This is going to be the first of several Big Red Cobcast/Through These Gates giveaways leading up to the season.
In this one, the winner will receive one (1) DVD OR (1) Blu Ray of the documentary film, Through These Gates (autographed by the director). The winner will also receive one (1) Through These Gates T-Shirt in either size Medium or size Large and will also receive one (1) Through These Gates hooded sweatshirt in size Medium or Large.
The way this works is by clicking on the contest below you can enter to win digital raffle tickets by completing simple social media tasks. After a week, a winner will randomly be chosen by Gleam and we’ll contact you! The contest will run from March 13th-19th.
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Dear Fellow Huskers,
I don’t expect many people to read this letter. I expect even less to care what I think. However, I do want to share some things I’ve seen over the last week and, honestly, over the past decade.
I’ll start here: I was born on a warm summer day in 1980. May 4th if you’re keeping score. It has since been dubbed ” May the 4th be with you” Which I think is super dumb because I’m not a fan of Star Wars. So here’s something I love – My Birthday, the day I entered this world and it has been changed to something that I think is stupid BUT I have to accept it. Now, if I throw a birthday party and someone says to me, “Hey dude, May the 4th be with you”, I don’t say “Shut up Nerd”. That would make me a jerk. I would probably say something like “My birthday it is” because I would want to try to relate to my friend and Yoda is the only thing I know about Star Wars. Lets go one step farther, If they threw a party for me that was Star Wars themed I would just be happy to be there with my friends. I would still think that Star Wars sucks.
My anecdote might be trite. But I’m trying here. Stay with me.
I live in L.A. and I get really excited when I get to see a game and be around fellow Nebraskans. I view everyone of you as my friend. Until you’re a jerk. Then we are no longer long lost Huskers swirling through football season together. Here’s what I’ve noticed, the further away from the 90’s we get, the more mean stuff I hear. I think it was probably always there but the internet just helped it rear its ugly head. (DAMN YOU AL GORE)! Husker fans are known for being nice to opposing fans and I believe with 100% certainty that we are the most well mannered fans in the country. To the other teams. Not to each other. So please lets all stop real quick hold hands and sing Kumbaya. The End.
People are perceived by how they handle situations. If the fans melt down and turn on each other. Which is what’s happening. Want proof? Go to any forum or comment thread. How do we expect a team to play with confidence when their support system is crumbling all around them. Because thats what we are as fans. A support system. That’s the only reason football exists. If you want to end a culture take away the people that created it and passed it down from generation to generation.
Football is more complicated now than it ever was. (DAMN YOU ESPN)! Plus everything is already working against us. We have no beach, we don’t buy our players houses and now it seems as if we can’t even get along with each other. The name calling, the tweeting players, hell the students can’t even agree if we should have a red out or a black out. Its getting out of hand.
And to make it all worse, I have to publicly admit that I’m a hypocrite. The worst kind of hypocrite. The kind that writes open letters about things he does sometimes. I tweeted Terry Joseph when he left and asked what it felt like to be a dirty, filthy Aggie. I’ve used the term “Blue Hair”. I think the term “Hip Hop Hogwash” is the funniest thing I’ve heard in awhile. I’m the absolute worst kind of person.
So if I can notice what I’m becoming as a fan maybe others can too.
To the Devaney Generation: Thank you for creating something I love so much. Probably to an unhealthy level. Please understand though, that we want to stand up and yell and scream. It is possible to be rowdy and respectful at the same time. Oh and hip hop music is okay just give it a chance. I suggest starting with MC Hammer or Macklemore and building up from there until eventually you end up on Rhymefest and Outkast.
To the Osborne Generation: My brethren, Osborne left and he is never coming back and no one will ever be him and thats what makes him great. Live in the moment. Cheer for this team not Fraziers team. We have a new Tommy now and he’s our starter so lets cheer him on as loud as we can and as often as he can. Let Bo tell him when, where and how he messes up. His job is to coach, our job is to cheer. If you want to bitch and moan thats great but turn off your computer first. No one likes a typist tough guy, just like no one likes a guy who honks at you, flips you the bird and drives away. Its cowardly.
To the Pelini Generation: Please keep this thing afloat so I can share it with my kids. I’ve been looking forward to doing that since my dad shared it with me. Don’t forget the Huskers that came before you. I get that drinking is fun. Hell, I probably drank too many beers last night (DAMN YOU PBR)! But is drinking really more fun than staying in your seats all the way through a game and rushing the field and THEN going to drink more? The answer is no. Its not. We need you and the team needs you. Be nice to your elders. They are the reason people outside of Nebraska pay any attention to this little (but wonderful) city in the middle of nowhere. Plus, Remember that no matter if we never play them again, TEXAS WILL ALWAYS BE THE WORST!
Alright thats all I have to say. If you made it this far thank you for reading it and if you know Ameer Abdullah tell him I love him. I’m sorry if I just made this awkward.
May the force be with you,
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Today, I was sitting at my computer looking around my Los Angeles office (don’t be impressed, its the extra bedroom in my apartment) and I pulled out my autographed football that I took around with me to all the interviews I did for “Through These Gates”. As I started looking at the names: Tom Osborne, Larry the Cable Guy, Jack Hoffman, Charlie McBride, Tommie Frazier; I got a little choked up. The last three years have been the most exciting, emotional and proud years of my life. I made a movie. People watched my movie. My friends bragged about the movie. I traveled Nebraska and both coasts with Husker Max. I have so many stories to tell now, I catch myself saying things like “Well, Tommie Frazier told me…” and I’m not lying, he did actually tell me!
Tomorrow is the first Friday before the first game and that day will always be a special one for me. Last year we screened to a sold out crowd at the Rococo Theater in Lincoln on that day. I wore a bow tie. I never wear bowties. Hell, I never wear ties. Jason Peter showed up and Milt Tenopir did too as well as 400 plus of my new best friends. I tried not to cry as I stood at the microphone and looked out at a mini sea of red. I was so afraid that they would hate the film, that they would think it was cheesy or heavy handed. Most people didn’t know that I quit my job to make this film. That I produced, directed, filmed and edited the film myself obviously with the help of others mind you. Most people weren’t aware that we had a hundred bucks to make the film in the beginning or that I borrowed my friends film equipment so that I could try to tell our story. At that time in the whole process people didn’t understand that this film didn’t exist without the culture of Husker fans that helped create it. I was given so many opportunities to make our film because of the people in Nebraska lending me a hand. Thats the thing that I took away from all of this, people will still help you if you ask. Thats all you have to do is speak up, work like you mean it and give it all you got.
Lets be honest, not very many people have seen my movie. Maybe 20,000 – and that’s a guess. Thats not very many, thats about 1% of Nebraska. This movie will never win awards or accolades. It didn’t get into the “big” film festivals. No one has heard of the first time movie director who made a movie about the fans of Nebraska and his hometowns culture. That wasn’t why I made it. I made it because I love Nebraska and I’m proud to be a Cornhusker. I can say this with 100% certainty – I am more proud of where I’m from than anything else about me. I’m proud of growing up with dirt under my fingernails and calluses covering both hands. I’m proud of falling off of roofs, jumping from hay bail to hay bail and swinging on rope swings in my cousins barn. I’m proud that I learned to run a jackhammer when i was 14. My dad taught me to work hard, speak your mind and always be a Husker. Los Angeles won’t change that.
When I look at that football on my shelf thats what I see. I don’t see a bunch of college football players autographs, I see a state that understands me because somewhere inside they are just like me.
Oh and One last thing, Tommie Frazier told me, “Win or lose, if you gave it all you got thats all that matters, that’s what they care about.” Well, for what its worth, I gave it all I got and as we start the 2014 season I hope that, more than just winning, we play hard, we play right and we give it all we got because thats all that really matters. the movies tag line is: “Being a husker is bigger than football” and I believe in that more now than I ever have.
Go Big Red,
I actually have two stories.
I was born and raised in Omaha and have been a Husker fan since I was 10 years old. There was nothing like listening to Lyle Bremser on Saturday afternoons! I was lucky enough to be able to go to a couple of Husker games while I was in high school. I got married and moved to Ohio in 1976….but I have stayed a Husker fan all these years!
About ten years ago my Mom and I decided to try to get tickets to a game. We got tickets and have had a “Mother-Daughter Football Weekend” almost every year since then! Mom was here visiting me in Ohio about four years ago and fell and broke her hip, so we didn’t get to go that year. She had her other hip replaced last year in May, but was ready and able to attend the game last year! She turned 83 this February, and although a little slower, we have plans to go to another game this fall. Our football Saturday starts out with the drive to Lincoln from Omaha. We park and walk to the Husker Nation, then to the Tunnel Walk area. My cousin sells pop from a location there, so we stop to visit. Then on to our seats!
The north stadium is best because it has a railing to help us up! We are usually hoarse by the time the game is over and we’ve had great weather every year! There’s no leaving early….we wait until the end! The first year as the Tunnel Walk started we both had tears in our eyes. We said it was the sunshine, but I know it was from the excitement and pride of watching our team run onto the field! Go Big Red! My other story is this: I have two sons. One I call my “good son” and the other is a Buckeye! My good son Dan has been a Husker most of his life. He’s 31 and will defend our team no matter what! He loves to wear his Big Red shirts and tells everybody that his love of Husker football came from his Mom and Grandma! Dan went along one year to a “Mother-Daughter Football Weekend” and I made shirts for us to wear. Mom’s shirt said, “1st Generation” on the back; mine was “2nd Generation”; and Dan’s was “3rd Generation”. We got lots of comments from those! (Living in Ohio now since Nebraska is in the Big Ten has given me some opportunities to visit away games too. We’ve been to Michigan and last year to Purdue.
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Heres the thing, maybe I’m getting a little sentimental with age or maybe I’m a little home sick or maybe I miss being as busy as I was a year ago but this time in 2013 I was wrapping up the edit and preparing to take my movie all over the country. The only thing was – I didn’t know it was going to be all over the country. I thought I’d be showing it all over Nebraska. We actually ended up showing it in 63 cities in 15 states, all the way from California to Florida to New York City. Yep we showed our movie everywhere. I’ve even shipped copies to Germany and Japan.
I met so many people that I couldn’t begin to talk about them all. I met the coach of the Ainsworth high school football team. In his first season, he coached them their first win in 6 seasons. Full of energy, he convinced me that they were on their way to winning state. He believed in his kids and he believed in himself. I got reacquainted with a classmate from my elementary school who set up the screening in the middle of Manhattan. 20+ years later and she still helped an old friend. I drank beers with every local in every small town: Scottsbluff, Alliance, Seward, Grand Island, York, Papillion, Kearney, and so many many more. I had the best steak I have ever had at Tim Jorgensons house in North Platte. I doubt that I’ll ever have the opportunity to do something as amazing as that tour ever again. I owe Dave “Husker” Max so much for setting it all up.
The greatest night I’ve ever had was the screening at the Rococo in my hometown, Lincoln. I can’t even begin to type out all the great things that happened. I got to watch my film with 400 of my new favorite people. The Husker Elvis’s were there and the Real Life Herbie Husker also made an appearance. Milt Tenopir and Jason Peter showed up to watch with us. Jason was kind enough to ask me to speak at Larry the Cable Guys annual golf outing the following month. I made Larry laugh. It was a cool moment for me.
So the reason that I’m writing this article is to ask everyone that came to a screening to send me there stories for my blog and also just so I have them to take out on a rainy day in 2032. Please tell me what you thought. Did we meet? What do you remember? Why are you a Husker? Do you view the whole thing differently now? If you can share a story with me please do. I want to keep this community feeling going because I have missed it. If you don’t have anything to add then please share it with someone who might.
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My First Husker Game:
My love for all things Nebraska football officially started September 25, 1982 (The Penn St game “the horrible, awful, officiated game it was”). I was watching the game in Lincoln at my aunt and uncle’s house. I didn’t quite get all the aspects of the game of football at that time but I did realize that our beloved and revered Huskers were jobbed in a HUGE way. I never saw my Papa so upset over anything…Uncles were spewing out the absurdities of this game and my own very difficult to anger Father was not at all happy either. There was a strange camaraderie (band of brothers situation) that seemed to take place(not only in my Uncle’s house but the whole state of Nebraska) in the fact that our beloved team was just screwed out of a victory and ultimately a National Title in 1982 and ever since that day I have watched, followed and immensely enjoyed Nebraska football.
The following year of 1983 set the hook forever…of course! The Scoring Explosion was the greatest offensive team ever assembled and it was a true joy and pleasure to watch that team steamroll over everyone (in the regular season) I don’t like to talk or write about lo$$es and don’t even like to type the word as you can see. I watched every single game of the 1983 season and was developing an acumen very quickly about players, coaches, stats, schematics…(much quicker than any of my school studies) I still have a special place in my heart for the first Quarterback I ever watched Turner Gill and still place him as the standard by which all other Husker QB’s are measured.
Fast forward to October 6, 1984: My family lived in Yankton, SD at this time and we stopped into Lincoln for the weekend just to visit my grandparents and then drive right back on Sunday. This happened quite often in my childhood especially when we lived in Fremont, NE. I was, of course, worried that I was not going to be near a radio or a TV for the Oklahoma St game. The Mighty Cornhuskers did NOT have a good outing the previous week and all of Husker nation was in the mood to get another game played. The game had a 1:00 pm start time and while I was downstairs with my sisters …(My nana had a saying about the kids after breakfast and when the energy levels started peaking)….”Dowwwwn Zha Stayaaars” in her very unique accent from living all over the US and being originally from Newfoundland, Canada.
11:30 or so I heard my Papa say that he would like me to come upstairs for a minute….I go up there and my Papa was telling me that he was on the way to the game and wanted to know if I would like to join him….This, as far as I know, was NOT planned at all and I believe whoever my Papa had tickets with couldn’t go for whatever reason….My Scarlet and Cream heart STOPPED! I was a kid that would hold his breath whenever we even DROVE by Memorial Stadium. I happily accepted and luckily I was already in the habit of wearing Husker RED for ANY game that the Huskers played whether I was anywhere near the game being played or not. I honestly have no recollection of the drive to the stadium, parking probably two miles away and walking in….I don’t know if I blacked out or because of what was to happen next completely trumped that part of my long term memory.
The first second I peeked my head onto the field ….I saw what appeared to be two massive warrior giants in gladiator gear…(Jeff Smith and Doug DuBose) playing catch with each other during warm ups. I just couldn’t believe the size of everyone and I am sure my Papa was literally dragging me to my seat which turned out to be the 45 yard line on the west side!! I was so mesmerized about the warm ups and the fact that I was actually there that I was not being terribly cordial to Papa’s stadium buddies and he had to basically tell them that this was my first Husker game! I do remember noticing one of my Papa’s friends was wearing a “crimson” sweater vest. That irked me…Nebraska wears SCARLET NOT crimson…There are several teams that I am NOT FOND OF that wear Crimson…
I also remember just prior to kick off Herbie Husker and Pistol Pete (The Okie State Cowboy mascot) were doing the cowboy standoff where they had their hands where their holsters would be and they were marching towards each other for a draw of guns and once they finally met…They shook hands and the crowd roared with appreciation.
The game was ready to begin and this was also a Homecoming game and the crowd seemed extra juiced because of that and the fact that we did not play well AT ALL the previous week. We were rotating two QB’s at the time as the Huskers were in a transitional year after having Turner Gill as the starter. Craig Sunberg and Travis Turner had the daunting task of taking over the Big Red Offensive Machine. This was also the first time EVER that Okie State had a better record than Nebraska going into the head to head meeting so there was a certain nervousness in the air. The polls had Nebraska and the Cowboys very equal with Nebraska being ranked #8 and #9 in both polls and Okie State was ranked #9 and #8 so the game was evenly matched as far as the AP and UPI rankings were concerned.
The first points of the game were scored by Okie State.. A 40 yard field goal to put them up 3-0 in the opening stanza. Nebraska was sputtering and faltering all over the field for the first 3 quarters of this contest and was FORTUNATE to only be down 3-0 going into the 4th quarter. During the Huskers troubles I recall a “sweet” old lady at the start of the game turn into a foul mouthed raving sycophant as the game unfolded. She was very eloquent in her dislike of the Big Red’s performance and let all the ole capacity of 76,300 know it!
Finally FINALLY Nebraska shows some life with a field goal of their own to tie the game 3-3 in the 4th quarter. Obviously the Huskers needed a spark and a ton more execution to escape with a W in this one. It happened when the Blackshirts made a very timely and important stop near midfield and forced the Cowpokes into punting. Enter Shane Swanson, the old country boy from Hershey Nebraska of all places to take off like a bullet and juked and jived shimmied and dived into the end zone 49 yards to finally break the game open. I still remember how unbelievably loud it was when he was running toward the end zone and the fact that I was screaming as loud as I could but could not hear myself.
Now the Huskers needed another defensive stand and according to the “sweet” old lady sitting in the stands that day The Huskers still needed their craniums out of their posteriors. (paraphrased) Danny Noonan was the stud Blackshirt that finally ripped down Rusty Hilger for good and was able to get the Big Red the ball back to see if they could put this game away.
To finally seal the game Jason Gamble rangled in a Travis Turner pass and took the pigskin 64 yards to the house to end this hard fought, gut wrenching battle with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Nebraska won the game with Okie St 17-3 and went on to finish the 1984 season with a 28-10 victory over LSU and finishing 3rd in the AP poll.
I have been to tons of games since that one and I have seen better teams (and worse) but that will always be my “First Husker game”!
Thanks Pops for thinking to invite me AND thanks to the poor soul that had to give up his ticket!!
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Mary Ann: I grew up in a small town in northeast Nebraska, where every Saturday in the fall the Nebraska game was on the radio. When it was time for me to select a college, I had only one choice in mind, and so I got to see lots of Husker games for four years. Now I have moved to Minnesota and have converted my Minnesota husband into a big Nebraska fan. I would like to share our story of the reputation of Husker Fans outside of Memorial Stadium. My husband and I went to the Virginia Tech-Nebraska game at Virginia Tech, September 2009. My husband’s college friends who live in Virginia got a parking pass so we could park on campus. We brought our tailgating supplies and arrived a few hours before the game to relax, take in the atmosphere, and walk around the beautiful campus. When we arrived and began unpacking our gear, we were given the usual friendly jabs from a few VT fans. The afternoon became quite warm and sunny, and we decided to move our tailgating to a shady area. As we settled into our new spot, a young co-ed from VT came over to us and asked if we would like to join their tailgating party. We followed her to their party, and every one of them was very, very friendly and welcoming. As we talked with their fans, we found out that during the week the radio stations were promoting that everyone be very friendly to the Nebraska fans at the game. This was being promoted because the previous year in Lincoln the Virginia Tech fans said they were treated like royalty. The Nebraska fans were so nice to all the Virginia Tech fans in Lincoln and they wanted to return the friendship. They told us that they have never received such royal treatment at an away game and enjoyed their experience in Lincoln. During the course of the afternoon we encountered other Virginia Tech fans who went out of their way to come and welcome us. After the game, which we should have won, several people in the stands came and shook our hands and thanked us for coming. Also, the VT fans were amazed at the number of fans that came from Nebraska – they have never had that many from a visiting team come to Virginia Tech. This experience makes us so proud to be Husker Fans! There is no place like Nebraska!!! GO BIG RED!!!
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I was a fence hopper along with a few hundred other kids. Back in the late 60s and early seventies before the additional seating was erected in the South endzone a 10 foot fence with barbed wire at the top surrounded the endzone. Kids would climb to the top and wait for others, once around 30 or so kids were on the top of the fence they would all jump at once. 2 or 3 police vs. 30 kids a few were caught and escorted out only to climb again on the next wave. We would roam the stadium or sit behind the fencing in the endzones. Today its pretty hard to sneak into the stadium but back then we found more creative ways to get in to see the Huskers! First game 1967
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I grew up on our family farm in southern Gage County, just off of Hwy 77. My first true recollection of watching a Husker game was probably the 1974 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas following the 1973 season, Coach Osborne’s first. I was still pretty young, but already had my red and white jersey, and toted my small plastic toy football adorned with the Nebraska logo and advertisement from a local gas station. Farm work generally didn’t stop on football Saturday’s except when the game was televised. As I grew old enough to tackle field work, I usually listened to Lyell Bremser calling the game on a transistor radio unless I was lucky enough to draw the one tractor that had a radio mounted to it. I also mowed our church cemetery on Hwy 77, so I got to witness firsthand the vast “Big Red Caravan” of fans heading south as they travelled to such hallowed destinations as Manhattan, Lawrence, Stillwater, Norman, and Columbia. If it was an early game and I took a long break to listen, I sometimes saw the same cars coming back later that same evening. While in college in Lincoln in the mid to late 1980s, I was fortunate enough to work concessions at Memorial Stadium. I also got to wear the old Harry Husker mascot on the sidelines one season as a member of Corn Cobs. While serving in the Army after college, I had to get my fix of Husker football wherever I was stationed. I watched many a game starting at 1AM or later in Germany, or listened on Huskers.com if they weren’t televised. It wasn’t until I started collecting Husker memorabilia that I found my true role in life as a Huskers fan, however. Finding no easy way to research memorabilia online, I decided to build a memorabilia reference site dedicated to all that is Husker Football. Thirteen years later, and with the help of literally dozens (not quite one hundred) of other dedicated Husker fans and collectors, HuskerJ.com is still going strong and growing. Having retired from the military and settled in Omaha, I get to a couple of games each year with the kids. The love of Husker football and Dear old Nebraska U is alive and well, and carrying on in this Husker family.
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I became a Husker fan on January 2, 1984. It is a pivotal day in Husker history, to be sure. Miami-Nebraska. Orange Bowl. Two-Point conversion. A tipped pass. More than a decade before the ghosts of that game were laid to rest. I was 9 years old and watching the game with my father. We were not Nebraskans, watching the game via a television broadcast in the cold of northwestern South Dakota. Looking back on it, I was like many young boys who look for ways to gravitate towards their father – to connect with them and seek their approval. I do not recall a moment before that night ever seeing my dad so emotionally invested in a contest of any kind. I did not understand the degree of passion he displayed towards the game. After it ended, however, there was the ‘Lesson’ about how a winner should win. Whether it be after a movie or a youth basketball game, there always seemed to be the ‘Lesson’ with my dad. Some were hard lessons, others difficult for a child to grasp. All were important to my father. On that night, I heard about this red-haired coach and his stoicism, restraint, and work ethic. His insistence on winning the right way. There was a ‘Lesson’ to be learned about going for the two point conversion rather than settling for the tie and being acknowledged national champions anyway. To be sure, I was not sure what exactly that was at 9 years old, but I think of it often. My father thought Tom Osborne was the best kind of winner and a great person, somehow made greater in his eyes even though his team lost the game, so naturally I wanted to be that way, too. As luck would have it, we moved to Nebraska 2 years later, securing the Huskers’ place in my soul forever. Here, I was surrounded by Husker news at all times. Nightly news broadcasts. Kent Pavelka on the radio on fall Saturdays. John Melton, Dr. Tom, and the Husker players on PBS during the week. It was a ritual that everyone in Nebraska followed. Husker football was something that my dad and I shared often – throwing the football around the yard with the play-by-play in the background, and he treated me to my first game in Memorial Stadium on September 28, 1985 against Oregon. It was just him and I, shivering in a blanket in our north stadium seats while wet snow and sleet fell all afternoon long. Even at 11 years old, the majesty of the experience was overpowering to a small town kid. This was the epicenter of the state, the central nervous system that we all shared. The balloons, the songs, and the play on the field. Tom Osborne on the sidelines. The final score of the game was 63-0. Rarely one to defy my father’s wishes, I insisted we stay to the end, despite the weather and his not-so-gentle urging. Legend had it that Coach Osborne came out and jogged around the field after the games. I never saw him. The windshield wipers burned out due to the crusting sleet and snow on the 4-hour drive home, so we had to stop every 5 miles to clean off the windshield. I didn’t care. I envisioned Coach Osborne making endless loops while jogging around the field in the sleet and the snow. He wouldn’t complain – real winners never did – so neither would I. As I’ve grown older and started a family of my own, I often wonder about why I feel the way that I do about Husker sports. For the longest time, I firmly believed that it was the ideology of the program, imprinted by a legendary coach, and learned at a particular time in my life that held the allure for me. As coach Osborne stepped away from the program following the 1997 season, however, my interest never waned. Looking back on it now, I understand that it was never about the coach or the team or the sterling accomplishments of the program. It was something much simpler than that, born on a cold night on January 2, 1984. After that game, my father and I connected in a way that has stood the test of years. I understood what my father expected of me as a young boy and, later, as grown man. No matter the trials that face every family relationship, Husker sports has been the always-open line of communication between my father and I – the sacred ground where we can both agree on something when it seems we disagree about everything else. With 2 sons of my own, 28 years later, I am the one teaching the ‘Lesson’. I hope it serves them as wells as it has their father. Go Big Red!
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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.
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My life as a Big Red Fan began in 1970 when I was 9 years old and started taking a major interest in college athletics. My father, Ret. LtCol. Michael K. McCuistion, grew up in Lincoln where he was a stand out golfer in the city, state and on the national junior scene. My dad was one of the first scholarship golfers at the University of Nebraska during the late 50′s. The interesting thing about my transformation to the Big Red Nation is the fact that I was born and raised in the state of Alabama, yet decided early on that my alligiance would be to Nebraska during my early formative years. I’m not sure if I was trying to keep a part of my father in my life, since he was shot down in 1967 over North VietNam during the VietNam war and held captive as a MIA/POW for almost 6 years, or if I truly had a draw to the program that would soon become one of the best in college football. Luck of the draw I guess; I could have done what most young boys in the state of Alabama do, get on the Crimson Tide or War Eagle band wagon, but I was determined to follow my heart and cheer for the Cornhuskers. My choice of Nebraska as my favorite college football team paid off quickly as I remember them being the National Champion in 1970. When they went back to back in 1971 I was a bit an outcast in my neighborhood since they kicked the snot out of Alabama (not to mention the grief I got from my mother, grandparents, cousins,etc.) The years that followed were very lean; I was bleeding red through and through and kept waiting for the next time I could puff my chest out and speak my mind proclaiming my team as one of the best in the nation. I felt bad for coach Osborne, he got close so many times but just couldn’t get that National Championship. I attended my first game at Memorial Stadium with my grandfather, Jack McCuistion, in 1986 to see the classic NU vs. OU matchup the day after Thanksgiving. It was a tough loss sitting there in the north endzone watching OU come back from being 10 down with a little more than 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. I was heart broken; this would be the only game that I would ever get to see in person with my grandfather. I had driven over 24 hours straight from Las Vegas, Nevada arriving sometime early in the morning to be with my grandfather for this game. It was a tough loss to swallow but an incredible experience to finally get a chance in person to be part of the Big Red Nation; I had seen so many games on TV and wanted to be there so many times, so to finally make it to a game with my grandfather was something that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. 1993 was a tough loss to Florida State; I was minutes away from being able to proclaim my Cornhuskers as kings of the college football world but instead ended up kicking my window AC unit out of its mounts over my frustration with the last second loss. Then came 1994-I had just recently been married so my new wife didn’t quite understand my fanatical behavior with the Cornhuskers. My father was in town for the holidays and was sitting with me as we watched the hated Miami Hurricanes put up a tough fight. My wife eventually left the room as my father and me continued to scream and curse at the TV. In the end it was an awesome night to watch the big mouthed Hurricanes run out of gas and get muscled into the ground during the 4th quarter. 1994 and the Fiesta Bowl will be another one of those lasting memories; I ended up flying down to Tempe with my good friend Mike who had come out to Vegas to celebrate New Years from Florida. Mike is an OSU fan but routes for Nebraska as part of our friendship. We ended up flying down with a ton of Florida Gator fans and had to listen to their crap the whole way down. I was worried about Nebraska’s ability to stop the passing attack of coach Spurrier. Mike and I ended up with tickets in the endzone that was full of Gator fans; other than the fact that Florida scored first blood it was a night to remember. I was politely excited the entire game; expressed my pride as a Nebraska fan and congratulated the Florida fans on a great season (too bad we just kicked the living —- out of your football team). 1997 was a tough year-my wife and I had recently moved to Dekalb, Illinois in the summer of 96; I was excited that I would be within 8 hours of Lincoln and was looking forward to attending games with my grandfather. Unfortunately he passed 9 days following the first Big XII Championship loss to Texas. When I went to Lincoln to help my father take care of my grandfathers possessions, there on Jack’s nightstand was an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a Christmas card with the $25 check that he always sent at Christmas and a short message that said “Damn defense”. I still have the card and ckeck; it will be something I will always hold on to. Earlier that season my grandfather sent me a painted rock he picked up from some sidewalk vendor during a home game. Its just a simple round stone painted white with a big red N in the middle of it-to this day that rock sits on top of the TV as a reminder of my grandfather and as a lucky charm to help the football Gods when Nebraska plays. Following my grandfathers passing, my father and I have tried to go out every year for a game; I’ve made it to Memorial every year since Jacks passing and my dad has made it out 10 times. The sad fact about my father attending games-he’s never seen them win at home (is Michael a bad luck charm). Even this past year when we went out for the OSU game, and yes my good friend Mike from Florida was there spouting off about his Buckeyes kicking butt, my dad didn’t make it into the stadium. Dad allowed tailgating to get the best of him so he went back to where we were staying instead of coming to the game. I didn’t make it inside Memorial until half time and almost walked out once I saw the score. Mike had made some trades with my north endzone tickects for some really sweet 40 yard line tickets on the east side of the stadium. Mike, my brother-in-law Jeff and I sat there and watched one of the greatest come backs in Nebraska history. Like all good Nebraska fans, even though my buddly was pissing people off all around him, they congratulated him on a good game and enjoyed watching him back down the further along the game went. So the string still stands with my dad not getting to see Nebraska win at home; we’ll see what happens next year when we all show up for pay back against Wisconsin. My life as a Cornhusker fan has provided many highs and lows; the one thing that remains is my undying passion for one of the greatest college football programs in the country. Even when my wife gives me the, “its just a game and it doesn’t have anything to do with the bigger picture”, I smile inside and think to myself, “she just doesn’t get it”. Go Big Red!!
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