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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.

Brett Husker 2

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.

Brett-Lindstrom-Legislature

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.

campaigning with baby

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!

Captain America

If you’ve ever checked out my blog, THANK YOU, and you have likely noticed that I follow the Miss America organization and our local representatives.  When it came time to write this week’s Huskers Throwback Thursday blog post, I came EVER so close to calling it ‘Mr. America’.  I didn’t, because… it’s probably not very cool for any dude to be called Mr. America… I didn’t want this week’s former Husker to get teased.. because he’s still an athletic guy.. a fight could break out.. and so on, and so on.  (These are the kind of random scenarios that go through my head on a daily basis.  Don’t judge.)

Now, CAPTAIN AMERICA, on the otherhand, is a national hero.  So we’ll go with that.

Ladies and gentleman, NEBRASKA’S CAPTAIN AMERICA..

jay and brandi

..or as he’s known on the streets, Jay Foreman. (Pictured here with an awesome lady I’m sure would agree with me, Beth Pfeffer with Nebraska Medicine.  More from Beth to come.)

Foreman was a starter on two national championship teams at Nebraska.  He played in the NFL for eight years, team captain for three.  He earned his MBA from HARVARD, WHILE playing for the NFL.  Who does that?!?!?

And most impressive to many, he is now working towards something that offers little financial compensation for himself, but means the world to those battling a debilitating illness.  Foreman has founded the Foreman Foundation to make life better for those with diabetes, a disease Foreman himself does not even have.

The Foreman Foundation contacted me several weeks ago, hoping as part of our Huskers Throwback Thursday series we could touch base with Foreman and more so, share his non-profit’s mission and goal; to ultimately find a cure for diabetes.

foreman at nebraska

Foreman, #44,  heads to the locker room to celebrate Nebraska’s 1997 National Championship.  Photo courtesy of Josh Harvey & Scout.com.

To throwback to Foreman’s days at Nebraska is to remember Glory Days in Lincoln.  When the Huskers crushed the Tennessee Volunteers in the 1997 Orange Bowl, Foreman started in his second national championship game.

“You know, what’s funny is while we were doing it, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have,” Foreman told me recently.  “Probably, to be on the team that’s maybe the best of all time is something not a lot of people can say.  Only 22 people can say they started on the team, so I feel special just to say that.  That alone is good enough for my career.”

The following year, Foreman would be named a semi-finalist for the Dick Butkus Award, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in just 3 1/2 years with a BS degree in Business Administration.  While playing eight years in the NFL (including five consecutive seasons in which he logged more than 100 tackles,) Foreman ALSO earned his MBA at Harvard University.  AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY.  And as if that didn’t keep him busy enough, Foreman, as a professional football player, began to devote himself to public service.  While playing for the Houston Texans, Foreman created ‘Foreman Friends’ to assist abused and underprivileged kids in group homes.  He also reached out to families battling a disease he’d seen nearly all his life, diabetes.

“A lot of people in my family were affected, ARE affected, by diabetes and have actually lost their lives to it,” said Foreman.  He describes relatives who literally seem to wither away.  He says the effects impact their bodies, their moods and their energy levels.  One of Foreman’s loved ones affected by diabetes, his father, 5-time Pro-Bowler Chuck Foreman.

Chuck Foreman

Photo courtesy of FootballsFuture.com.

“He’s always been in somewhat good shape,” said Jay Foreman.  “For him to have the episode he had to where he had his big toe cut off, that hit me pretty hard.  It was something that hit home, and I knew I needed to do something.”

In 2013, back in Nebraska, Foreman DID do something, forming his own 501c3 non-profit organization devoted to the cause.

bowl a thon jay foreman

In February, the Foreman Foundation hosted its first big event, a Bowl-a-Thon to ‘Strike Out’ diabetes.

Jay and kids

The event raised $6,000.

Foreman and his foundation have since reached out to area businesses, applied for and won grants, and are planning the first Foreman Foundation Gala.  So far, they have raised an estimated $32,000 for groups like Nebraska Medicine’s Diabetes Center, the Heart Ministry Center in North Omaha and the People’s Health Center in Lincoln.

The donations make a huge difference to patients Beth Pfeffer sees everyday.  That’s Beth in the first picture in this post; she’s the Director of Diabetes Services with Nebraska Medicine (formerly the Nebraska Medical Center.)

“Diabetes is a very expensive disease,” Pfeffer told me.  “There are medications, testing strips, monitors, meters, pumps, all kinds of supplies.”

Pfeffer adds that many patients, just like Chuck Foreman, need many different doctors, as diabetes affects eyes and feet among other things.  All of this can be overwhelming for patients who may or may not have the ability to pay for supplies, care or education.  The Foreman Foundation helps cover that gap.

“Being a former Husker football player means a lot, especially to younger patients,” said Pfeffer.  “It’s a pay-it-forward type scenario to me.”

Paying forward KINDNESS.  A novel thought.

I asked Foreman WHY.  With all his success in football and business, why doesn’t he just take what he’s earned and live an easy life in a beach house in Malibu?

“Well first, I’m from Minnesota, so it would be a cabin on the lake,” Foreman joked.  “Life is short.  I want to have an impact and reach as many people as I can.”

Jay Foreman is certainly reaching people.  Through TV, when he flies back to Texas for analysis of both college and pro football.  Through radio, when he fills in on friend and former Nebraska teammate Damon Benning’s sports talk show on 1620 The Zone (and here’s hoping the Mr. America reference NEVER comes up on Sharp and Benning in the Morning!) And through his iconic 90’s Nebraska football teams that still make Husker Nation smile.

But perhaps, Jay Foreman’s legacy will not be all the tackles he recorded on the field, but the work he’s doing now tackling this horrible disease.

It’s a mission he hopes today’s Huskers continue, for whatever cause hits home for them.

“It does feel good for people to recognize you for your hard work, and that’s all you want as a football player,” said Foreman.  “I figured if I could use a little bit of my notoriety to help people, bring some knowledge and obviously raise funds to hopefully find a cure and get people educated, that’s the least I can do.”

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON #44 JAY FORMAN!

Click here to learn more about the Foreman Foundation on their website and on Facebook.

You can also email the Foreman Foundation at foreman.foundation@cox.net or call (402) 830-9269.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 1977, Monte Anthony!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday.. Class of 2013, CJ Zimmerer!

Throwback Thursday

I love Throwback Thursdays.  It’s a trend on social media that’s taken on a life of its own, a chance to look back and share a photo, a video, a memory from years past.

Kind of like this..

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September of 2006.  On the road with the KETV Sports Crew covering the Huskers in Los Angeles at the Coliseum.

All of my friends in this picture, photojournalists Mike Richard and Jim Healey, and legendary sportsman Jon Schuetz, have all since moved on to new adventures!  But I can still remember, eight years ago, Assistant News Director Vonn Jones coming up to me in the newsroom and asking ‘you want to go to LA and cover the USC game?’

YES. YES I DO.

Covering the Huskers has been one of my favorite parts of my job at KETV.  There’s just something magical about the minutes before the game starts, positive energy radiating from tens of thousands of fans, and literally feeling vibrations from the roar of Memorial Stadium after that first touchdown.

This year, as part of our award-winning Big Red Zone coverage with Sports Director Andy Kendeigh, Thor Tripp and our Husker experts Sean Callahan and Damon Benning, I get to share a series of stories we are dubbing ‘Throwback Thursday: The Husker Edition.”  Who are your favorite Nebraska players?  And where are they now?

I’m hoping to cover all the eras, the big names you know and remember.  Some, like Damon, have become well known off the football field years after hanging up their cleats. (Damon, for example, is currently a sidelines reporter for the Big 10 Network and a Sports Talk Radio host on 1620 The Zone with Gary Sharp.)  Others have moved on in less public ways, off Husker Nation’s radar but certainly not out of fans’ memories.  Kenny Walker, who made national headlines at Nebraska when he became one of only a handful of deaf players to play in the NFL, now coaches hard-of-hearing high school students in Colorado.  Lawrence Phillips, famous for his athletic ability at Nebraska and infamous for his criminal activity, is now serving a 31-year prison sentence for assault in California.  CJ Zimmerer, the brainchild behind the now iconic ‘Team Jack’ touchdown run that brought millions to tears, is a juvenile probation officer in Sarpy County.

We kick off Throwback Thursdays with a Husker Fan Favorite in recent years, 2005-2006 quarterback Zac Taylor.

Zac Taylor with Nebraska

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!

 When I first pitched this crazy Throwback Thursday idea to Andy, along with a list of potential former players to follow up with, Andy noted this about Zac Taylor: Tough (NFL Assistant).  Taylor is in the beginning of his third year coaching quarterbacks with the Miami Dolphins.  Still, Zac Taylor was the first former Husker to respond when I contacted him.

“I wish I would’ve been able to meet more people,” Taylor told me by phone from Miami.  “Just to travel out in the state and get more opportunities to affect more people.”

Click here for KETV’s Throwback Thursday piece with Zac Taylor!

Taylor only played two years at Nebraska, but in that short time, arguably made a huge impact on the team and the program.  During one of his favorite games, against Texas A&M in 2006, Taylor broke both the all-time career passing record and the single-season touchdown pass record. He would later be named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Nebraska won the Big 12 North that year, a highpoint of the Bill Callahan Era of Nebraska Football.  Taylor, who still holds several individual offensive records in passing at Nebraska, was the team leader.

His passion for the game never dwindled after college; Taylor moved to Texas and was hired as an assistant coach at Texas A&M.  He calls his move to the NFL a few years later ‘exciting’.

Zac coaching Dolphins

“I hadn’t played in the NFL, only been briefly associated with the team, really didn’t know what to expect,” said Taylor.  “What I’ve learned is this team and this organization is full of professionals who love football as much as I do, so it’s been a real pleasure working with the Dolphins.”

coaching Dolphins Aug 2013

Taylor says he still watches Nebraska football, whether it be from a hotel on the road with the Dolphins, or at home with his wife, Sarah, and their two boys. The University and the football team will always have special meaning for the couple; it’s where they met ten years ago.  Back then, Sarah Sherman was a grad assistant in media relations.  Taylor still remembers seeing his wife for the first time at his first practice at Nebraska.

“She would come to practice, after practice, and grab players for interviews,” said Taylor.

Sarah and Zac family picture 2

As for the Huskers, Taylor says Coach Pelini’s done a great job and that his players enjoy playing for him.

“We played them at Texas A&M a few years ago and it was one of the most disciplined, toughest defenses we faced,” said Taylor.

And for those players getting ready to take the field this season, Taylor has a message.

“Soak up every moment and embrace the fans,” said Taylor.  “It truly is a great thing to play for all of those people.”

Good luck this season, #13!

Click here to learn more about Zac Taylor, via Nebraska Athletics.

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Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. Class of 2007, Bo Ruud