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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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Just Keep Swimming

There’s something special about swimmers..

These athletes are just wired differently than n0rmal human beings.  They’re up at 4am to put in hours at the pool.  They are SHEER musle and strength.  They don’t know failure, because when they’re not focused on the swimmer in the next lane, they are constantly racing their OWN clocks to top their personal bests.  All of these traits; dedication, health, perfection, also seem to translate to swimmers’ lives outside the pool.

Want proof? Meet Team KETV.

Before Melissa Fry was our 5pm anchor and one of our best reporters, she was the 2001 state champion in the 100m butterfly at Millard South High School (Melissa and her dad are the first father/daughter state champions in swimming!)  Melissa is still in the Patriot record books for several strokes, and went on to swim at Illinois State before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Before Alex Hoffman was our First News anchor, she was nothing short of a legendary swimmer in her home state of South Dakota.  In high school alone, she won four individual state titles.  At South Dakota State, Alex’s list of school records and career wins is TWO FULL PAGES LONG.  I’M NOT KIDDING.  She broke 9 school records her first season, was team captain her senior year and chosen as an NCAA Woman of the Year nominee.  Alex was also Miss South Dakota 2008 and a Top 10 finalist at the 2009 Miss America pageant.

Before Alexandra Stone became our First News Weekend anchor (and one of our star reporters!) she was swimming year-round for both school and club events, starting when she was a toddler.  Alexandra made the varsity swim team as a freshman, excelling in the 100M backstroke.

And finally..

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This INCREDIBLE young lady, Jojo Randby!  Jojo’s mom is Emmy-Award winning journalist Julie Cornell, and her dad is our Chief Meteorologist Bill Randby.  Jojo is making a name for herself.. representing Nebraska in the midwest regional 5-state All Star meet, where she won the 50m and 100m breast, clocking personal record times in both!

NONE of this is easy.  ALL of these ladies say they swim or swam 6+ days a week, often twice a day.  This all comes in addition to school, volunteering and other activities.

Want more proof?  Meet Hannah Miller.

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Photo courtesy Blinq Studio

“I’ve had a crazy swim season that just concluded with the state meet,” Hannah told me last month, after qualifying for two events at state as a sophomore.  (CLICK HERE to watch Hannah set a new personal record in the 100m butterfly in January!)  Hannah’s also a dancer.  And she works part time.  And she’s a student at Elkhorn High School.  And she’s Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.

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Hannah spends almost three hours EVERY DAY swimming, in addition to everything else she’s got going on in her life.  How, and WHY add a crown and sash to the mix, and commit to competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in June?

“I got involved in the MNOT program because I love the values that it promotes: service, scholarship, style and success,” said Hannah.  “I have such respect for the titleholders who are volunteering in their communities and are role models for everyone around them.”

Hannah has also held the titles of Miss Nebraska Pre-Teen 2012 (ANTSO), America’s US Miss Nebraska Teen 2014, and as Miss Nebraska Junior Teen 2014 (ANTSO) she was named National Junior Teen 1st Runner-Up and National Spokesmodel winner for 2015.  Complete disclosure.. I know very little about the America’s National Teenager Scholarship Organization, but it seems Hannah knows what to prioritize as a new contestant in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen club.

For starters, her volunteer work ties right back to where she’s most at home.. in the pool.

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“My platform is ‘Safe Splashes’, combining my love for the water with my passion for working with young children,” said Hannah.  “Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children between the ages of 1 and 4.  According to the CDC, in 10% of those drownings, the adult will actually be watching the child with no idea it is happening!  While complete ‘drown-proofing’ does not exist, parental water safety education and early childhood swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning.”

Hannah is hoping to make a difference both with with her words and action; she works part-time as a swim instructor, teaching kids and parents exactly what she promotes as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.  She’s also volunteered to read for local students, to ring bells for the Salvation Army, she’s been part of the Bid Buddy/Little Buddy mentoring program and helped as a math tutor.

Hannah has also lettered in Varsity Cheer, and she’ll dance at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“I combine my two favorite dance styles (jazz and tap) into a fun, upbeat routine that I absolutely love to perform,” said Hannah.  Hannah also loves her family (just below, she’s emceeing part of Nebraska’s Miss Amazing pageant with her dad, Jim!) and friends, and says those relationships along with school are most important to her in her life.

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“From an early age, giving back to the community and volunteering have been important to me, so I look for role models who are reaching out and making a difference in real ways each and every day,” said Hannah.

Now, this 16-year old hopes to become a role model for someone else, and notes that her pageant-background has propelled her forward.

“I tell people about the community service I have become involved in through pageantry and the self confidence it takes to walk and talk on stage,” said Hannah.  “When I applied to be a swim instructor at the age of 15 I was interviewing with candidates that were as much as 6 years older than me.  I got the job because of the confidence and poise I had in the interview.  My ability to speak honestly and confidently to parents about their child’s progress earns me respect as an instructor.  The skills of communication and confidence are directly related to my involvement in pageantry and I am proud of that.”

And now, Hannah Miller wants to take her journey one step further as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  After all, she’s a self-described well-rounded over-achiever.  If you ask Melissa, Alex, or Alexandra… I’m pretty sure that’s synonymous with SWIMMER.

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Photo courtesy Blinq Studio

“I have been preparing to represent our great state for some time now and I know I am ready to step up and be the best possible representative nationally for Nebraska,” said Hannah.  “I am a genuine person who connect with people easily and I have the ability to help make a difference.”

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To follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Hannah Miller on FACEBOOK CLICK HERE.  To contact Hannah about appearances and events, email her at hl_miller@icloud.com or email Jim Miller at  jr_miller@cox.net.

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE or THEIR WEBSITE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kelsey Ellis by email at omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance 2016 Kate Lynne Duncan!

NEXT.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2016 Kara Kriha!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!