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Stan Parker is 48 years old now. He’s 90 pounds lighter than he was when he was a captain and a starting offensive guard on Nebraska’s 1986 team that beat LSU in the Sugar Bowl. That ’86 team finished 10-2 and ranked in the final top five teams in both major college polls. The Huskers’ only losses that season were 20-10 at Colorado and 20-17 to Oklahoma in Lincoln when the Sooners scored 10 points in the last 3∏ minutes. It was a tough loss, to be sure, but in an ironic way, that Saturday, November 22nd game against OU included an experience that became one of the highlights of Stan Parker’s college football career.
“It was a crushing defeat, especially when (OU tight end) Keith Jackson turned around and shoved one of our defensive backs away from him (also known as pass interference) before catching a long (41-yard) pass, so they could kick the game-winning field goal with six seconds left,” Parker said in vivid detail. “Yet while that game represented the most painful loss, it also provided one of my most memorable experiences.”
Let’s rewind the clock back to the night before that 1986 game when Nebraska’s and Oklahoma’s teams happened to show up at the same movie theater in downtown Lincoln. “Going into the theatre, I didn’t realize I was about to experience a ‘chance’ event that would set up what would happen the next day in the game. I looked across the lobby and saw (OU running back) Spencer Tillman. Spencer had written a letter to (Nebraska I-back) Doug Dubose after he pulled his hamstring and couldn’t play, so I went over to Spencer that night in the lobby of the theater to tell him how much I appreciated him doing that.”
NU's Parker, OU's Tillman Shared a Common Faith
In addition to hearing about Tillman’s skill as a running back, Parker had heard they shared a common faith in Christ. “We left the movie theater that night and went down the street and sat in fellowship for two hours at a yogurt shop,” recalled Parker, who is a longtime ministry partner with Ron Brown, Nebraska’s running backs coach.
“When we left to rejoin our teams at the theater, I told Spencer: ‘Why don’t we pray together after the game tomorrow?’ Spencer looked at me and said: ‘Why don’t we pray together before the game?’”
Parker never will forget when he and Tillman, as captains, met for the coin toss, after which they were immediately joined by a small group of teammates to kneel in the center of the field in honor of the God that blessed them with their ability. “In the midst of all the hype and all the excitement, in those moments we experienced something even greater than the game itself,” Parker reflected.
Parker has been told that day was the first known organized joint prayer in college football. “We had10 players total, five from each team,” he said. “Now it’s common to see a group of players from both teams praying after a game.”
Kaelin, Nichols, Jones, Kroeker Joined Parker
Joining Parker in that prayer were teammates Ken Kaelin, a fullback from Westerfield (Ansley), Neb.; John Nichols, a center from Littleton, Colo.; Keith Jones, an I-back from Omaha Central; and John Kroeker, a punter from Henderson, Neb.
Happily married for 27 years and the father of three grown children, Parker is the team leader for My Bridge Radio, a ministry which offers Christian programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week from Alliance in Nebraska’s Panhandle to Lincoln, the state’s Capital City. “I love the opportunities I have to interact with Nebraskans from across our state every day,” Parker said, “as well as the opportunities for ministry with Ron Brown, a man of passion, courage and integrity.”
One of Parker’s roles is co-hosting the Morning Conversation on My Bridge Radio from 6:30 to 8:30 five mornings a week. Parker says the show “is focused on connecting listeners to God, to each other and to the work of God in their communities.” On Mondays throughout the football season, the Morning Conversation includes a feature with Ron Brown providing spiritual insights from the previous week’s game.
Parker and Brown claim a joint role model in Tom Osborne, who will retire Jan. 1, 2013, as Nebraska’s athletic director. “He will be missed,” Parker said, “but his legacy will carry on in everyone he touched and everyone he will continue to touch.”
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I listen to Stan on the way to work. Thanks and have a Merry Christmas. Steve Adkisson, Middle School Principal, Geneva, Nebraska