Tag Archive | curt tomasevicz

Finding Our Purpose

Westside Superintendent Dr. Blane McCann delivered a BRILLIANT speech at our District’s commencement ceremony last weekend. His theme: purpose. In front of thousands of graduates, parents, family members and educators, he said in part..

Purpose is the little flame that keeps you going. Your challenge after today is to find that flame: your purpose. It is something that your parents can’t find for you; you have to look for it. It’s not always easy to find. Every, single one of you has a unique purpose to fulfill.

Every single one of us is here for a reason.

Think about that.

My friend Lisa recently told me something that I have thought about off and on ever since. Her husband is Brian Duensing, a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

Brian and Lisa

Brian was one of the best pitchers the University of Nebraska – Lincoln has ever produced. He’s an Olympian, representing the United States on the 2008 US Baseball team in Beijing. He was a starter for the Minnesota Twins for years, and now plays for the World Champions in Chicago. He and Lisa could do anything, enjoying his success and living a life few only dream of. Instead, these happily married parents of three devote every, waking hour to their passions: family and doing everything in their power to ensure happiness for other families.

As Brian’s fame grew, he and Lisa started receiving T-shirts in the mail, asking him to share support for pediatric cancer patients across his popular social media accounts. The Duensings embraced the challenge; every day of every September, Brian sports a new shirt and shares information about that child and their cause. He and Lisa started the Brian Duensing Foundation, a non-profit organization taking these fundraising efforts to an even higher level. Every game, as players wives sit in the stands, Lisa sits in the family lounge and works for hours on Foundation plans and ideas, like their now annual fundraiser bringing baseball’s biggest names to Omaha to raise money for pediatric cancer-related causes.

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The Brian Duensing Foundation Event in 2015 at Ralston Arena. I was honored to emcee the fundraiser and VIP Q&A session with World Series Champion Alex Gordon, Duensing, future Hall of Famer Joe Mauer and the MLB’s first ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte.

The Duensings have raised HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS for Nebraska based causes that help families battling cancer. That text I mentioned that Lisa sent me?

“These are the reasons God made Brian a baseball player. I know it.”

This year, Brian and Lisa Duensing will focus their purpose on a little boy named Sammy.

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At four years old, Sammy Nahorny was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a solid tumor that begins on immature nerve cells, and is very difficult to treat. Many cases of Neuroblastoma begin in the abdomen, and commonly affect the adrenal glands. Within days of his diagnosis, Sammy had surgery; doctors told his parents his cancer was Stage 4 and high risk. His mom, Erin and dad, Chris, immediately started researching options.. and found few. Their quest for hope was far-reaching and relentless, not just for Sammy, but for every other child facing this terrible disease. Their community in Columbus rallied, drawing the support of not only the Duensings, but of Miss Nebraska USA 2014 Amanda Soltero, Olympic Gold Medalist Curt Tomasevicz, music superstar Jason Derulo and more. They all united to become Sammy’s Superheroes… and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and counting for research, assistance and more. Just as importantly, they have become a voice, loud and clear, for all children and families regarding legislation, funding and awareness.

This superhero squad has grown yet again in recent months.

Miss Gering 2017 Alayna Wilson

“This is a great organization that started in my hometown!” Alayna told me recently. “Sammy’s Superheroes raises awareness to pediatric cancer and has helped many families who are affected by this. I’ve had many family members fight this hard battle and I’m happy that I am able to help this cause.”

Alayna Wilson is a recent graduate of Scotus Central Catholic, a cheerleader for both her school and her entire hometown of Columbus, Nebraska. A girl with a constant smile and self-described ‘bubbly and happy’ personality, she was looking for a way to make a bigger difference advocating for causes like Sammy’s Superheroes.

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She found it when crowned Miss Gering 2017 in February.

“I love the stage and helping others,” Alayna said. “I wanted to spread my platform and this was the best way possible. I perfected my paperwork, platform and talent and drove to North Platte for one of the best weekends of my life.”

And a BUSY one at that, much like every other weekend in Alayna’s jam-packed senior year. She’s a competitive dancer, and a member of the All-American team by the National Cheer Association. The same day she met her fellow titleholders at Miss Nebraska Orientation, she immediately left to head back to Columbus for a major competition.

Still, to Alayna, this new title meant responsibility; to serve others. She’s volunteered for fundraisers in Columbus, Lincoln and Omaha, even using her Senior Skip Day to travel to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center to deliver care packages for the Miss Nebraska Serves project.

“My favorite part of this organization is the volunteer work!” said Alayna. “I love how each contestant has multiple hours of volunteer work under their belt. It’s so humbling to be among the amazing Miss Nebraska Class of 2017! There’s nothing that makes me happier than helping others.”

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And meeting others is part of what has made this journey so memorable for Alayna.

“It is an honor to be part of this organization. I love every minute of it,” said Alayna. “I have 15 new sisters, a sister queen and a little sister. This is a family. We are a family that supports and encourages each other. This gives me motivation when I need that extra push.”

I’m guessing the Nahorny’s would say the same thing about their network of superheroes. The strangers and neighbors, the celebrities and friends, the Duensings and Alayna Wilson… they are all part of a supportive and encouraging squad of strength who love Sammy like family.

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Sammy IS a superhero. This fall, just months after passing the 5th anniversary of his diagnosis, he’ll join us own personal Justice League to fight the evil that threatens so many innocent children just like him. We will find a way to beat cancer, allowing Sammy to find his purpose, just like his Superheroes Brian and Lisa Duensing have.

Alayna Wilson hopes to follow in their footsteps.

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“Each day is a new day for laughter and spreading happiness,” said Alayna. “I obviously hope to be Miss Nebraska whether that time is this year, or the next, or the next. I know that that is somewhere along my path. Overall, I hope to do my best and meet and influence people along the journey. My mission is to spread the name of Sammy’s Superheroes and spread love, happiness and encouragement as well.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Sammy’s Superheroes

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Brian Duensing Foundation

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Click here to follow Miss Gering 2017 Alayna Wilson on Facebook!

Alayna was crowned at Crowns & Gowns 2017, Nebraska’s largest annual prom/pageant showcase.  CLICK HERE for more details about the 2018 pageant and event! You can also email Director of the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, Heather Hayes, by emailing Heather.Hayes@charter.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County 2017 Kogan Murphy

NEXT.. Miss Heartland 2017 Allison Tietjen

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Highlighting History

This week, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts unveiled the state’s new license plate to be produced in 2017, just in time for Nebraska’s 150th Birthday!

CLICK HERE to see the new plate, and to read the background on the new license plate!

What an incredible time to be a Nebraskan.  We have produced gold medal winning Olympians, legendary performers, a President, an astronaut, and yes, a Miss America!  Every village, town, and city in our state has a unique and fascinating history.  For example, Chadron, Nebraska was founded in 1884 and originally named O’Linn, Nebraska.  When the railroad was built six miles away, the ENTIRE TOWN picked up and shifted to that branch site and renamed the community after Louis Chartran, a french fur trapper who built a trading post there in 1841.  To this day, Chadron’s Museum of the Fur Trade is the largest of its kind in the United States, attracting thousands of visitors. Now, the city has enlisted two young women to share their tradition statewide.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Brooklyn Stack is one of them; she’s Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen 2016.

“I am in Chadron High School’s Cardinal Singers, on dance team, Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America, in the musical and in speech,” Brooklyn told me recently.  “I strive to be the best person I can be and I commit to what I saw I will do.”

Brooklyn IS Chadron, involved in just about every facet of her community as a high school sophomore can be.  She and Miss Fur Trade Days 2016 Alex O’Connor will represent the far northwest corner of the state in the upcoming Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageants, along with Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali and Miss Chadron’s OT Emma Wilkinson.

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 “I have gained so many friendships and communication skills already from being in the pageant circuit,” said Brooklyn.  Those connections are one of the reasons Brooklyn decided to compete in a pageant in the first place.. she saw her older sister, Kiya, form the same bonds while competing for Miss Nebraska.

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“My role model is my sister, Kiya, because she is such a strong and amazing individual,” said Brooklyn.  “She is so kind and helps out whenever she can.  Kiya has competed before and the relationships she gained influenced me to participate.”

And just as her big sister chose a personal mission as a local titleholder, so has Brooklyn, focusing on stereotype awareness.

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“I was bullied severely when I was younger and I do not want other kids to go through what I went through,” said Brooklyn.  “My platform is U-B-U Stereotype Awareness.  This program has helped me highlight my skills and has helped me get involved in schools to talk about my platform.”

One of the ideas Brooklyn’s brought to classrooms is to join everyone in a circle, hold hands, and discuss what everyone has in common rather than leaving someone out because of their differences.  She posted on Facebook: “We are all connected by our interests, our religion, our race, our personalities. There is no reason to outcast someone because they are ‘different.’ We are all unique in our own ways. #U_BU#Classroomvisit.”

Brooklyn has also created a website, described as a medium to empower youth by stopping stereotypes.  (Click here to see it!)

It’s times like these Brooklyn isn’t just representing her hometown or the historic tradition emblazoned on her sash, she’s the face of our program and what it represents.  She hopes people remember the positive influences and active change all titleholders in the Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen organizations are aiming for.

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“I would tell people who criticize pageants that this program helps shape young women to be strong individuals who strive to be the best they can be,” said Brooklyn.  “If they don’t care much about the program, I can’t make them change their minds, but I can explain to them that this organization helps to create women who want to change the world with their footprint through the program.”

Brooklyn Stack wants to take her message of confidence and acceptance statewide. She wants to sing to a crowd and share one of the talents she embraces.  And she wants to be Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen to add her name to Chadron’s history books, and to the list of Nebraska greats.

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“I bring something different to the table,” said Brooklyn.  “I am a strong individual who is not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.  Even though I am new to the program, I want to make a change.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2016 Brooklyn Stack ON FACEBOOK.  You can also CLICK HERE to learn more about her platfrom U-B-U Stereotype Awareness.

For information on becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit the Miss Chadron/Northwest/Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.  You can also contact Director Amanda Vogel by phone at 308-665-5595 or by email at maoteenchadron@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner!

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

What’s In A Name?

RIMINGTON.

What do you think of when you hear that name?

The Rimington Trophy.  The Nebraska Football legend.  All-American student AND athlete.

How about the man who has raised more than $100 million dollars to fight cystic fibrosis and find a cure?

100-MILLION DOLLARS.  Scratch that.. Nebraska Athletics journalist (and legend in his own right) Randy York puts that fundraising total closer to 105-MILLION.  Randy’s recent profile of Dave Rimington, inducted as the first football player to be part of the inaugural 2015 class of the University of Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame, is nothing short of jaw-dropping.  It’s a reminder of how one person, any of us really, can CHANGE THE WORLD.

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#50 Dave Rimington, Center, 1979-1982 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

Rimington is a local guy, an Omaha South High graduate, who made the college football history books in his time at Nebraska.  He is the only player to win the Outland Trophy in consecutive years and in 1982, he also won the Lombardi Award.  That dedication to excellence continued in the classroom; Rimington was a two-time first team academic All-American, an NCAA Top 5 student athlete and a College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Yet Rimington was still humbled to be selected as the first football inductee for the Huskers’ new Athletics Hall of Fame.

“It’s awesome,” Rimington told KETV’s Andrew Ozaki.  “For all of the fantastic athletes that have been here, from the football team and every sports team, to be in the inaugural class is quite an honor.”

Click here to watch KETV’s Husker Throwback Thursday feature on #50 Dave Rimington!

When Rimington returned to Memorial Stadium to be honored for his induction, his status in Nebraska was clear.. fans surrounded him on the sidelines to shake his hand, snap a photo, and for a few moments, talk to a Husker legend.

“I remember all the players.  I remember the struggles, the good times and the bad times together,” said Rimington, who also told Ozaki about his favorite moment at Nebraska.  “I think the first time we beat Oklahoma my freshman year.  I actually wasn’t playing, but it’s still my favorite moment because it was the first time Coach Osborne beat Oklahoma.  It was a really big moment.”

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Photo courtesy huskermax.com

Rimington had his share of big moments, including seeing his own jersey be retired at Nebraska his senior year, making history winning the Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year as a lineman, and being chosen in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft.  He played in the pros for seven years before accepting a new job.

“A good friend of mine is Boomer Esiason,” said Rimington.  “He has a son with cystic fibrosis and he’s got a foundation.  I’ve been running his foundation in New York City for the last 22 years, so I’ve been pretty busy with that.”

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PRETTY BUSY?!?! Rimington told York about the Boomer Esiason Foundation’s most recent accomplishment, donating $10 million dollars to help develop a drug that was approved and appears to have provided a cystic fibrosis CURE for 4-percent of those affected by the disease.

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Allow me to sidetrack for a moment.. in April of 2013 I profiled an Omaha family, including two sisters who battle cystic fibrosis daily.  I will NEVER forget watching Alexa, then 7, and Presley, then 17-months, stopping their game of cards to strap on corded life jacket-like devices which literally SHOOK the mucus from their lungs and digestive tracts.  Alexa told me about how much she coughs.  Their parents told me about their fears, seeing the side effects of this disease take a toll on their girls, and reading stats about treatments and life expectancy.  CLICK HERE TO SEE THE HALL’S STORY.

It is wonderful to advocate for a cause.  It is inspiring to host events and give of your time and energy to help others.  But Dave Rimington and BEF may be on the CUSP OF A CURE for people, for CHILDREN just like Alexa and Presley Hall.  That is absolutely incredible.

Kind of makes football seem like an insignificant afterthought.. but in case you’re curious, Rimington backs his Huskers, losing season or not.

“We’ve just got to have some patience,” said Rimington.  “We’ve got a new staff in place.  We’ve just go to give them time to produce.”

To wrap up our interview, Andrew asked for advice for today’s Huskers.  When you read what Dave Rimington said, I hope you take it to heart as much as I did, football player or not.

‘Just work hard,” said Rimington.  “Every day, you’ve just got to try to get better.”

That’s what I’ll think of now when I hear RIMINGTON.  To work hard, and every day, try to be better.  Two little girls in Omaha may not know much about football or Outland Trophies, but someday to them, RIMINGTON may also mean a long, healthy life.

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Click here to read more about #50 Dave Rimington via his biography with Nebraska Athletics.

Click here to ready Randy York’s recent profile of Rimington: “Why Dave Rimington Was The Inaugural HOF Choice”

Click here to visit the Boomer Esiason Foundation website; click here to visit the BEF Facebook page.

The 2015 Rimington Trophy presentation, honoring the nation’s top collegiate center, will take place at Lincoln’s Rococo Theater on January 16th.  Click here for more information.

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PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 2003, Curt Tomasevicz!

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 2012, Rex Burkhead!

Going For Gold

Every week, as I write and visualize my next Throwback Thursday Husker feature, I inevitably bother three people EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Photojournalist Tyler White… because he’s not busy enough shooting and piecing together daily news stories, or shooting Nebraska football games on the sidelines every weekend.. he’s also a GENIUS when it comes to editing these Throwback stories.  He KNOWS the game; he KNOWS Nebraska Football; he KNOWS where every, single shot is in our archives.  He now RUNS from me when I start walking his way on Wednesday or Thursday.. but I will CHASE him because he’s just that darn good.

Producer/Editor/Photographer Josh Gear… because, simply put, THE GUY IS A GENIUS.  If you have a technical question about ANYTHING, from YouTube conversions to graphics to format, Josh is THE MAN to help you.  And he does it with a smile and positive attitude 24/7… even though he may be cursing on the inside because I bother him so much.

Sports Anchor/Reporter Matt Lothrop… because he is A VAULT of Nebraska football information.  A VAULT.  The dude knows every stat, every inside story, every little-known tidbit of info about the program.  He can also find EVERYTHING I need when it comes to highlights and archive video.  Yesterday, I asked for two clips from games in 2003 and 2001.. Matt brought them to my desk within 10 minutes.  Folks, we just moved buildings–the fact he even knew where these tapes were is INSANE to me!

When Matt came over to my desk, knowing I needed the material for a Throwback story, he asked who I was featuring.

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#35 Curt Tomasevicz, Fullback/Linebacker, 1999-2003 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

When I told him it was Curt Tomasevicz, Matt said, “I really hope that guy never gets into broadcasting.  He’s good at everything he does!”

PROOF: 3-time Olympic Bobsledder, winning gold for the USA in 2010.  Holds a Master’s in Engineering and is working on his PhD WHILE teaching students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Plays guitar with his own band, and was even invited up on stage to play with legendary front man Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam.

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Seriously?!?

Click here to watch KETV’s Throwback Thursday feature on #35 Curt Tomasevicz!

I first heard about Curt YEARS ago through one of my friends, Mike Tomasevicz.  Every time I’d see him, he’d tell me about his cousin, Curt, and the incredible things he was doing with the US National Bobsled team.. that they were winning events left and right and might make it to the Olympics.  In 2006, THEY DID, representing America at the Turin games.

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Maybe it’s like eating one Lays potato chip.. you can’t just have ONE, you want MORE.

Tomasevicz and Team Night Train continued to compete, winning the World Championship in 4-man bobsled in 2009.  Together, they traveled north to Vancouver to vie for Olympic Gold.

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(Photo courtesy http://www.tomaseviczbobsled.com/)

February of 2010, Tomasevicz and the USA 4-man team ended a 62-year gold medal drought, winning Olympic Gold in the Vancouver Games.  They’d return to the Olympics four years later, winning Bronze at the 2014 games in Sochi.  By the time Tomasevicz retired from bobsledding in 2014, he’d earned a total of 11 world medals, including 9 World Championships in addition to his Olympic hardware.  (And in case you are wondering, that gold medal IS HEAVY.. Tomasevicz says, weighing about 19 ounces!)

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Click here to watch KETV’s story from Dec 2013: Small Town Shows Huge Support For Olympian

Click here to watch KETV’s story from Jan 2014: Curt Tomasevicz Heads to Olympic Games in Sochi

Click here to watch KETV’s story from Feb 2014: Olympian Returns To Nebraska With Bronze Medal

An incredible feat, no doubt.  What is also impressive to me is the way ‘Nebraska’s Olympian’ has handled his success… humble, gracious and down-to-earth.  From the get-go, as KETV followed Tomasevicz’s success, he has responded to every text, every phone call, every email.  He’s never ‘too busy’, or ‘too big’ for his home state.  He’s a Shelby, Nebraska native who has never forgotten his roots, even if a few Husker fans may have forgotten that before he hit the bobsled track, he was a walk-on at Nebraska hitting the field at Memorial Stadium.

“I think the walk-ons that go through this program have an enhanced sense of pride when they come here,” Tomasevicz recently told KETV’s Andrew Ozaki.  “A lot come from central Nebraska, small farm town communities, and they grew up watching this team.”

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Tomasevicz started at fullback, then moved to linebacker his junior year, playing in five games.  He had a huge moment his senior year against Colorado in the opening drive of the game.

“That was definitely a highlight because when I hit Jeremy Bloom, at the time we were both football players, later on we were both Olympians,” said Tomasevicz.  “He’s a downhill skier I met, and reminded him of that moment at the 2006 Opening Ceremonies.  He went on to play in the NFL, so he had the last laugh.”

Tomasevicz’s favorite moment came two years earlier before Nebraska’s game even began.  The Huskers’ game with Rice was moved to a week night, just days after the attacks on America on September 11, 2001.

“I think we were one of the first sporting events that took place, they moved our game up,” said Tomasevicz.  “When we played at Memorial Stadium, we didn’t do the Tunnel Walk.  We silently walked out onto the field and we had members of the armed services, as well as firefighters and police officers, they did our Tunnel Walk.  That was a pretty incredible moment, being a part of that.  I think that moment, at that time, made me realize there are things that are a lot more important than sports.”

Click here to see the 9/11 Tribute Tunnel Walk via HuskersNSide Production on YouTube.

Off the field, Tomasevicz earned Bachelors & Masters degrees in Engineering, making the Academic Honor roll all eight semesters of his college career.  He was also named to he 2003 Brook Berringer Citizenship Team for his work in the community, especially with kids.  Those volunteer efforts continued long after his time at Nebraska ended.

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Photo courtesy Sammy’s Superheroes & Amanda Polacek

Click here to read KETV’s story from Feb 2014: Olympian Posts Message For Little Boy With Cancer

Tomasevicz has been a longtime supporter of causes like Sammy’s Superheroes, raising money for children with cancer and their families.  He not only sends them personal messages, he takes part in their events and fundraisers.  He also speaks to schools across the state, sharing his story and advice with any class that invites him.  (Click here to learn more through his website.)

Recently, Tomasevicz also took on a new role: professor.  He’s teaching several engineering courses at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while working on a PhD in biological systems engineering.  In the classroom, Tomasevicz doesn’t want to be known as the Olympian or the former Husker; he just wants his students to see him as their instructor.

“I just hope they think I have enough experience that I know what I’m talking about,” said Tomasevicz, who used much of his engineering education, including aerodynamics and biomechanics, during his bobsledding career.  “A lot of [what I do] is introducing engineering topics and concepts and kind of disguising it in an exciting way through sports.  If you can find a way to use real life, real world situations, it usually gets them a little more excited.”

As for today’s Huskers, there’s no scientific formula to fix the problems that have plagued Nebraska this season. (“That’s a sophomore level class, I’m sure,” joked Tomasevicz.)  Still, this Husker, turned Olympian, turned professor, reflects back once again the experiences, often stemming from sports, that have helped shaped him.

“We had some highs and lows, too.  You just have to wait out those lows,” said Tomasevicz.  “Being patient is a big thing.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Time will tell.  It puts into perspective Nebraska is not that guaranteed victory they used to be.  Nebraska will have to work hard for those wins.  Eventually they will come.”

Tomasevicz, a season ticket holder and self-described huge Husker fan, will keep on cheering for his team either from the sidelines or from wherever he is performing Saturdays.

Yes, performing.. he’s ALSO a guitar player, and his band, Blinker Fluid, plays at weddings and events across the state.

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Click here to watch Blinker Fluid playing at a recent event in Lincoln!

From science, to sports, to music, to LIFE.. here’s a guy who does what makes him happy, works hard at every challenge before him, and has found remarkable success on several fronts.  He’s not just an All-American guy, he’s All-Nebraskan, and proud of it.

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I think Matt Lothrop was on to something… Curt, next time I bump into you at a Pearl Jam concert, I may try to convince you to join our team here at KETV.  You’d fit right in with Tyler, Josh and Matt.  Husker, Olympian, Teacher, Throwback Thursday expert?  I’m no scientist, but the idea is clearly GOLD.

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Click here to read more about #35 Curt Tomasevicz via his bio with Nebraska Athletics!

Click here for more information about Curt Tomasevicz on his official website, on his official Facebook page, and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 1990, Lt. Gregg Barrios!

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 1982, Dave Rimington!

Zach Potter and the Sea of Red

I’m going to let you in on a little secret..

the four main anchors at KETV are Harry Potter nerds.

Ok.. I’m probably the only NERD of the group.  But both Bill and Andy know the stories after years of reading with their children, Rob is making his way through the JK Rowling stories right now.. and I’ve read them more times than I can count.  I LOVE escaping into Rowling’s incredible world of magic, mayhem and muggles.  Rowling lays out a scenario in the first book, symbolizing so much of what readers see in their hero throughout the series: Harry, the youngest seeker in a century, snags the coveted Golden Snitch in the opening Quidditch match of the season, winning the game for his team.

#NerdAlert.

Stick with me, folks! I’m heading somewhere with this!! Meet Nebraska’s Potter, who also made quite the name for himself as a young man on the field at Memorial Stadium.

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#98 Zach Potter, Defensive End 2005-2008 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

“Growing up in Nebraska, it helps you understand it, but at the same time, until you actually experience it, you walk out on that field and see 90,000 people every Saturday; it’s pretty special,” Potter recently told KETV photojournalist Tyler White.  “The further you get from it, the further you are from playing, it’s that much more special to look back on those memories.”

Potter’s football memories have local roots; he is a Hall of Fame Creighton Prep graduate (inducted in 2014), where he where he helped the Junior Jays win a state football title, and vie for a state basketball title.  The Lincoln Journal Star named Potter the co-Boys High School Athlete of the Year, and B’Nai B’rith’s Bert Rend Award as the state’s top male athlete.

Still, even the best of high school players don’t often make a name for themselves as true freshman in division one sports. Potter did.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

2005, Zach Potter played in all 12 games, arguably saving two of those games for the Huskers.  Against Pittsburgh, Potter blocked an attempted filed goal and secured Nebraska’s 7-6 victory.  Less than two months later, Potter blocked a Kansas State PAT, and Nebraska won 27-25.  Potter grabbed the Golden Snitch for the Huskers, twice, in his first season on the field.

“My favorite playing memory,” said Potter.  “Pretty fun to do, pretty exciting, big moments of the game.”

CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s Throwback Thursday feature on #98 Zach Potter!  http://m.ketv.com/huskers/tbt-zach-potter/36144822

It was the start of an exciting four years for Potter, who also volunteered his time at local schools and facilities focused on kids, and excelled in the classroom. Potter was an Academic All-American and on the Honor Roll all four years.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

After graduation, he did what many athletes dream of, joining the National Football League in 2009.

“I enjoyed a nice 6-year career in the NFL, playing tight end for the Jets, the Jaguars, the Rams and the Texans,” said Potter.

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Photo courtesy zimbio.com

And now, Potter has come full circle returning to where it all started, working as an Audio/Visual Integrator with CCS Presentation Systems in Omaha, Nebraska.  Big Red Recipes recently reached out to Potter, asking him to contribute a favorite recipe for their cookbook collection from former Huskers.  Each player that takes part gets to choose which charity will benefit.  Just as he did in college, Potter once again thought of children he could help.

“My Dad’s been involved a lot [with the Ronald McDonald House], so I’ve taken part in some of the golf tournaments, kind of involved secondhand,” said Potter.  “This was really my first chance to get into it and do it myself.  It’s a great charity.  They give back to many families who have children who need help here and gives a spot for their families to come to, to relax after a long day at the hospital.”

Thursday, October 15th, Zach Potter revealed another talent; cooking.  Potter and a few assistants (including his beautiful wife and little girl!) made sweet potato casserole, meat balls, and bruschetta for the out-of-town families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, while their children receive medical treatment here in Omaha.

“Hopefully the guests here will enjoy it, and hopefully we don’t mess it up too much!” joked Potter.  (Editor’s note: I didn’t get to try the feast.. but boy, it looked FANTASTIC.)  “Myself, being here in Omaha, I wanted to be part of this and give back to a great fan base that obviously supported me through four years down in Lincoln.”

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A quick history lesson.. not all of Potter’s years at Nebraska were ‘fun’.  As I heard from his quarterback, Joe Ganz, these were also the seasons that saw an outcry from Husker nation after some rough losses and the firing of Head Coach Bill Callahan.  Social media was also coming into play, allowing hundreds, if not thousands of fans, to connect directly with the players.

“I think the biggest thing now about social media is you get to see how crazy the fans are about Nebraska football,” said Potter.  “You’ve got X number of followers on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  You post one thing and people are just going nuts, asking questions, whether it’s good or bad.  Advice for the players would be to not pay attention to the media.  Put your head down, work hard.  The results are going to come if you work hard.”

Potter told us despite the team not being where anyone wants them to be right now, he think Coach Riley and his staff will do a great job.  He’s watching his former team, and hoping for the best.

You face hard times, you press on and you eventually come out of it.  You look back on an adventure in your life, and the good stands out, not the bad.

“My favorite memory is still always going to be the friendships I created with the guys down there,” said Potter.  “Obviously, we always wanted to win every, single game, but looking back now it’s those friendships you still have today you created back then.”

To end this, I’ll do what I do and tie it all together.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore tells Harry “it is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  Here’s a guy who had the physical makeup, had a gift for the game, and had opportunity.  Zach Potter worked hard on and off the field, delivered under pressure, and even today, is trying to give back to the community who helped shape him.  He’s also beginning a new phase of life as a daddy, welcoming his second child and first son the day our story aired on KETV.

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Who knows.. we could be looking at another legendary Potter.  Baby Beckett weighed in at 9 pounds, 9 ounces.  No sign of any lightning bolts on his forehead, but word is, his black shirt is already on standby.

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Photo courtesy zimbio.com

Click here to read Zach Potter’s full bio at Huskers.com!

Click here for more information on Big Red Recipes!

Click here for more information on Omaha’s Ronald McDonald House!

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LAST WEEK.. Class of 1990, Lt. Gregg Barrios!

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 2003, Curt Tomasevicz!

Special Feature, Miss Nebraska USA 2014

“Who is Amanda Soltero.. and how do I meet her??”

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is Amanda Soltero, Miss Nebraska USA 2014

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..and NOW you know why my friend asked to meet her.

Jaw. Dropping. GORGEOUS.  If ever there was a time for me to write a blog using only photos, this would be it.

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STUNNING: adj. To astonish; astound; amaze: Her beauty stunned the audience.

(Photos courtesy of Rachel Imdieke, Fadil Berisha and Georgina Vaughan)

Believe it or not, Amanda seems to be just as beautiful, if not more so, on the INSIDE.  The same weekend young women from across the state will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska, Amanda will be competing in Baton Rouge for the title of Miss USA.  Today in a special feature, get to know Miss Nebraska USA, and find out why she wants your support representing our state.

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First things first.. what’s the difference between Miss America and Miss USA?  I think my fellow KETV anchor and pageant-graduate
Alex Hoffman put it best in saying these two organizations are the most prestigious, well known and respected in the pageant world.  They are televised, have history on their side, and have thousands of participants nationwide.  While many of the same young women compete for both, they are two different systems.

The Miss America Organization is a not-for-profit organization; The Miss USA/Miss Universe organization is a joint venture partnership between NBC and Donald Trump.

Women who compete for Miss America must be 17-24 years old; women who compete for Miss USA must be between 17-27 years old.

Finally, Miss America contestants compete in swimsuit, evening gown, interview and talent; Miss USA contestants do not compete in talent.

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Miss USA Erin Brady and Miss America Nina Davuluri

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Enough with the facts and figures… meet Amanda!

at Miss Nebraska USA

“I am determined to use my year to make a difference in people’s lives, especially children with cancer,” Amanda told me in a recent interview.  “You get one year to be Miss Nebraska USA and even though I come from a small town (Columbus, Neb.), I know I can still make a big difference by using my title to do so!  I want to show my state that I can make them proud by representing them in the best way and by truly making the most of my time with the crown, not just for all the glitz and glam.”

Just as each of the Miss Nebraska contestants have a personal platform of service, Amanda is focusing her year on spreading awareness of childhood cancer.

“Pediatric cancer research and awareness is very near and dear to my heart,” said Amanda.  “6-year old Sammy Nahorny is a family friend of mine and when they started Sammy’s Superheroes, I knew I wanted to get involved.”

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Sammy was diagnosed at 4-years old with Neuroblastoma, cancer that commonly affects the abdomen and adrenal glands and is very difficult to treat.  Loved ones formed Sammy’s Superheroes to show their support and raise money for research; more than 10,000 people now support the cause, including Olympic Gold Medalist Curt Tomasevicz.  Check out Sammy’s Superheroes online or on Facebook to learn more!

“When you see directly the effects childhood cancer can have on someone you care about, it really hits you hard and makes you want to help in any way that you can,” said Amanda.  “I knew that if I won Miss Nebraska USA, I would be able to give a larger platform for Sammy’s Superheroes and really get the word out how desperately funds are needed for research to find a cure.”

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Amanda recruiting Miss Arkansas USA, Miss Kansas USA and Miss Oklahoma USA to become Sammy’s Superheroes!

Amanda has also offered her support and time to Team Jack, the organization raising money to fight pediatric brain cancer in honor of Jack Hoffman.  Jack and his dad, Andy, are good friends to KETV, sharing their story of Jack’s long battle with a brain tumor, his friendship with Nebraska football player Rex Burkhead, and the now legendary Spring Game touchdown run viewed more than 8.4 million times on YouTube.

I, too, have had the privilege of sharing Jack’s story, and the fight he represents.  Team Jack has now raised more than 1.1 million dollars for pediatric brain cancer research, and has the support of tens of thousands across the country.

Click here to watch my story following up with the Hoffmans in the middle of Jack’s fight, as two other families lost little boys to brain cancer

Click here to watch my story about the ‘Year of Jack’ following the touchdown that touched America.

Click here to learn more about Team Jack online and on Facebook

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Amanda and Jack at the first annual Team Jack Gala

“I know that the more people that hear and see where their money is going, the quicker we can find a cure!” said Amanda.

It is THIS, not the fancy photo shoots or glamorous trips around the country, that Amanda enjoys the most about being Miss Nebraska USA.

“The appearances I have gotten to do WITH Sammy have had the most impact on me and have been the most meaningful,” said Amanda.

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While many state titleholders take a year off from school and full time work to focus on service and appearances, Amanda has not; she remains a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and will graduate this weekend with a degree in Broadcasting.

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Amanda reporting at a Nebraska women’s soccer game for the B1G Network

But make no mistake; Amanda says she is ready to represent Nebraska at Miss USA.

“I want to make the people of my home state proud and go out knowing that I did everything I possibly could to prepare and leave no stone unturned,” said Amanda.  “I want to be a platform for the organizations that mean the most to me, and get others on board as well.  I want to represent myself, my family and my state in the best light possible.”

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Amanda and her family

Amanda will fly to Louisiana on May 25th, but she’s hoping to take Nebraska with her.  You can watch the Miss USA pageant live on NBC June 8th at 8/7 Central, hopefully cheering loud enough that Amanda will be able to hear you 1,000 miles away.

“My hopes for the pageant are to show the world what Nebraskans are made of and to let people know there is more to Nebraska than cornfields and flat land,” said Amanda.

And there’s more to Amanda than a pretty face.  This young woman is reshaping how children, families and Nebraskans think of ‘beauty queens’.  Beauty INSIDE and out.

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GO. BIG. RED.  Represent, Miss Nebraska USA!

Georgina Vaughan Photography

Connect with Miss Nebraska USA 2014 Amanda Soltero on

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

on the Miss Nebraska USA website

and on Amanda’s blog

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PREVIOUS POST..  Miss Alliance Staci Craighead

NEXT POST.. Miss Northwest, Alex O’Connor!