Tag Archive | kenny walker

Will To Succeed

Looking back at your life, what are your biggest accomplishments in your eyes?  Perhaps raising good children. Maybe setting new records in your field.  Possibly, experiencing things few others can say they’ve done.

I met a guy last week with a list of accomplishments a mile long.  Still, the theme I kept picking up on throughout our interview was how to impact OTHERS. Ironically, that self-awareness of how the rest of the world can be impacted by one person’s actions makes this one that much more inspiring…

forget the fact that Will Shields is a College Football Hall-of-Famer and recent NFL Hall-of-Fame inductee.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY HUSKER FEATURE ON WILL SHIELDS!

Giving back, who knows when that lesson was instilled upon the young man born in Fort Riley, Kansas and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma.  Shields himself told me about a moment at Nebraska that greatly impacted him.

It was November 3, 1990, Senior Day at Memorial Stadium.  Shields was a sophomore, watching as his teammate Kenny Walker walked onto the field.

“It was dead silence and we waved for him because he was deaf.  We honored him,” said Shields.  “I wonder what that would’ve felt like, being him at that point.”

Many of the 76,000 fans inside the stadium held their arms above their heads and rotated their hands, the American Sign Language symbol for applause.  The moment made national news, inspired a book, and Shields says, taught him parts of the game of football were bigger than anything else.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

By the time Shields was a senior, he was a dominant offensive lineman at Nebraska named a First Team All-American, a Lombardi Award semi-finalist and the 1992 Outland Trophy winner.  At the height of that college success, drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, Shields and his wife also started the Will To Succeed Foundation to help abused and neglected women and children.

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Shields was out in the community, trying to be a positive influence and also make a tangible difference in countless lives.  According to the Will To Succeed Foundation website, the organization has created 12 different programs in the last 12 years to financially and emotionally support abused families.  100,000 people have been touched by the foundation since it’s inception.

Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields (68) celebrates during the Sept. 8 2002 away game against the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs won 40-39.

Photo courtesy the Kansas City Chiefs

On the field, Shields was a MACHINE.  #68 was a Pro Bowl player every year from 1995 to 2006, a Chiefs team record, also tying him with just two other players for the most Pro Bowls every played by one athlete.  SHIELDS NEVER MISSED A GAME in his entire career.  He started 231 STRAIGHT games, including playoff games.

This isn’t flag football.  Shields was PUMMELING huge guys for hours on end every, single, one of those games.  How does the human body, the human spirit, sustain that for 14 YEARS?!?

“They say I’m on the mental edge of being mental,” Shields laughs.  “I just loved the game, love the sport, loved my teammates and wanted to be there for them week in and week out.  It might have been one of those selfish things, I didn’t want anyone to play my spot.”

Aside from his charity work.. and his awe-inspiring career.. Shields is also a husband and father.

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Photo courtesy the Will To Succeed Foundation

He seems to be doing a pretty darn good job at home, too.  Their daughter, Sanayika, played basketball for Drury University.  Son, Shavon, is one of the stars of the Nebraska basketball program.  Their family owns and operates a gym and sports facility in Overland Park, Kansas.

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Photo courtesy the Will To Succeed Foundation

Looking back, Shields says he know he would play professional football if given the opportunity, but I asked him if he ever dreamed of accomplished such amazing things in his life. For his work on the field, he’s been inducted into both the College Football and the NFL Hall of Fame.  For his impact off the field, the NFL named Shields the league’s Man Of The Year in 2003.

“You know, I just envisioned what the next day would hold, to work hard for that next day,” Shields answered.  “I never really thought about what it looked liked.”

Now, he says, he will try to live up the billing of all of the guys who came before him.  A great message for the young men in Lincoln following in Will Shields’ footsteps, playing every Saturday under the retired #75 on the wall of Memorial Stadium.

“Still some work in progress, but we’ve got some guys that are out there fighting pretty good.  I think there’s some things we have to work on,” said Shields.  “You want them to do well, you always do because you’re forever counted as a Husker.”

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics; CLICK HERE to learn more about #75 Will Shields.

Click here to visit Will Shields’ official website.

Click here for more information about the Will To Succeed Foundation,

and click here to visit the foundation’s Facebook page.

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WEEK THREE.. CLASS OF 1971 JEFF KINNEY!

NEXT WEEK.. CLASS OF 1970 JERRY MURTAUGH!

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

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.

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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