Tag Archive | nebraska medicine

Signing Day

Does football season every really end in Nebraska?

No.  No it does not.

There may be lulls in the action.. times that are quieter than other.. but there is ALWAYS something going on in Husker nation.  Practices, Spring Game preparation and of course, RECRUITING.  Tomorrow is National Signing Day and we’ll find out who will soon join the iconic Big Red.

It wasn’t so long ago a straight-A student at Lincoln East High School was counting down to this very day, ready to announce his intentions to stay in his hometown and play college football for the University of Nebraska.

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#56 Rob Zatechka, Nebraska Offensive Tackle 1990-1994 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

When you think of Nebraska Football in the 90’s, you think DYNASTY.  DOMINATION.  But when Zatechka came aboard as an 18-year old young man, perhaps the state of the team wasn’t all that different from today.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON DR. ROB ZATECHKA!

“At that time (in 1991), we hadn’t won a conference championship in three seasons,” Zatechka told me last fall.  “In that era, it was considered abysmal.  It was hot seat material for a coach at that time.”

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Photo courtesy HuskerNsider.com

Zatechka was a red-shirt freshman that year, but played in almost all games, including Nebraska’s victory against Oklahoma.  It was Zatechka who blocked the Sooners late in the game, clearing the way for Calvin Jones to get a first down, then a touchdown on the next play to win.

“It was one of those things you think about growing up as a kid in Nebraska, or growing up in Lincoln, for what you think about as classic Nebraska football,” said Zatechka.  “Conference title on the line, playing Oklahoma, it was in a freezing rain, the weather was horrible.  Come from behind, win the game, we won the Big 8 title and went to the Orange Bowl.”

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Photo courtesy Brendan Stai Golf Classic

Perhaps that was the beginning, a sign of what WOULD be for this powerhouse group that has become legendary in the history of Nebraska Football.  Dubbed ‘the Pipeline’, Nebraska’s 1994 starting offensive line produced some of the best players Nebraska has ever had.  (CLICK HERE to read more in my interview with longtime Offensive Line Coach Milt Tenopir.)

“You had Joel Wilks and myself over at left guard and left tackle,” said Zatechka.  “Aaron Graham was very business-like as a center.  Over on the right side of the line you had Zach Wiegert at right tackle; guy was a three time All-Conference, three time All-American, Outland winner.  You had Brendan Stai, another All-American, and prior to Brendan you had Will Shields, again, another All-American and Outland Winner (CLICK HERE to read my interview with Shields earlier this season.).”

These guys were SO GOOD, they probably could’ve whispered their game plan to the opposing team and STILL won.

WAIT… THEY DID.

“About every third play of every single game they would line up and tell the defensive linemen what the play was, where the ball was going,” said Zatechka.  “Again, you’ve got a couple Outland Trophy winners there, how are you going to stop it? Will Shields, Brendan Stai, Zach Wiegert; those guys were so good, the defensive players could know exactly where the ball was going and there really wasn’t anything they could do to stop them.”

A humble guy, Zatechka used the word ‘them’ throughout our interview, though he was a standout leader in that powerhouse group on and off the field.  By 1994, Zatechka was named Team Captain and led Nebraska to the Huskers’ first national championship since 1971.  The same season he racked up award after award for his athletic performance, he also nabbed nearly every academic honor available, including Nebraska’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year 1994-1995 and more than $50,000 in postgraduate scholarships.  Zatechka actually graduated BEFORE his senior season on the football field with a biological sciences degree, becoming the first student athlete in University of Nebraska history to win the Student Leader of the Year award.  He was also Coach Tom Osborne’s first graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Medicine

Zatechka played for the New York Giants from 1995 to 1998, a way to continue his love for the game and pay for his venture onto a new playing field.. to become a doctor.

“I always waned to do medicine, I always had a strong interest in science, a big interest in biology,” said Zatechka.  “It’s a great way to help people and work with people.”

Now as an anesthesiologist in the Omaha area, Zatechka and his wife Jennifer are also active philanthropists, volunteering their time and donating money to numerous causes including the Aksarben Coronation Ball, MemoriesForKids.Org, Omaha Performing Arts and the Rimington Trophy Award benefiting the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

And in his ‘spare’ time, Zatechka still talks football, stepping up to the mic every week with longtime Omaha sportscaster and friend Travis Justice.

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The Husker Doc Talk podcast at HuskerMax.com draws in as many as 75,000 listeners a week, many tuning in to hear ‘Dr. Rob’s’ insight in today’s Huskers and what he envisions for their future (CLICK HERE for a complete list of the team’s podcasts.)  Some of those same fans may argue Nebraska will NEVER have a team like the 1994 or 1995 Huskers.

(Travis: “What do you call the ’95 Huskers, Rob?”  Dr. Rob: ” ’94’s backups!”)

Ironically, the guy who looks at that ’91 win over Oklahoma as his favorite Husker moment, points to this year’s upset win over Michigan State as a landmark moment.

“That was probably one of the best offensive performances we’ve seen out of Nebraska this year, especially in terms of offensive line production,” said Zatechka.  “I love what I’ve seen from Coach Cavanaugh (Offensive Line Coach).  You’ve got to have hope, especially with a new staff.  I’m one of those guys where I’ve said, historically, you gotta give a new guy at least three to five years.”

HOPE.  A great word on the eve of National Signing Day. Tonight, as he does most days of the year, football season or not, Dr. Rob is online fielding tweets and messages about this year’s prospects and NEXT year’s possibilities.  And to the Recruit Class of 2016 and current Huskers, a message from Dr. Rob Zatechka, member of the Nebraska Recruit Class of 1990 and one of the best to ever play at Memorial Stadium..

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” said Zatechka.  “You’ve just got to find that spark a little more consistently and I think those guys will.”

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Medicine

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PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 2012, Rex Burkhead!

For a FULL LIST of 2015 Throwback Thursday Huskers, CLICK HERE!

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!

This Is How A Heart Breaks

We’re just the narrators, the storytellers.  We are the witnesses who relay the facts, the who what when where why.

WHY.

What if there IS NO why.

What if we, as journalists, are among those asking why.

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His name was Lawrence Bolden III.  A big name for such a little boy.  Most of Omaha (and beyond) knew him simply as Baby Lawrence, a cherubic toddler, grinning from his hospital bed as his mom and nurses encouraged him to smile.  I went to his funeral this afternoon.

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 Her name was Kayla Hebenstreit.  That smile.. stunning, and GENUINE.  When we shared Kayla’s story last December, how she was diagnosed with cancer for a fourth time just one month after delivering her first baby, hundreds of thousands of people were touched by her fight.  Kayla passed away Sunday morning.

WHY.

They were two people who just GOT life, who did everything right.  Lawrence exhibited pure love and strength.  At just two years old, all he knew was how to love.  He scanned a room for his momma no matter who else was there.  He grinned for his daddy while sitting on his lap in the hospital.  He cooed for the Children’s Hospital nurses who cared for him for so long.  He just LOVED.

Kayla didn’t dream of money or yachts or Jimmy Choos.. she treasured every kiss from her husband, every moment cradling her baby girl, Kendall.  Her message to her daughter, back when we spoke in December, was that she just wanted her to know how hard she tried to beat this, and how much she loved her.

And their families.. Lawrence’s mom, Shalina, a woman who got up early every single day to get her little girls to school, work full time, then rush her family every single night to her baby boy’s bedside at the hospital.  Joe Hebenstreit didn’t leave his wife’s side in her final weeks, working from home a few hours a day so he’d always be there for his best friend and love.

Why did two such incredible people and their loved ones have to face such unimaginable fights?  Why did Kayla’s cancer come back when she’d beat it so many times?  Why didn’t Baby Lawrence’s transplant, a miracle in itself, work?

WHY.

PREACHY ALERT from a mom who listened to One Sweet Day today, while watching a home video of Lawrence crawling in his hospital room.  Go home tonight and look, really look, into the eyes of your babies, husbands and wives, and loved ones.  Smile.  Hug them and kiss them.  Laugh.  When the tiny little things we let ruin our days come up.. remember, they are NOTHING.   Everything? LOVE.  I guess that’s what I’m trying to take from this.  That even though my eyes are sore from crying, and my heart is breaking for these families, I will try to pass on what Lawrence and Kayla taught me.  TO LOVE deeper and to put aside the crap that doesn’t matter.  As one of Lawrence’s family members said at his funeral today, if a 2-year old can go through all of the surgeries, procedures, needle pokes and pinches, and still just SMILE… WE certainly should.  If a new mother, facing painful, grueling treatments just for the chance at life with her family, can still SMILE, WE should.  Be thankful for every GOOD moment, celebrate LIFE and time together.  LOVE.

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Lawrence and Kayla, your legacies will live on.  Those who knew you are better people because you were in their lives.  You don’t have to fight anymore, no more pain and suffering.  I pray you have found peace.

I know you found love.

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To learn more about Kayla Hebenstreit, join her thousands of supporters in Kayla’s Crew; click here for the Kayla’s Crew Facebook page, and click here for the website.  You can also read my first blog post on Kayla, You Think You Have Time.

To learn more about Lawrence Bolden III, click here to visit his Facebook page.  You can also read my blog post about Lawrence and his journey, Saving Baby Lawrence.

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..

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..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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!