Tag Archive | eric crouch

III

This is my 3rd season for Throwback Thursday.

Nebraska’s first game of 2016 is on September 3.

The first Husker to take a trip with me down memory lane this year.. a player known to many as simply RK3.

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#12 Ron Kellogg III, Class of 2013

The Rule of 3’s is certainly at play here, but it’s not the only factor contributing to my choice to kick off this years series.  Ron Kellogg III is also a proud Westside Warrior, an alum of the school district I now proudly represent as Director of Communications & Engagement.  These first few weeks in my new role have been an absolute pleasure; I am BLOWN AWAY by the level of devotion and innovation this District has for the thousands of young people who learn here everyday.  To share these stories on a daily basis is truly an honor.

For Kellogg, his time as a prized student athlete at Westside had a huge impact on his trajectory into Nebraska Football history, a journey that began several years before he started high school.

“I have a picture of myself on Halloween in a #12 Nebraska uniform, so I guess you could say it was fate I would be a part of the Husker program,” Kellogg told me recently.  “The main reason I went to Nebraska is all because of Eric Crouch.  He signed a picture I drew for him and he wrote me a message saying Go Big Red, shook my hand and took a picture.  I waited 2 hours and 30 minutes to get that 2-minute encounter.  Thanks, Eric! LOL.”

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At Westside, Kellogg was the star quarterback who led his team to state playoffs his senior year, passing for 12 touchdowns.  The Lincoln Journal Star gave him Class A All-State honors, and several colleges including Northwest Missouri State and North Dakota offered him scholarships.  Kellogg wanted to stay red.

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Kellogg, surrounded by his parents, signing his letter of intent to play football for Nebraska

“D1 schools did not recruit me heavily.  I was actually only offered a walk-on spot because I won a quarterback camp at Nebraska,” said Kellogg.  “When I was given my opportunity to play, I knew from that point on, I needed to show everyone #1: that walk-ons can play, #2: that every time I put on that helmet representing this great state I would be an example for those young men watching in the stands or at home that with heart, determination, and a pinch of humbleness you can compete with the best of them.”

And he did.  After waiting patiently for three seasons, Kellogg finally saw playing time in several games his junior year.  His senior year, 2013, everything changed when 4-year starter Taylor Martinez suffered a foot injury.  Kellogg completed 4-of-5 passes against Southern Miss.  He completed another 8-of-9 passes against SDSU.  Game after game he was consistent and strong.. but when Nebraska played Northwestern, he became legend.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Kellogg threw a 49-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to then redshirt freshman Jordan Westerkamp, the first game-winning Hail Mary TD in Nebraska history.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

“My favorite moments are talking with fans about that night,” said Kellogg.  “Apparently I am the reason A) they had to buy a new TV and B) I caused a couple to go the hospital due to heart attacks.”

Believe it or not, that game is not Kellogg’s standout memory when he looks back at his time at Nebraska.

“My favorite moment was the Penn State game,” said Kellogg.  “It started to snow.  It was picture perfect to be in that historic stadium, the fans in all-white, and then snow started to fall.  Plus we won in overtime.”

For years, Ron Kellogg had been the guy in the background while Husker nation focused its attention on other players.  Suddenly, he was THE guy, the big fish swimming in a Sea of Red.

“It was definitely an eye opening experience,” said Kellogg.  “No one prepares you to be in situations where everyone from the elderly to toddlers, know EVERYTHING about you, from knowing all about my family to what classes I was taking.  You have to be mentally prepared for that, and most importantly, you have to be careful.  Fame and power can swallow a sane person whole.  But, that fame part is something I will never get over, not because it’s cool to take pictures with people or talk about ‘what is was like to throw the hail mary’; it’s much more than that.  My senior year of playing Nebraska football was the best time of my life.  I was able to impact and reach people that I never thought I could prior.”

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Photo courtesy Stephen Rickerl for the Fremont Tribune

Kellogg won the Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award in 2012, was on the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team in 2012 and 2013, and the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team in 2014.

“There is nothing I love more than talking Husker football with people,” said Kellogg.  “Especially the kids.  If my words inspire them to be a Husker I know my job is done.”

Ironically, guiding young athletes IS now Kellogg’s job; he’s the Athletic Director at Dawes Middle School in Lincoln, currently in his second year.

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Photo courtesy Gwyneth Roberts for the Lincoln Journal Star

“I am a part of these students’ lives from athletics to academics and social life,” said Kellogg.  “It’s honestly the most interesting thing in the world seeing these young boys and girls grow up and mature.  The crazy part is sitting back at the end of a school year and being able to say to yourself and your team of staff that you were a part of helping these children go on to the next level.  I love every moment of it because I feel like I am making a difference one way or another.”

Kellogg will also be watching a few other students this fall… his Huskers, now led by an entirely different regime than he had during his days at Nebraska.  He offers his support for Coach Riley, and for wide receivers coach Keith Williams, recently arrested for DUI.

“I have faith he’ll straighten up and continue to be the dominant leader of the team,” said Kellogg.  “Look at what he does with his players and NFL players, and how he uses social media.  As a fan, you have to be excited about this.”

Kellogg is also excited to watch De’Mornay Pierson El, a guy he calls ‘explosive’, able to impact the game from special teams to offense.

“With that kind of weapon, not to mention the other five wideouts we have, and the mobility and absurd arm strength Tommy has, we can make some noise,” said Kellogg.

Speaking of noise.. Ron Kellogg isn’t ready to go quietly into the Nebraska night.  A proud ‘Westside Warrior for life!’ he wants to return to his alma mater someday to coach and teach, and maybe lead a new generation of nationally respected athletes.

“My dream job is to build a performance center,” said Kellogg.  “I want to be able to wake up everyday and say to myself, I am going to send this set amount of student athletes to compete in Division 1, D2 or D3 athletics.  I truly believe there are students athletes here [in Nebraska] that should be playing D1 sports and maybe they just need help or a little nudge in the right direction.”

It wasn’t so long ago, Ron Kellogg was that guy, the walk-on from Westside High School who became a Nebraska Football star.   In 2013, he was awarded the Tom Novak Award, described by Nebraska Athletics as “an honor which best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds.”

“I had extra drive to show kids throughout the state of Nebraska, that ‘hey! You can do this!’  You don’t need any stars next to your name to make an impact,” said Kellogg.  “I guess you can say I am living proof that if you put your mind to something, you can accomplish it.”

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Many thanks to Ron for the interview.. and for his incomparable softball skills helping Team Benning dominate the 2015 Celebrity Softball game!

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Doctor’s Orders

It’s human nature.  When something’s wrong, you instinctively want to fix it.

Nebraska Football is 2-4 for the first time since Eisenhower was President. (My thanks to hilarious columnist Brad Dickson for that bit of trivia..)  Saturday night, I was in the audience at the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant and my friend Grady nudged me, showed me the score and whispered ‘WHY CAN’T WE FINISH A GAME?!?!’

When we lost over the final play against BYU, it was heartbreaking.  When we lost in OT against Miami, it was bad dejavu.  When we lost in the final moments against Illinois, it was annoying.  HOW DID IT HAPPEN AGAIN against Wisconsin?

If I’m frustrated as a fan, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE how guys like Tommy Armstrong and Coach Riley feel.  Maybe that’s why at least one former player isn’t judging, isn’t making assumptions.. he’s just giving his full support.

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#4 Judd Davies, Nebraska Fullback 1999-2003

“A lot of things go into having a new staff, I’m definitely sympathetic to that,” Davies told KETV in a recent interview. “It’s easy to become frustrated and upset once you start having difficult games, but they’ve played extremely well, they’ve played close games, they’ve only lost by a number of points total between wins and losses.”

A glass half-full statement from a guy who’s been a longtime model of composure and maturity.  In the early 2000’s, Judd Davies was the hometown guy who delivered in Lincoln on and off the field.  He headed to Nebraska along with several other Millard North Mustangs (including Pat Ricketts and Eric Crouch), and took the Huskers to the 2001 national championship game.

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON #4 JUDD DAVIES!

As I wrote about last season (click here to read Brothers in Blue) I first met Davies through my longtime friend Jeff Nathan back when we were in college.  (Part of the same group, I should mention, so excited about Judd’s Rose Bowl touchdown they fell on an elderly woman seated in front of them in the stadium.)  I also had Davies in a speech class at UNL, where he presented an informative speech on how to run the option, and I found out that even at 245+ pounds of sheer muscle he was terrified of the movie Candyman. (Quoting Judd, “don’t even joke about that.”)

Back in those days, Judd Davies was a studious guy in the classroom, focused on his job as a student and his faith.  (Quick story, when KETV photojournalist Tyler White arrived for our interview, Davies still remembered him as a fellow member of Omaha’s Christ Community Church many years ago.)  Family and his close circle friends has also been priority for Davies, who married his longtime girlfriend, Tracy, the summer before his senior year at Nebraska.  It was a busy time for the Nebraska Team Captain, an Academic All-American who also earned the 2002 Brook Berringer Citizenship Award for the time he spent volunteering in his community and across the state.

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Davies taking part in a Special Olympics event, photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics.

12 years out, most of the stats, touchdowns and awards are a blur to Davies

“It’s really the relationships you remember as you get a little further out from it,” said Davies.  “You remember the coaches, the guys you played the same position with because you were with those guys every single day.”

And Davies remembers his awareness that someday, his football days would come to an end.  He was focused on his next step, medicine.

“I love it.  I always wanted to do something with surgery that I thought I would be able to treat conditions, to cure conditions,” said Davies.

After graduating from Nebraska, Davies studied at Vanderbilt before returning to Omaha to open his own private practice and work with Nebraska Medicine.  Dr. Judson Davies is now a respected urologist and surgeon across the Omaha area and beyond.

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“Sometimes I sit down, people will look at me, look at my name on my jacket, then they’ll look back up and me and say ‘I swear, I remember you from somewhere,” said Davies.  But he’s quick to say that football connection doesn’t give him any special insight into today’s team or coaches.  When we first talked several weeks ago, hopes for the season were high with a new program, unknown to most Nebraska fans. When we circled back to Davies just last week, his opinions about the team were the same, even with a losing record.

“It’s about the process.  Don’t worry about where they’re at now.  You want to see improvement and the season is still very early,” said Davies.  “There’s a lot of room for them to grow and improve and hopefully they will.”

And Davies is excited about the guy playing his old spot, Andy Janovich, another Nebraska native just like Davies (Janovich is from Gretna.)

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

“I think he’s doing a great job!” said Davies.  “If he would’ve played in a different era, in my era, he probably would’ve started ahead of me.  So I’m glad he wasn’t there when I was there or I might not have ever played!”

To players EVERYWHERE, Huskers, Mustangs and everyone else, this doctor has some solid advice.

“GO TO CLASS!” said Davies, looking right into the camera before laughing.  “But in all honesty, I’d say GO TO CLASS, GET A DEGREE.”

As for the 2015 Huskers, there may not be any universal fix.  Dr. Davies suggested treatment and prescription for success.. to learn from the experience itself.

“Those lessons you learn day in and day out, how to handle adversity, how to deal with poor performance and improvement and critical feedback, those are extremely valuable,” said Davies.  “You’re going to have lots of ups and downs in your career, business, personal and otherwise, but having the discipline to go through what they’ve gone through, you can’t duplicate that or replicate that anywhere else.”

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Click here to read more about #4 Judd Davies via his bio from Nebraska Athletics.

Click here to visit Dr. Judson Davies’ website to learn more about his work with The Urology Center, PC.

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Note from the author:

THANK YOU to Dr. Davies, his staff, and Nebraska Medicine (especially Jenny Nowatzke) for facilitating TWO interviews due to technical difficulties on our end. Your patience and time are MUCH appreciated!

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WEEK SIX.. CLASS OF 1991 OFC. CURTIS COTTON!

NEXT WEEK.. CLASS OF 1990 LT. GREGG BARRIOS!

Paging Dr. Husker

A few years ago, photojournalist Dave Hynek and I chronicled an AMAZING story about a father, donating a kidney to his young son.  We followed their journey from start to finish, including in the moments leading up to the transplant.  We interviewed a very brave Dad as his anesthesiologist inserted his IVs to prepare him for sedation.

You’d think I would’ve learned…

I don’t handle needles well.  Like, I pass out when I see one.  (Really.  It’s not embarrassing AT ALL.)

So here I am, in the surgery preparation area of the Nebraska Medical Center, getting more and more lightheaded, trying to conduct an interview.

Right at the moment I feared I was going to lose my breakfast or crash head first into the floor, I STOOD UP AND LEFT THE ROOM MID-INTERVIEW. Dave finished it for me.  Apparently, it was pretty obvious I was having ‘problems’.  Dave came out of the area laughing, and noted that the anesthesiologist had noticed, too.

‘You know who that was, right?’ Dave asked me.

DR. ROB ZATECHKA.  As in Husker legend turned doctor Rob Zatechka.

REALLY.  Not embarrassing AT ALL.

Clearly, I was not destined for a career in medicine, but a lot of Huskers have been.  ‘Dr. Rob’, Judd Davies, Sean Fisher… and now..

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Dr. Mike Stuntz, Nebraska Free Safety (photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics!)

#16 permanently sealed his place in Nebraska Football history as a freshman, taking part in one of the most memorable plays in recent years.  Nebraska versus Oklahoma in 2001, a key game in Nebraska’s journey to the national title game and Eric Crouch’s to the Heisman trophy.  Out of nowhere in the 4th quarter, Crouch tosses the ball to Thunder Collins, who tosses the ball to Stuntz.  Stuntz, just 18, delivers a rocket to Crouch downfield, who runs for a 63-yard touchdown.  Nebraska beats the #2 team in the country, 20-10.

“I can’t think of one [play] that meant more to our team that I contributed to. I can’t think of one that people talk about with me more often than that one,” Stuntz told me in a recent interview.  “We started practicing it early in the week.  I knew about it, even starting that Monday, I think.  We ran it throughout the week and it never really worked that well in practice.  During the game, they told me even in the first half they were think about running it.  Whey they finally called it, I was a little surprised, it was so late in the game and the game was so close.”

During what many might consider a nerve-rattling moment, Stuntz just ‘played the way he’d always played’.

“It’s almost one of those ‘ignorance is bliss’ things,” said Stuntz.  “I didn’t really realize just how much people cared about Nebraska football, college football in general, how big of a game it was.  You’re just kind of oblivious to all that when you’re 18 years old.”

You want to talk nerves, imagine this: HOLDING YOUR NEWBORN DAUGHTER FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Dads, do you remember that moment?  Mike Stuntz does; it just happened a month ago when he and wife Natalie welcomed their first child, Blakely Autumn.

“I knew what I was doing on that play, I played football all the time. I’d never been a dad before,” said Stuntz.  “So that was, definitely, without a question, more nerve wracking, the first time I saw Blakely.”

“He did use the football hold, though!” added Natalie with a smile.

Stuntz doesn’t just know football, he was pretty darn good at it.  An incredibly versatile player, Stuntz saw time at free safety, split end, and reserve quarterback at Nebraska.  Off the field, Stuntz also excelled in the classroom, a 9-time Academic Honor Roll member in the Big 12 and a 2005 First-Team Academic All-Big 12 student.  His college major also attracted attention; Stuntz earned his degree in professional golf management.

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This photo shows Stuntz golfing Lilongwe Golf Club in Malawi in 2011, his former career colliding with new.  See, Stuntz told me he loved golf, but didn’t know if he had passion to pursue it for 40+ years.  He discovered a new passion: medicine.

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Natalie Stuntz is also a doctor, a pediatrician with CHI Health.  Mike is in his first year of residency at the Nebraska Medical Center, specializing in ophthalmology.  The two didn’t meet in medical circles, but certainly have A LOT in common professionally now, including the summer they spent together in Africa working at a Pediatric AIDS hospital.

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They even found a Husker fan, thousands of miles away!

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THAT is pretty normal for Dr. Mike Stuntz, still recognized nine years after hanging up his cleats, 13 years after that legendary play.

“I’ll be in the hospital or in the clinic or something like that, and it’ll be a patient and they’ll just say ‘aren’t you that guy?'” said Stuntz.  “It happens much more often than I thought it would.  I always enjoy talking about it.”

ESPECIALLY with his biggest fan.  Miss Blakey is also his smallest.

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“I come downstairs, and whether she’s awake or not she comes with me.  We sit on the couch right here, we turn on the TV and we don’t move for the next 12 hours or so,” said Stuntz.  “I’m pretty sure she’s very engrossed in the games, and then afterwards we have a nice group discussion about it.  Her input is limited, but it’s growing.”

Stuntz’s message for today’s players is about the bigger world outside of football.  Even when he bumps into his former teammates Dr. Judd Davies or Dr. Kyle Ringenberg, they talk about research and their goals in the hospital now, not what they used to be on the field.

And when Dr. Stuntz, Dr. Stuntz, and Lil Stuntz are at home, the focus is on family.

“I want to be Mom and Dad,” said Natalie.  “When we’re at home, we leave work.  We’re Mom and Dad, Mike and Natalie, and I want that for her.”

And when that little beauty opens up her gorgeous blue eyes to gaze up at her mom and dad, it’s easy to see why.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON MIKE STUNTZ!

For more on #16 Mike Stuntz check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Brett Lindstrom!

Next week, A SPECIAL FINALE of the 2014 Throwback Thursday Series, Coach Milt Tenopir!

Representing Nebraska

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

What was your favorite moment as a Husker?

Do you have any advice for today’s players?

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

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

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

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Class of 2003, Quarterback Brett Lindstrom

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

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

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Lindstrom still laughs when called ‘Senator’.

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

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

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

Campaigning also brought Lindstrom back to his Husker roots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comeback Kid

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

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

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

SEVERAL gave me this guy’s name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he still has that love for the Huskers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brothers In Blue

I was very lucky a few years ago (OK, MANY years ago..) to become friends with a guy named Jeff Nathan.  I was the only student from Papio-La Vista at speech nationals, and for whatever reason, Jeff and his teammates from Millard North ‘adopted’ me and let me hang out with them.  As fate would have it, Jeff and I had a broadcasting class together in college at UNL and again, his close circle of friends took me in like they’d known me for years.  I remember one night in particular, Jeff asked if I wanted to come to their intramural softball game on campus; all the players were his friends from Millard North.  If you follow me on Twitter, you know I LOVE softball, and was totally game.  When I showed up, the guys were already on the field practicing, including THIS guy.

Ricketts Head Shot

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!

My first thought, “holy crap!! That’s Pat Ricketts!”

My second thought, “ummmm.. is he allowed to play intramural softball?”

Yes. Yes he was.  And their team DOMINATED everyone they played against.. mostly because of Jeff’s Cy Young quality pitching. (You’re welcome, Jeff.)

In the early 2000’s, Millard North was well-represented not only on the softball field, but at Memorial Stadium.  Eric Crouch, Mike McClaughlin, Judd Davies and Pat Ricketts.. they all played together in high school, were recruited together to come to Nebraska, and played together as Huskers.

“It was really neat to go from high school to college, to bring that work ethic,” Ricketts told me in a recent interview.  “We had a lot of pride, and still do have a lot of pride, as Millard graduates and especially as Mustang graduates.”

Check out KETV’s Throwback Thursday Husker feature on Pat Ricketts!

Each player made an impact during his time at Nebraska (Crouch going on to win the Heisman Trophy), and Ricketts was no exception.  The cornerback was a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week his junior year in 2002, and as a senior, was part of  the defense that set a school record, leading the nation with 32 interceptions.  One of those in 2003 was by Ricketts against rival Colorado.

Still, Ricketts’ favorite moment as a Husker came off the field.

“My sophomore year, I earned a Blackshirt,” said Ricketts.  (Blackshirts are an iconic symbol awarded to members of Nebraska’s defense for strong performance and leadership.)  “That was the first Blackshirt I was able to earn, it was right after practice.  It was a complete surprise.”

with his blackshirt--NOT TO BE USED IN STORY

Photo courtesy of John Peterson Photo/Hail Varsity Magazine 

Ricketts’ advice to current players is to have a good time, because it goes by way too fast.  In a way, he always knew that, and knew what path he would take when his playing days came to an end.

“I worked in several financial institutions, and with the family starting TD Ameritrade in town, that’s what I grew up around,” said Ricketts.  He worked hard in the classroom at Nebraska, landing on the Honor Roll nearly his entire college career.  Today, he is President and CFO of Vintage Financial Group offering investment advice to both his clients and the public as a frequent guest on KETV First News Weekend.

Ricketts married his college sweetheart, Kirstin (who also came to those softball games!), now a fellow Vintage associate; together they have three children.

Ricketts Family pic

Ricketts also remains committed to the school district that helped shape him as a kid.  He is currently President of the Millard Public Schools Board, playing a key role in guiding the future of 23,000 students.  He hopes to someday see some of those kids wearing red ‘N’ jerseys (maybe even his own boys!)

family in front of stadium

“It’s extremely important to get those in-state kids down to Lincoln, down to the University,” said Ricketts.  “Those are bonds across the state of Nebraska, those small towns to large towns, to know that’s their boy down at the University.  It’s fun; they’ve watched that kid grow up, and to be able to go on to college, that creates that fan base that is unique to Nebraska.  It’s important that Nebraska keeps that tradition going.”

Ricketts says this fall, like every other year, he’ll be watching Nebraska’s Blackshirts, a group he calls a fraternity.  I’m guessing once or twice, he’ll catch a game with his other brothers, his longtime friends from Millard North.

Here’s to a great season, and to friendships that stand the tests of time, change, and intramural softball.

Learn more about Pat Ricketts via Nebraska Athletics or on Vintage Financial Group’s website.

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CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Classes of 2004 & 2007, Barrett & Bo Ruud

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. Class of 2007, Corey McKeon