Tag Archive | matt schick

This Just Into The Newsplex..

Someday, I want to write a book.  Maybe I’d be the only person to ever read it.. but I love to write, and I’d love to record my memories of working in TV news before all of the hairspray finally permeates my skull. (Let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time.). This May marks my 15th anniversary working in journalism, all of it at KETV.  In May of 2001 I began my first news internship at 2665 Douglas, hired by legendary assignment editor Joe Kasmir.  In so many of my memories, there are a few consistent names and faces.  My mentor Joe, who passed away suddenly years ago.  My ‘TV husband’ Rob, a journalist I revered growing up in Papillion, who became a friend I respect even more today. And a guy behind the camera, who has spent decades of his life devoted to our craft and to our story here at KETV.  His name is Scott Buer.

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Photo courtesy Kent Sievers, renowned photographer with the Omaha World Herald

You may not recognize Scott, but if you’ve watched KETV AT ALL since the 1980’s, you’ve seen his work.  He is also our chief photojournalist, hiring and working with our team of photographers to shoot and edit the stories you see every night.  Scott turned 60 this week.. and when I tried to pinpoint one memory of this guy to share a birthday wish on Facebook.. I just couldn’t narrow it down.  Here’s just a sample of why.

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May, 2004.  Scott and I were assigned to follow up on a terribly tragic story; two teenagers had died in a car accident in Elkhorn, Kayla Wilkins and Nick Alfrey.  When we walked into that house, I was overwhelmed at the grief this family was facing; Kayla was only 15 years old, she was the youngest child.  Her big brother bravely accepted the ‘speaking role’ for his family and sat down with us to share his memories of his baby sister.  12 years later, I can still picture him describing sitting at his sister’s side in the hospital, knowing her time was short.  He started singing to her ‘You Are My Sunshine’, a song she had copied from him when he was learning to play piano as a kid.  He told us that as he sang the words to his sister in the hospital, her heart rate suddenly started increasing on the monitors.. and then it stopped.  Kayla was gone.

Kayla Wilkins

Kayla Lynne Wilkins * August 31, 1988 – May 5, 2004

As a journalist, you’re supposed to be a brick wall, right?  You’re supposed to be immune to emotion.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.. but in that moment, Scott, my seasoned partner for the day, spoke out.  He said, ‘let’s just take a second.’  We turned the camera off.  We just sat in silence, and we cried.

When we finished our interview, Scott and I hadn’t made it more than a few blocks down the street.  He pulled over, turned off the car and said again, ‘let’s just take a break for a minute.’

To this day, that was one of the hardest stories I’ve ever covered at KETV, magnified years later when one of our own, photojournalist Jeff Frolio, died at that very intersection covering a story.  His cross went up alongside Kayla and Nick’s crosses; the Wilkins family attended Jeff’s services.  We met yet again years after that, when their eldest daughter, Amber, suffered a traumatic brain injury in another terrible car accident.  Amber later told KETV’s Hannah Pickett that she remembers her sister, Kayla, with her in the medical helicopter after the crash.. kissing her nose and telling her to fight.

CLICK HERE to watch Amber Wilkins’ miraculous story on KETV.

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Another crash.. this time around, I don’t have a date for you, but I do remember the day.  It was bright outside.. and Scott and I were again working together, this time at the scene of the accident.  Law enforcement had shut down the road.. a mangled car with the side completely crushed in was a few yards in front of us.  I heard it before I saw it.. the whir of helicopter blades as the medical chopper drew closer.  I looked up and watched it approach… but before it landed, even before it hovered over our heads, the pilot turned around.  I didn’t understand what was going on.. where were they going??

I looked at the car, and the paramedics on scene pulled a sheet up over what was left of the vehicle.  Scott explained to me it was too late.  As I stood there, speechless, Scott handed me a rosary.  He told me that he kept it with him all the time.

I’m not as devout a Christian as I sometimes wish I was.. but I remember asking my mom for a rosary for Christmas soon after that.  I carry it in my purse now.. and on really tough days, like anchoring our coverage of Officer Kerrie Orozco’s funeral.. that little piece of jewelry gives me a little comfort.

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This date, I will never forget.  December 5, 2007.

I was in VERY early that day to cover President George W. Bush’s visit to Omaha.  It was a long and COLD morning, and I was pretty pumped to be back in the Newsplex by 1pm with two stories shot.  I had a full four hours to piece together our story in house (which is an ETERNITY in local news.)  I was sitting at my desk when the scanners went off.. and the first thing I remember hearing is ‘man down at the bottom of the escalator.’

I’ve referenced a few of my memories before.. News Director Rose Ann Shannon shouting ‘we’ve got to put everything we’ve got on this!’  Somehow, she just knew something unprecedented was happening.

I don’t remember if we were told, or if we just moved, but Scott and I ran, together, out the back door to his news unit.  I remember him ‘shushing’ me as he pushed buttons on his car scanner, trying to find the radio dispatch channel for the first responders.  We were locked in traffic on West Dodge, going up the hill near 90th.. and a police cruiser passed us at full speed ON the median to our left. Driving ON the median.

Scott parked at the hotel southeast of Westroads Mall.. it overlooked the south entrance to Von Maur without us getting too close and interfering with first responders.  The police helicopter.. it was so damn low.. so close to the roof, just circling.  Police officers and deputies were moving close to the building, protective shields up, inching closer and closer to the doors.. I had an eerie flashback to a story I had done just months before with the La Vista Police Department, watching as their officers practiced active shooter training.  This was no practice.. and as one of our reporters interviewed a shopper who’d run out of the mall, I remember shuddering as I realized, ‘this is happening TO US.  This is really happening.’

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CLICK HERE to watch Kristyna Engdahl’s story on the 8-year anniversary of the Von Maur Shootings.. including an interview with the first inside that day.. Lt. Rob Jones

I had breaks, moments to sit in the truck and listen to what was happening.  Scott never did.  He stood behind his camera and captured every moment all afternoon and into the night.  We didn’t know who would come out, if they’d come out.  We weren’t sure how many had died inside.

The Omaha Police Chief was out of town, so the lead public information officer, Sgt. Teresa Negron, was our source for details.  I’d worked with the Sergeant every morning for a few years, going to headquarters to check police reports.  She is a TOUGH WOMAN; she later went on to the Omaha Police homicide unit and the cold case unit.  That day, her voice shook as she gave the first official statements on what happened inside Von Maur.  Nine people were dead, including the shooter.  Several more were hurt and taken to area hospitals, two of them near death.

Still up in that hotel parking lot, Scott, engineer Josh Rishling and I were all huddled around the monitor in our live truck listening.  I put my hand on Josh’s arm, stunned at what we were hearing.  We then looked at each other as police announced the hotel we were just feet from would become the gathering place for any family members who were looking for information.

As the sun set on that cold, gloomy December day, numerous police units began driving up into that parking lot.. soon followed by vehicle after vehicle, filled with people hoping for answers.  I remember one woman with glasses behind the wheel of mini-van, clutching her steering wheel in one hand, the fingers of her other hand gripping a cell phone pressed to her ear.  As we went live, reporting what we were seeing, Scott said to me, ‘Brandi, the Christmas lights just turned on.’

The white string of bulbs around the Von Maur building glowed that night just as they did every other evening during the holiday season.  It was such a stark contrast to the parking lot.. empty and silent.  They were supposed to symbolize joy and peace.. yet inside was pure horror.  I think it reminded both Scott and I that that mall, that building was jam-packed with people, shopping for their loved ones.. and that some of those families would never see their mothers, fathers, children, and friends again.

So many heavy images, feelings and sounds from that day and the days that followed.. but I also think of a moment that still makes me smile.  Other than hot dogs and water from the Red Cross, Scott and I hadn’t had much to eat or drink that day.  KETV sports anchor Matt Schick (now with ESPN) called me around 10:30-11 asking if he could bring us anything.  I asked for chicken nuggets.. and when I leaned over to Scott and asked him, he grabbed my cell phone and VERY urgently said, ‘I NEED CIGARETTES!’  I laughed.. certainly for the first time that day, and one of the last times for the next several days.

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I’m breaking what I consider a huge journalistic rule by writing this post..and that is that WE are not the story.  WE are not the stars of the show. We are simply the narrators, the story tellers, the recorders of our city and state’s history.  Still, as a student of history, I wonder if maybe one of you reading this will connect with these same memories and think back to where you were when you heard about each of these moments. Selfishly, I hope my sons someday pick up ‘Mom’s book’ just to see what their momma did for her job.

I hope this post does one more thing… to tell Scott Buer THANKS.  For teaching me it’s OK to cry as a journalist; it doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human.  For showing me it helps to seek out what gives you strength, and that as different as we all are from one another, there are bigger things that connect all of us to each other. And finally, for being a damn good partner in the field on some of the toughest days we’ve ever faced as journalists.  YOUR stories of covering nearly 40 years of news always refuel my fire to constantly strive to be a better journalist.

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Happy Birthday, my friend.  Here’s to many more days of storytelling together.

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For Kayla Wilkins, Nick Alfrey, Jeff Frolio, Joe Kasmir, Gary Scharf, Beverly Flynn, Angie Schuster, Dianne Trent, John McDonald, Gary Joy, Janet Jorgensen, and Maggie Webb.. may they rest in peace.  And for the Wilkins family, Fred Wilson, and Micky Oldham, your strength continues to inspire me.

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!

A Tale Of Two Teams

I used to work with this guy named Matt.  He was really funny.  No, I mean REALLY funny.

Did you see his story, In Carl We Trust, on KETV in 2008?  Let’s just say when Carl Pelini was later hired by Florida Atlantic as their new football coach, the University started printing T-shirts reading CARLFENSE.  Seriously–KETV photographer Tyler White bought one.  And it is awesome.  And now Matt Schick is an anchor at ESPNU.  Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

A few years earlier, Matt also put together a story called West Coast Defense, featuring Nebraska Blackshirts Corey McKeon, Stu Bradley and Bo Ruud.  Just a few games into the season in 2005, the Husker defense had scored HALF of Nebraska’s touchdowns. Four huge Pick 6’s.  Matt’s look into this trio’s ‘secret to success’ on the field was HILARIOUS–one of my favorite stories of the season.

COREY MCKEON

#13 Corey McKeon, photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

Combine that humor and explosive play on the field and Husker Nation became well acquainted with this guy, Corey McKeon.  McKeon had a monster season as a sophomore in 2005, leading Nebraska with 98 tackles and at the time, earning his spot as second-best in school history for tackles for loss.  This was the best of times; success on the field alongside the Blackshirts who were also his best friends.

“We had so much fun doing it, that’s what really mattered to us,” McKeon told me in a recent interview.  “If we can go out and have fun and make those kinds of big plays, that’s what Husker Football is all about.”

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CHECK OUT KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY SPECIAL ON COREY MCKEON!

Ironically, McKeon’s most memorable game was not one of those fun plays, it was the heartbreaking loss to Texas Tech in 2005.

“At the end of the game they were going for the game winning drive, we were up by 4 and I tipped the ball right in the red zone,” said McKeon.  “Our defensive lineman, I’m not gonna name his name because he’s still a lot bigger than me and could come whoop me, he intercepts it.  In those situations, you’re just supposed to fall down because the game is over.  He runs by me, you see my hands out on the field telling him to stop, he runs by me, their running back forces a fumble, they get the ball back, they get the next touchdown.”

McKeon says that loss, while tough to swallow, was against a great team; a game that came down to the wire.  That, he says, is what you remember the most.

In a way, it’s fitting the Texas Tech game stands out for a player like Corey McKeon, a guy who ended his career at Nebraska in the midst of controversy and arguably, one of the darkest eras of Nebraska football.  In 2007, the Huskers lost 7 games (they went 2-6 in Big 12 play), Head Coach Bill Callahan was fired and McKeon often took a stand, never mincing words defending his teammates and coaches.  This was the worst of times.

“The best part about Husker Nation is also the most difficult part,” McKeon said, noting he doesn’t regret his outspoken nature while with the team.  “They are so involved, we need them so much and the second they’re not there for us, even an inkling, it takes it’s effect because Husker Football is as much about Husker Nation as it is about the players and coaches.”

McKeon also told me at the height of the controversy, he consulted the sports psychologist, frustrated about everything going on, especially with his Defensive Coordinator, Kevin Cosgrove.

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Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Journal Star

“Coach Cosgrove fought for us year after year, he did so much for us,” said McKeon.  “He was a player’s coach and no, his schemes didn’t work out the best all the time, but he was always there for us personally.  Even if we weren’t performing well on the field, he always had our back.  I think that’s what got to me the most.”

McKeon has two pieces of advice for today’s players; one is to cherish the good times on and off the field.  Those same buddies he had two-a-days with, who went through the same losses he did, remain some of his best friends.

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His other suggestion is to realize the impact all Huskers can have, both now and in the future.  It’s something McKeon sees firsthand as an Ollie Webb Center board member and Executive Vice President.  His wife, Erika, organizes the annual fundraising gala.

McKeons

Both, associates with McKesson Pharmaceuticals, say they came to Ollie Webb hoping to learn more about something they didn’t have much experience with, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  When we followed around the McKeons for our interview at Ollie Webb, they shook hands with students, checked out their artwork, and joked about which Huskers they like best.  (One student’s, no surprise, Ameer Abdullah.)

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Thanks to the Ollie Webb Center for the photo!

The teenagers and adults get to be with friends for art activities and events, to learn computers and programs, and to work on life skills like how to keep a budget.  Erika McKeon calls their interaction with Ollie Webb life changing.

“Seeing the families that are [at the gala] and seeing the kids come up and perform on stage and just show us how happy they are and how appreciative they are for what we are doing, it’s just amazing,” said Erika.

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Ollie Webb’s AJ Taylor performing at the 2014 Fundraising Gala

The McKeons stress how powerful Nebraska football can be and how they hope players from all eras, especially the 2014 squad, use that to make a difference.  Corey notes that when he reaches out for auction items or other help, former players and the University are often the first to step up.

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Autographed portrait donated for the 2014 Ollie Webb Fundraising Gala

“You’re going to come back to your community and want to impact it,” said McKeon.  “Husker Football is the number one way to do that.”

And THIS is how Corey McKeon hopes to impact you now, years after his name covered message boards and newspaper articles across Husker Nation.  When I contacted him about being part of our Huskers Throwback Thursday series, he agreed, IF we also made the story about Ollie Webb.  Shoot the story there, let he and Erika talk about what the organization is and how it’s helping people in our community, and hopefully draw some attention to THOSE names and faces, like the young woman at Ollie Webb who smiled and waved when Corey McKeon recognized her from the gym.

It’s not the kind of story we always get to share, but in this post of best of times and worst of times.. it’s certainly GREAT.

The Ollie Webb Center is always in need of donations and volunteers.  If you’d like to help, or would like to learn more about programs and services, contact them online or via Facbook.

To learn more about #13 Corey McKeon, check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics.

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CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Pat Ricketts!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday.. Classes of 1971 & 1997, Bill & Jesse Kosch!