Story #10: Turner Gill
Being the son of an Air Force officer, I wasn’t born in Nebraska, but my family moved to Nebraska in December of 1983 when my dad was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base. The very first Husker game I ever remember watching was the 1984 Orange Bowl for the national championship against Miami. I rooted for the Huskers, but only since they were the team of my new homestate rather than any particular emotional investment. At the end of the game, Nebraska scored a late touchdown–if they had kicked the extra point, it would have tied the game and Nebraska would likely have been named national champions (Miami was ranked #4 at the time). Instead they decided to go for two points and the outright win. Turner Gill was Nebraska’s quarterback, and I remember his pass being tipped away at the last moment. The Huskers lost the game, and Miami was crowned national champs. What I remember more is the dignity and class Turner showed in the days and weeks following the loss. It was then that I really became a Husker fan. Fast forward 21 years. Turner Gill, after a number of years as a Husker assistant coach, announced his resignation from the Husker football program in December of 2004. I was a semi-regular poster on a website and message board called Huskerpedia.com (now HuskerMax.com), and like many others, wished that there was something I could do to express all that Turner Gill had meant to me and to the Husker program in all his years here. I set up a Yahoo email address and posted a request on the message board to have people send thank-you emails to Turner at this address. My plan was to print them out and send them through the mail to Turner. In about a week and a half, I received 761 emails. After a TON of cutting, pasting, and formatting, I was able to fit them all on to 137 pages. I printed them out and sent them to Turner’s home in Lincoln (his address was in the phone book) with a cover letter from me. About a week later, when I got home from work, there was a message on my answering machine. It was Turner Gill, saying thank you for the work I had done and telling me that he’d try calling back again because he didn’t want to just leave a message. Remember now that during this time he was interviewing for a new position in Green Bay. He tried calling again a few days later, and left his number telling me to call him. I called, and his wife answered and said he was out, but that if I told her a good time to try the next day he’d call me then. Sure enough, he did. We talked for a good 15 minutes about life, faith, and football. At the end of our conversation, he invited me OVER TO HIS HOUSE the next day so that he could give me a thank you note and autographed football for all my trouble. When I got to his house the next day, Turner greeted me at the door wearing a Husker shirt. By this time he had accepted a player development position with the Green Bay Packers, and was getting ready to move. The house was in that “in-between” stage…lots of half-filled boxes scattered around the living room and kitchen. Both he and his wife apologized for the condition of the house. He grabbed the football and note off his kitchen counter and handed it to me, and he and his wife both thanked me again for the email project. Turner said he had gotten a chance to read through a lot of it on his way to and from Green Bay, and he was really touched. I asked if it would be all right if I had a picture taken with him, and he immediately agreed. His wife was worried about all the boxes laying around, but decided that the best place would be in front of the fireplace. She took a framed picture off the floor and propped it up on the mantel so there would be something behind our heads, then snapped a picture with my camera. That was Turner Gill to me in a nutshell. I tried to do something nice for him, to show how much he was appreciated by Husker fans everywhere, and he turned it around and ended up going out of his way to do something incredibly nice for me. He will always be a hero of mine, not because he was a great player or coach, but because he is an incredible human being who wants nothing but the best for those around him. He is a man of faith who sees helping others as his calling from God, and he’s just grateful to have the platform of football to be able to help him achieve that calling.