Tag Archive | Joe Ganz

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!

Put Me In, Coach!

I love softball.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What?!?!

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the Photo!

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

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WEEK ONE… CLASS OF 2010 ALEX HENERY!

WEEK THREE… CLASS OF 1971 JEFF KINNEY!

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