all of you who have followed this new Throwback Thursday Husker series, THANK YOU–I’ve really enjoyed following up with these players and coaches and sharing their stories.  Ironically, as I close the door on this blog post and on the 2014 season, we are pursuing another developing story.  Tomorrow, Husker Nation will welcome in new Head Football coach Mike Riley.

A new era of Nebraska Football is about to begin.