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Nebraska Huskers Fans

Pat:

Being a Husker isn’t just about celebrating what happens on the football field. It’s about celebrating our community. When Tweedy first told me he was going to produce a documentary on Husker fans, I was proud. When it was finally completed (and again when I saw it), those feelings of pride grew exponentially. Not only was this a great film, this was a great film produced by a friend, someone from my college community.

This all began to feel the way the mid-1990s felt as a resident of Auburn, NE. The Huskers’ three national championships in that period made Auburn happy on their own, to be sure, but much of the town’s elation was derived from seeing three former Auburn Bulldogs on the roster at that time. Two of them, Chad and Chris Kelsay, were starters and went on to play in the NFL. But Auburn fans were every bit as proud of Quint Hogrefe, a star high school running back who could have gone to any number of Big Eight schools on scholarship. Quint instead chose to walk on to Nebraska as a linebacker, where he eventually earned a scholarship while winning four varsity letters and being a part of three national championship teams and four Academic All-America teams. He’s also the guy jumping up and down on the sideline during Tommie Frazier’s legendary run in the Fiesta Bowl.

I remember reading an article about Bubba Starling a few years back. His high school coach said that he did a great job avoiding the mess that comes with being a big-time athlete. He said that growing up in small towns, everyone wants to take the big star down a peg or two, that it comes with the territory in these rural communities. This was not the small-town life I grew to know in Nebraska. When Chad Kelsay became the town’s first-ever big-college signee, we all framed the Nemaha County Herald’s picture of him doing so. When Chris Kelsay was drafted, I suddenly saw #90 Buffalo Bills jerseys (and you have to custom order those things). When our high school speech team won a state championship my sophomore year of high school, the town threw a pep rally. It’s just what we do.

In 1998, the senior season for Quint and Chad (and the first year on campus for Chris), the town of Auburn threw a post-game party for all of the Auburn-bred Huskers. My family went to the game. The only way we could get tickets was if our family was completely separated. My dad, my step-mom, my younger brother and I sat in four different sections. The angle wasn’t great for anyone involved. Ricky Williams was as much of a beast 43 rows up as he was from the ninth row. But the disappointment of the loss quickly faded into the joy of community. Seventy miles from home, in a full hotel ballroom, were all of my teachers, several downtown businessmen, and so many of my neighbors. All to say “hi” and “thanks” to these young men who had made us proud. You know who else was in the crowd? Several other Huskers. As a newly minted 15-year-old, I had recently developed the testicular fortitude to start a random conversation with Mike Rucker. He had been amazed that day. Not by the talent of one of college football’s greatest running backs, but by the sense of community he was witnessing.

So anytime anyone asks me about Through These Gates. Not only do I tell them about the beautiful photography, the moving story and the incredible music, but I also usually tell them that story. This is my community.

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.

Thanks Huskers.

Sincerely,

Ryan Tweedy

Coach Tom Osborne Wins 1st National Title

Hello,

My name is Chris, I live in Fremont, NE., and I am a life-long Husker Fan!  I am just a regular, hard-working Nebraskan who loves Husker sports, but has a passion for Husker Football in particular that is hard to explain through words.  The best way to share my passion is by sharing a true story of how I felt after defeating Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

Like many Nebraska Fans, immediately after defeating Miami in the Orange Bowl, on that cold, winter night in January, I was out on the streets of Fremont at 10:30 pm., driving and celebrating the win by proudly holding a Husker flag out my drivers window with one hand as I was driving and honking my horn with the other as were many other people, quite to my surprise to be honest!  It was a spontaneous feeling of something I had to do… almost involuntary in nature.  At the time, I had just broke my right leg at work with a nasty split of my tibia bone in half for 5 inches vertically.  Let me just say, I couldn’t sleep because of the pain for 72 hours after breaking it.  But, nothing was going to stop me from celebrating what I knew was going to be the 1994 National Championship!

The next day, after hearing about the celebration that was going to happen at the Devaney Center, two friends of mine and I, drove down to Lincoln to go to the Devaney Center, and be a part of the celebration and welcome home the Husker National Championship team!

As we arrive, we find a place to park as close as possible because of my broken leg, and at that time, the streets and sidewalks were covered in ice, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for me, but still ended up 4 blocks away from the Devaney Center.  Nonetheless, nothing was going to stop me from being a part of the celebration, so I decided to leave my crutches in the car because I feared I had a better chance of falling using them on the icy walkways than if I just hobbled the entire way, so that is what I did.  I hobbled in pain up to the Devaney Center, but the team was late in arriving from the airport so this huge crowd, along with my friends and I, had to stand outside and wait for the doors to open.  To be honest, I thought I had made a big mistake in going at this point in time because my leg was causing me great pain, and apparently I must have shown it because the group of UNL students standing around me noticed and offered to pick me up and hold me off the ground while we stood there and waited.  Although I greatly appreciated the gesture, I had to decline… I thought to myself, “I can’t look like a wimp in front of all these people”.

Thank goodness it wasn’t much longer before the doors to the Devaney Center opened, but since the seating was open to the public, it was first come first serve on getting a seat and what happened next I wasn’t prepared for!  There was a wave of humanity rushing through the doors, everybody running to get a seat before all of them were taken… me included!  I was hopping along on one leg as fast as possible and thankfully my friends and I got seats about halfway up the Devaney and settled in while waiting for the team and Tom Osborne to enter the arena.  How we were able to get seats I will never know because I think the entire place was filled within 10 minutes of the doors opening?  Regardless, I was one of the happiest people on earth that day and my adrenaline pumping helped keep my mind off my broken leg.

After sitting and proudly cheering for Coach Osborne and all the players who worked so hard to get that first championship for Coach Osborne, and enjoying, for me, what was a once in a lifetime experience, my friends and I were headed back home to Fremont, each of us unable to stop smiling.

Even me… broken leg and all!

Well, later that night, after all the jubilation was starting to wear off, the pain in my leg was starting to increase.  I was hoping it wouldn’t keep getting worse, but by the next morning, the throbbing pain was bad enough that the pain medication I was given by my doctor wasn’t working at all.  Therefore, I scheduled an emergency appointment with my orthopedic surgeon later that day.  After having x-rays taken of my leg, the doctor was looking at them, and acting baffled, asked me, “Have you been putting a lot of weight on our broken leg or been doing anything that could possibly have caused your break to become worse than it was to begin with?”  You know… I proudly answered, “No sir, I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary that could have possibly caused the break to become worse?”  Anyway, although it took four weeks longer than the doctor predicted for me to be healed enough to get back to my normal daily routine, I recovered fine and continued on, not regretting what I went through to be a part of Husker history for a single second!

That’s what it means to be a part of Husker Nation as a Husker Fan!

GO BIG RED!!

Corn Hat adventures

Lately I’ve been so involved in post production and the “filmmaker” side of this project that today I took a few minutes to remind myself a few things. I began thinking about how far we’ve come and more importantly how we got here. This is a project that started out as en exploration of Nebraska fandom over 2 years ago. It was just an idea, a Craigslist ad, a couple hundred bucks, and some camera equipment that I borrowed from a friend. Honestly, I just missed Nebraska and was looking for any excuse to be there in the fall. I wish it was a more altruistic or “Hollywood” story than that but I just really wanted to see a couple of football games and hopefully meet Eric Crouch. He was our first and only interview we lined up. Since him we’ve interviewed about 20 “Husker celebrities” and more fans than I can count.

Football.

We say it’s not about football. That its bigger than that. That’s what we tell ourselves – I hear it almost every day, I’ve believed it my whole life. I was afraid that as I immersed myself in it that I would find out that we weren’t that great, let alone the greatest fans in college football. Like the time I accidentally bumped into Sean Penn and he gave me a dirty look. Not that it makes him a bad person but it took him out of the running for my favorite. And Husker fans don’t claim to be “not bad” fans or even “good” fans. We wrote above every entrance that we are the “greatest” fans. That’s Bold.

I could make a movie about making this movie and it would be just as interesting as the movie itself. I got email after email from people sharing stories and offering help because they just wanted to “be involved”. Many of them just loved Nebraska. Many just knew a Nebraskan that they loved. I’ve had camera men help me for free because we didn’t have a budget at first, sound guys, people who just wanted to hold a mic. Farmers that would let me use their land as long as I promised the pictures would only “be used for good”. Strangers sent me pictures and videos, invited me into their house, made me honorary members of their clubs. I was invited into old coaches house and offices and stadiums. I was given rides in helicopters to film Lincoln in ways hopefully it hasn’t been seen before. I’ve been given pictures from NASA. I’ve had some of the busiest men on the planet change their schedule to work in a time to talk to me about being a Husker. We would spend the first half of our time talking about football then we would talk about how we grew up. I also met many talented artists and musicians but the ones that came through the most where the ones I’ve known my whole life. I was looking to find music for the film. A good song that made sense. I couldn’t afford them, they were very expensive and I’m not a wealthy man. Never have been. My friends got together and made a song for my film that is incredible. 2 of my best friends from childhood, one of their dads and some dude I’d never met wrote and sang the main theme song of the film. I would call us a grass-roots project but I like the term home-grown even more. When people from other places see the help I receive their minds are blown away by the kindness , the loyalty, and the support I’ve received. Some don’t believe it and they search for the agenda.

Sometimes it’s important that we stop and remind ourselves how lucky we are to grow up in such a great place. So I wanted to take a second to thank everyone who’s helped me.

Thank you.

I wish I could do or say more. The film will be ready this fall and I hope I did Nebraska justice. While “Through These Gates” is about being a Husker it’s not just about football. It’s bigger than that.

Husker Cheerleader Girls

Charlotte: I’m 14 years old. I was born in Omaha, and lived there until the summer of 2011 when my family moved to Wyoming. I think of my self as a Husker, a full-fledged, born and raised, die-hard Husker. Although I wasn’t around for Nebraska’s first championships in the seventies, or our glory days in the nineties, I wish I could have been. I’ve grown up in a family where Husker football is life, and you WILL wear red every Saturday during the season. No questions asked, you just do it. I remember a picture of my parents and two older sisters in front of the statue in Lincoln the day after the 1997 Championship, wearing red from head to toe, and a video from that same day in the Devany center with all the coaching staff and players. That is the kind of fans we are. I have so many memories involving Nebraska I couldn’t count them all if I tried. One of my earliest memories is breaking my arm the night of the 2003 Alamo Bowl, against Michigan State. All of our friends and family were at our house to watch the game, and everyone was so wrapped up in it, no one would pay attention to me. So naturally I decided to dance in my booster seat, which lead to falling off the chair, and snapping my arm. Of course we didn’t go to the ER until the game was over. I remember my first husker cheerleading uniform when I was a little girl. I remember playing with our Husker Barbies during the games every Saturday. I remember my first Red and White game, and the whole stadium doing the wave. I can honestly say, I’ve been a Husker my ENTIRE life. I watch every single football game and volleyball game every season, every year, whether it is a win or a loss. I have even kept this up since moving to Wyoming. I think moving to Wyoming showed me how much of a Husker I really am. Being a Husker has helped me through the move a lot honestly. It’s that one piece of home that I can always hold onto. No matter what, I have Nebraska. I don’t introduce myself as a Nebraskan, I tell people I’m from Nebraska and I’m a Husker. Everyone here likes UW (University of Wyoming) because that’s all they’ve got. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the only reason I like the Huskers, because it’s the only big team in Nebraska, but then I realize that isn’t the reason. I like Nebraska because of what it stands for. The tradition, the morals, and our reputation. Nebraska is known for having the nicest fans in the country, and if that isn’t something to be proud of, then I’m not sure what is. Nebraska truly does have the best fans in the Big 10, and the best fans in the Nation. But I don’t like to refer to Nebraska’s fan base as “fans”, because we aren’t. Every team has fans, but no one else has Huskers. You don’t refer to OU fans as Sooners, or Texas fans as Longhorns, they are just Oklahoma and Texas fans. But Huskers aren’t called Nebraska fans, we are called Huskers, and I think that’s pretty special. Every team has fans, but no one else has Huskers. Huskers are the athletes at UNL, the students, the coaching staff, the people who live in Lincoln, the people who live in Nebraska, and all over the world. We are all Huskers, and that’s what makes us so special, we are one big family. We are the Sea of Red, and we make up Husker Nation. We pride ourselves our tradition, morals, and reputation, and we will never change. You don’t have to be from Nebraska to be a Husker, But once a Husker, always a Husker. That’s just the way it is, you know? It’s hard to hate Nebraska, and my personal opinion is that people who hate Nebraska are simply envious. Not because we are such a good team, and never lose, or because we always get the results we want, but because of our spirit. No one has as much love and respect as Huskers do for Nebraska. Huskers aren’t afraid to admit when we lose, because we are here to stay through thick and thin. During the season I wear a Nebraska shirt every Monday to school after the game that weekend whether we one or lost. We represent our team no matter what, year round, we are devoted to Nebraska. Devoted like a Catholic is devoted to God. Being a Husker is a part of your life, and a part of you personally. That is why the Huskers are the best.

Memorial Stadium during Husker Game

Marlin:

I have never lived in Nebraska, but I inherited rooting for the Cornhuskers from my father. Though I was raised in Oregon (and have lived in California for 27 years now), my parents both grew up in Nebraska (Broken Bow), leaving in their early 20′s. Growing up (I was born in ’64), my family never had a television. Whenever Nebraska played on tv, my uncle would drive down from Washington state, and bring his portable tv. We watched the Cornhuskers! Then every year on New Years, he would also come down and we’d watch the bowl games. I think that is why I love college football so much today. It is really the only sport I pay much attention to.

In 1984, my dad, my uncle and myself drove from Oregon down to Pasadena to watch Nebraska play UCLA at the Rose Bowl stadium. My first look at the Huskers “live”. We did the same in 1988, though I was now living in central California. We try to catch Nebraska as much as we can when they play on the west coast. 1998 was a great year, as we got to watch them play twice. Cal in Berkeley, and then in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl against Arizona. Also, I was able to take my dad to the 2001 National Championship game versus Miami in the Rose Bowl.

Though he grew up in Nebraska, my dad had never had the opportunity to attend a game in Lincoln. My dream was to take him to a game in Lincoln. The perception from afar is that Nebraska football has been sold out for 40+ years, and seats are just not available. How was I gonna pull this off? But a number of years ago, my niece graduated from Biola, and decided to do her graduate studies at Baylor, a Big 12 opponent. I had just found my way into Memorial Stadium! When a game in Lincoln came up on Baylor’s schedule, I gave my niece my credit card info and told her to get us some tickets. I think we ended up with about 8 seats. We had a grand time experiencing the Big Red Wave in Lincoln! One amazing experience on that trip happened in Phoenix, Arizona. I flew out of Sacramento, and my sister flew out of Portland, Oregon. We met in Phoenix, and had the same flight from Phoenix to Omaha. I was amazed that there were no less than 15 or 20 people getting on that plane way out west in Phoenix, headed to Memorial Staduim for the game! My dad had such a good time that several months later he told me, “That was fun. We should do that again sometime!” A comment totally out of character for my dad. So, a couple of years later, we went back for a game versus Texas A&M. The only disappointment, is that our two experiences at Memorial Stadium both came during the rather forgetable Bill Callahan era. None-the-less, the game day in Memorial Stadium experience is one I will never forget. I lost my dad 2 1/2 years ago, but I will be forever grateful that I was able to give him the Husker home game experience. The tradition lives on. In December 2010, I took my wife (married July 2010) on a belated honeymoon to San Diego. She was less than impressed by the Husker’s performance that day in the Holiday Bowl, but she was sufficiently impressed by the major college football game day experience. Just wait ’till I take her to Lincoln someday . . .

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