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,
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.
- Published in Fan Perspective
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!!!
- Published in Fan Perspective
Scott: How I became a Husker fan
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s so we didn’t have internet and for most of my life didn’t have cable. My family has always been huge Kentucky fans as we lived there, and my Mom was raised there, I didn’t even know anything about Nebraska football until 1978 when I moved to Gothenburg, NE. I remember after living in this small town in Central Nebraska for a few months, a friend asked if I was going to watch the game Saturday…I had no idea what he was even talking about. So it was on that Autumn day in 1978, that I rode my bike over to a friends house, I still remember thinking as I rode, “Where is everybody?” I arrived and the game came on, of course I rooted for Nebraska, I lived their now. It was on that day I became a Husker fan. Since then I can remember my 1st game at Memorial (I drove from my home in Nashville), crying when Brooke died (I still get choked up thinking about that), all the tough losses before we beat Miami, TOUCHDOWN TOMMIE FRAZIER (probably the best run I have ever seen), and the topper, I have a copy of the ticket my Mom and little Sister got when somehow they parked outside Memorial Stadium and snuck in to got me pictures of Tom Osborne and the Huskers during practice. I have no idea how my Mom, who is not the sneakiest person, nor is my sister, managed that. I also had no idea that would be the final year for Coach Osborne, the man is and always will be one of my idols. I remember all the tough times, finally winning titles, the greatest team of all time, and the downfall of a dynasty that happened later under a new regime. One of the best memories I have actually happened here in Nashville, in a grocery store. I saw a man and his wife, he and I had Husker hats on. We met mid aisle, and started talking, his wife said, “I will be back, when I am done shopping” I have no idea how long we chatted, but I remember her returning and laughing that we were still in the same spot, still talking about Husker football. You see, unlike other team fans, Husker fans are like Harley owners, we all have a certain thing, we all love our team, we all will talk to any other Husker fan about them…WE ALL BLEED RED. I will always cheer for Nebraska, and my family knows, on Saturdays from late August until the 2nd week of January…don’t bother calling me on a Saturday…I am cheering for the team I will always love…GO BIG RED
- Published in Fan Perspective
I’ve always been close to the country – both geographically and emotionally. Open farmland that spreads as far as the eye can see. Golden fields of wheat, corn and sorghum produce an earthy smell that drifts across sleepy prairie winds. And even though I was raised in the suburbs of West Omaha, I’ve always felt a connection to that agrarian life. Perhaps it’s because my ancestors were farmers; my grandfather still owns several acres of prime Missouri farmland to this day. Farmers represent the spirit of America – a “can-do” attitude that refuses to quit. Emblazoned on the Southwest corner of Nebraska’s most famous cathedral are the words: “Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory.”
In this way, Husker football epitomizes the stirrings of an entire state. An entire people group. A Big Red Nation.
Husker football is inescapable for those who call Nebraska home and I was no different. My parents were really not sports enthusiasts but even in their non-athletic minds, Saturdays in the fall were special. Wake up, rake leaves, finish house chores and then settle in with a pot of homemade chili and watch the beloved Blackshirts eviscerate another opponent.
If the Devaney Years were the Golden Age of the Husker Dynasty, then I grew up in the Silver Age of 1990’s dominance. I vividly remember names like Wistrom, Frazier and Crouch. My schoolmates and I would gather annually during Thanksgiving break to watch the dying Oklahoma Rivalry and then the blossoming Colorado Rivalry that replaced it. It was a ritual – watch the first half and then sprint outside for a backyard game. We would fight over who got to be Tommie and who got to be Brook as the last of the autumn leaves fell of their branches.
My parents’ generation remembers where they were when JFK was assassinated. Mine remembers the Berlin Wall collapsing or 9/11.
As for me, the triumphs and sorrows of Husker football are just as vivid. I know where I was when I saw Black 41 Flash Reverse. Texas’ extra second. When Henery and Suh blasted Colorado. When Tommie shook off 6 – no 7 – Gators. When a 1946 Piper Cub went flaming into the ground over Raymond, Nebraska and then the fifty thousand who attended Brook’s funeral. If you want evidence of the uniqueness of Husker football, it’s right there. Most teams are lucky if they can fill a fifty thousand seat stadium. Nebraska had that many attend the funeral of a backup quarterback.
But something changed. As my passion for Husker football grew, the team similarly slipped into some of their darkest days. The end of the bowl streak. 5 -7. Like Husker football, I changed. I grew up; moved away to the west coast. I got married and started a family here in the center of Duckmania; transplanted in beautiful, rainy Oregon. My wife is a Duck grad and so is most her family. And Oregon’s even enjoyed a recent rash of success on the field. But I can’t help but see a fan base with short-term memory. 10 years ago when Oregon was losing games to Indiana and Minnesota, their stadium was half-empty. Today it is jammed packed – loud and raucous, fans screaming and players wearing any one of 1459 combinations of costumes. It’s a 3 ring circus that poses as a football game.
Science has a lot to say about proximity. We know Mercury and Venus are much hotter than Neptune; warmed by the sun’s intense heat. But paradoxically, my love for Husker football intensified even as I moved further from the nucleus of power centered between Stadium Drive and Vine Street. The always-present distractions of Oregon, USC or Washington hasn’t softened my stance; it’s galvanized it. I’m a stronger Husker fan today than I’ve even been.
I believe it’s because, Nebraska football has become one-in-the-same with my memories of the country. Catching toads, sitting on a porch swing, walking down a dirt road. The snap count, the fullback trap, the short-side option. The quiet dignity of fans who applaud the victor whether they wear red or blue. The soft-spoken nature of a people who understand work ethic and morals. In this heartland, science and religion co-exist happily. Fashion means wearing your nice pair of Carhartts, and you can always strike up a conversation with the gas station clerk.
Though I’ve made my home along Lewis & Clark’s journey west, there is always a still, small voice inside of me that shouts “Go Big Red.” A silent, unwavering intensity that bleeds red, no matter how far I roam.
- Published in Fan Perspective
I know you probably have got plenty of stories for your film, but I wanted to add another incident of the wonderful reputation of Husker Fans outside of Memorial Stadium. I posted a blog earlier about the Nebraska-Virginia Tech game.
This time we were in New York City at the oldest pub in Manhattan, McSorley’s. The place was full, so three people came and asked if they could share our table with them. As we introduced ourselves, we found out two of them were University of Florida alums. We told them that we were Husker Fans, and we found out that one of them had attended the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. He told us that he was so impressed with the way the Nebraska fans treated the Gator fans before and after the game. They were all friendly and so nice to them, and they have never been treated like that at any SEC game.
Just another reason why I am so proud to be a Husker Fan! Go Big Red!!
- Published in Fan Perspective
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.
- Published in Fan Perspective
And here we go… This project is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. There are millions of people out there who share the same passion for Nebraska and the Cornhuskers that I do. For many of us its a blind faith. It’ something that is bigger than football. Its a family heirloom that was passed down from generation to generation like your grandmothers china or your dads old watch. Its something that if you aren’t from here you don’t get and if you are from Nebraska you can’t explain. Well, Im going to try to explain it. However, I need your help in more ways than one. The First way that I need your help is by telling me your stories. Tell me your childhood memories. Share with me what makes it special to you. What does your family do to celebrate the game? Whats the craziest thing you’ve done to show your love for the Huskers? Why are you a fan? This film is about sharing something that is so deep rooted in us that we can’t even explain where the seed got planted in the first place. The second way that I need your help is by passing this website along to others so that they see it and can share with us. I would really love to hear from every single husker fan. I would also like to hear from ex players and coaches. As much as I want to hear from Tommy Frazier, Mike Rozier and every other Husker legend I also want to hear from the walk on that played 3 years just to start his senior year because he loved the game that much or maybe the guy that never started but also never gave up. The third way that I need your help is by making donations if possible. This is expensive and Im paying every cent out of my own pocket as of now. I’ll find a way to finish it no matter what but I could really use the help. Thank you in advance for any help you give us. I look forward to sharing my documentary with you. Go Big Red, Ryan
- Published in Uncategorized