Ragin’ Cajuns’ Play-by-Play Man Experiences ‘College Football Nirvana’
jaywalker blog by Jay Walker
This is my 18th season covering Cajuns' football. And, for eight years before that, I had the opportunity to broadcast selected games on TV as well.
I've been to nine SEC stadiums. (I'll go to a 10th next season at Georgia). I've seen the Grove at Ole Miss, experienced the Gator Chomp, the Mississippi State cowbells, been a part of Alabama football in both Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. I've been called "Tigerbait" in Baton Rouge and experienced some pretty good hospitality in South Carolina.
I've said hello to the folks at Illinois and Minnesota. Felt September heat in Tempe, Arizona.
Been to Manhattan, Lubbock, Austin, Stillwater and College Station. College Station was probably the best. Folks say "Howdy" when they see you. And they say "welcome."
Haven't been to the Horseshoe, the Big House or Happy Valley. Nor have I seen Touchdown Jesus.
But I've been to College Football Nirvana.
It's located in Lincoln, Nebraska.
From the time we touched down ("Welcome to Lincoln," the police officers doing the escort said) to the time we left the stadium ("Thanks so much for coming. Have a safe trip home. We hope you'll come back again"), every Cajun fan felt like a guest.
That's right. A guest. Not the opposition ... not the enemy ... a guest.
Check into the Cornhusker Marriott, not far from campus. Fans of Big Red Nation are already there. Smiles, handshakes ... Welcome to Lincoln. Good luck tomorrow.
Board the bus for dinner. Arrive at Misty's, Lincoln's famous steakhouse (I mean, you gotta eat a steak, right?). There were about 25 in our party. We had to wait about 20 minutes for them to get everything ready. No problem. As soon as the patrons saw the Cajun gear, they wanted to talk ... introduce themselves ...welcome to Lincoln ... thanks so much for coming. Hope you enjoy the game ...
Is this for real??
And, it continued throughout the evening and into the night. We made lots of friends. We Cajun people make friends pretty easily, but it's even easier when folks want to be friends.
In Lincoln, they all want to be your friend.
Game day is different in Lincoln. They tailgate, sure, but it's tougher because, well, there's just not a lot of tailgaiting spots. But they do open the soccer field next to the stadium. Families can let the kids roam free. Nebraska radio does a pregame show there. And, a band plays during the commercial breaks.
I did an interview at the soccer field with the Nebraska radio folks. And then, had a pretty good trek to the media entrance. At each gate, the sight was the same. Hundreds lined up, waiting for the gates to open so they could get into the stadium and watch their team warm up.
By the time Nebraska came out, about 45 minutes before kickoff, the stadium was about 65 percent full. There was no "hey, let's stay outside and pound a few more beers."
Because it was game day. And they came to see football.
By the time the band was ready to come out, 86,000 strong were in their seats. They stood and clapped along when the Cornhusker Band played "Fight on Cajuns" to honor their guests. And when the band played "There is no Place Like Nebraska," I knew that the statement was true.
For the first time ever in my years covering the Cajuns, I did not hear a single boo when the Cajuns came out of their tunnel onto their sidelines; in fact, I heard a smattering of applause.
During the game, 86,000 cheered as Nebraska rolled. They didn't leave at halftime to go out and start drinking (and remember it was 34-0 at the half). Some were outside, but they had passes to get back in, and by the time the second half was ready to kick off, they were all back in their seats.
In the fourth quarter there were STILL over 80,000 in the stands. Security keeps an eye out for the sign of alcohol in the stands, which is how trouble starts. If they see alcohol they don't turn a blind eye. After all, college football is about a FAMILY atmosphere.
And when it ended, the fans stayed for another Cornhusker tradition. They applauded the Cajuns as they left the field.
Now you might say, sure, it's easy to clap for someone when you just beat them, 55-0. But they do that when their team LOSES. The newspaper on Saturday morning reprinted a handwritten letter from Florida State coach Bobby Bowden after the Seminoles got a hard-fought 18-14 win years ago. Yep, the Nebraska fans cheered them as they left.
More of the same post-game. There was a young man in a wheelchair where the Cajun players were getting their postgame meal. As each player came out, the young man thanked them for coming and wished them safe travels home. Many of the players stopped to chat for a minute.
Then it was over. And, as the buses left for the airport, the fans that were still there waved and applauded. No one-finger salutes. No "you suck" chants. Simply, safe travels, my friends.
If the two teams should play again in the future, plan ahead, Cajun Fans. Make the long drive or the relatively short flight. Come in Friday. Leave Sunday. And, you will learn what REAL college football atmosphere is about.
Because, trust me ... there is no place like Nebraska.
Tell Jay what you think of his blog:
As briefly as possible, please feel free to send your warmest wishes to Jay Walker for taking the time to tell others about his experience at Nebraska. Click here and enter your name and email address. Under "area of interest" in the drop-down box, select "Huskers.com content". Then thank Jay however you want in the "Request description" box. Don't forget to include your city, town and state in the description box and be sure you finalize your note by hitting the "Submit Support Request" button. Let's find a quick way to tell Jay how much we appreciate his comments.
Voices from Husker Nation to Jay Walker
Jay Walker? I'll bet you have had fun with that name over the years. A friend of mine and I ran into each other during halftime. As we were standing there listening to the band play the "Pride of All Nebraska", my friend said, "Those on the 'outside' don't understand it. Those on the 'inside' can't describe it." I think you came pretty darn close. For me, it is the tradition. My first game was in 1962. I was in third grade. My dad took me. I now have the same seats that my grandfather bought when they built the stadium. It feels like home. Football Saturday in Lincoln is a family reunion. Bill Reece
To Jay Walker. Thanks for the warm words about Nebraska. I now live in the Dallas area, but was born and raised in Western Nebraska, and I lived and breathed football from the day Coach Bob Devaney put Nebraska on the map. I met Devaney twice, and he was a real character. I am writing to thank you for the kind words you wrote about Nebraska football and Nebraska in general. There really is a difference in attitudes there. Here in Dallas, people have that big city attitude and not only do they not respect the opposition, they aren't even kind to their own fans, in my opinion. I don't cheer for Texas, except when they beat USC for the national championship. I hate the Dallas Cowboys, and I miss the peace and tranquility of Nebraska. I wish you the very best in your profession. You are a real, bonafide sports journalist. Hats off to you. Kenneth Morris, Lewisville, Texas.
Dear Jay, My wife and I would like to thank you for the kind words you said about Nebraskans. As a native of Nebraska, you brought tears to my eyes. I no longer live in Nebraska, but I feel so good all over every time I cross the state line. I feel as if I'm really home again. We were lucky enough to go back there for last Saturday's game. Nebraska fans are the best in college football. Once again thank you for your kind words. Ron and Deby Griffis, Iowa City, Iowa
To Jay ... I am a major Cornhusker fan, transplanted to Houston. I have lived for 10 years with the rudeness and classlessness of Aggies and Longhorns. You have no idea what your blog did for me. I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face. My son and daughter were at the game, and I listened to it on my computer. It was so amazing. I was a freshman at Nebraska in 1962 - the year the sellouts started. This is so meaningful to me and I want to thank you. You are a great writer. Linda Fugitt, Houston, Texas
I really enjoyed reading your article on Nebraska fans. I am one and have always told my friends here in Kansas that is how it is in Nebraska. There are a few who understand, but most do not. It would be great if other teams showed this kind of friendship toward the visiting teams instead of throwing stuff at them. Nebraska fans are the best. Ruby Jonas
Your article reminded me again of why I am such a huge Tom Osborne and Husker fan. If not for Dr. Tom and his stance on alcohol at the stadium, we would not have the family atmosphere that is Husker football. Hard work and common sense are what make Nebraska fans proud of their team. Thanks for your kind words. It is truly a blessing to live in Nebraska. Tom Ehly
It was great reading your column. I moved to Nebraska from New York to attend the University of Nebraska. It was the best decision of my life. I'm glad you now know why we alumni and residents of Nebraska know in our hearts that there really is no place like Nebraska. We hope to see you again in the future. Good luck on your season. George Carpenter, Overland Park, Kansas, NU '75 & NU '91
Thank you, Jay, for the recognition of the Nebraska fans. We do take great pride in being known as the best fans in the nation, which includes respecting our opponents. This is a behavior handed down through generations and has created the atmosphere we all enjoy today. "You'all come back" anytime. Susan Hart, Lincoln, Nebraska
We are transplanted Huskers, living just north of Portland, Ore. into Washington state. It's beautiful here. But few earthly things are finer than a great Husker Saturday where the opponents are welcomed and the home team is cheered, especially those Nebraska born and raised ones! I'm glad the Ragin' Cajuns (very cool name!) felt the hospitality of my home state and alma mater. It is such a privilege to have attended UNL and to have attended many games. This is perhaps one tradition that I hope never ends. Ron Arp
Jay, From a true "born, raised & educated" Nebraskan, now living in Arkansas (via Texas and Colorado), I want to thank you for taking the time to express your feelings about Nebraska. Nebraskans are good, honest people who live in a beautiful state and who greatly appreciate their University of Nebraska football team and the people who come to visit. I'm so glad your visit was a great one. I have never been in attendance in another state that truly welcomes out-of-state football fans and teams like Nebraskans do. As always ...TO BIG RED! Nadine McCreary
Jay, What a very kind statement. The whole state thanks you. I lived 75 years in Nebraska and now in Colorado. I have always thought Nebraskans were always friendly. May they always be that way. Helen Mays. Greeley, Colorado
I've been to many Big 10 and Big 12 stadiums as a visiting fan, and have never seen anything like it. I was in Lincoln a couple of years ago to cheer Texas A&M and have never been treated so well. Folks offered tailgating food (and beverages), joined us at the restaurant we went to afterwards, and made us feel SO welcome. Wish more places existed like Lincoln, Nebraska on Game Day. Matthew Slick, Des Moines, Iowa
Awesome article, Jay. I now live in Iowa, and my two boys and I try to make one or two games a year as tickets are available. As a Lincoln resident in the 1970s, I snuck into games when I was in junior high, paid for tickets as a high school student, attended and graduated from Nebraska, worked at the games selling concessions, and now I go back with my children who tell me every time we go that they would like to stay and live in Lincoln. I often tell people the old saying, "From the outside looking in, you can't understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can't explain it." Thanks for the article. It helps me better appreciate where I came from and what is important about Nebraska football. Brian Weidenthaler
I can second Jay Walker's comments about Nebraska fans. I am a Texas Longhorn fan who has made the trip to Lincoln twice for football. Despite the disappointment of a long losing streak that ended, Nebraska fans applauded UT and Ricky Williams and the fans were nothing but gracious before and after. They love and appreciate good football and while fanatically supporting their team, they don't get involved in trying to bad-mouth or intimidate opposing fans. Knowledgable and supportive - very classy. I wish it was this way at other Big 12 road games. Kurt Zeitler
Thank you, Jay, for the wonderful article you wrote on our beloved Huskers and the whole Big Red experience. I spent a lot of happy moments along with some heart-breaking ones at Memorial Stadium, and I also remember listening to Lyell Bremser do play-by-play on the radio with my Dad. I now live in Florida, but those memories are still so special and vivid to me. I am still waiting for the day when I can share the Husker experience with my three children, because as you said, you cannot understand it, until you have experienced it. Thank you again, Suzi Simon
Jay, one thing you forgot to mention, which is the reaction to a player getting hurt which is probably because it didn't occur during the game (which is a good thing). This week you hear the reactions to Tebow's injury which include numerous celebrations. At Nebraska, there would not have been cheers for the injury from the team or the crowd. There would have been applause from the crowd when it was clear that the player was OK. The Nebraska players would have offered support. There would have been questions about his health the following day as your team went to the airport. It is a shame that more programs don't behave in a similar fashion. Harry Garton
Thank you so much, Jay, for your kind blog about your trip to Lincoln. My job has moved me to Phoenix so whenever I go home I try to catch a game. Next time my wife is with me (she's from the Philippines), I want to take her to a game just so she can have that college football game day experience. Again, thank you for your kind words. It takes someone special to say the things you have said! Richard Barnes, Phoenix, Arizona
Jay, thanks for sharing your experience with your fans. I live in SEC country and people here have no idea what game day is like in Lincoln, and don't understand what it means to be a Husker fan. Thank you for your kind words about our fans. It's nice to have someone explain what Lincoln is all about. Jeff Michaels, Pensacola, Florida
Thanks, Jay, for your kind words about Nebraska fans. I was attending LSU in the early '60s and recall standing outside Tiger Stadium and joining the chant "Go to He - - Ole Miss, go to He - -!" as the Rebels got off the bus to enter their locker room before an LSU/Ole Miss game. What a contrast! I married a Nebraska girl and lived in Nebraska for several years, but it took me 20 years to become a Husker fan. I root for Nebraska and LSU to win and am now a Cajun fan, too, and wish the Ragin' Cajuns all the best. Chip Meadowcroft
Jay! Your kind words are well appreciated! After moving here 25 years ago from the Bay Area I agree, 'There is no place like Nebraska!' I hope your folks will take your advice and join us up here someday for a game . . . around here we always enjoy making new friends! Best regards and Go Big Red! Cindi Card, Lincoln, Nebraska
Jay, I was touched by your beautiful tribute to Husker football. As a child in the '50s I sat in the knothole section-bleachers in the north end zone- for 50 cents with my favorite cousin Steve. On very special Saturdays he and I got to sit with his parents in their box seats on the 50-yard line and cheer on the team. It was the 1950s, so we mostly lost, but we didn't care. If we weren't at the game it was on the radio and we'd listen in the car, in a store shopping or even in the yard raking leaves. Later I graduated from Nebraska, and we never missed a home game. Come see us again! Marvel Parker
Thanks again Jay for the great blog. I also have traveled to some away games where some schools have totally forgotten it's a game. It's so much easier just to treat people the way you would like to be treated. I hope you can make it back again. There are four sayings on four corners of our stadium that you may or may not have seen. My two favorites are "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory" and "Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport." That pretty much says it all. Thanks for coming. John Leffler
Thank you, Jay, for telling others about the respect and hospitality you received in Nebraska. It warms my soul to hear how they made you all welcome and really made your stay in my home state enjoyable. God bless you! Merna Vandeveer, Roscoe, Illinois
Thank you for your kind words. We're also proud of the scholastic success many of our student-athletes achieve. I once heard on TV that because of the small state population, Nebraska had to go out-of-state for players. That is true, but half of the football roster is from Nebraska, and some from very small towns. James
Jay, thank you so much for your kind words about Husker fans and the football experience. Believe it or not, it's that way every game no matter who we play. I've been a fan all my life and a season ticket holder since 1974, so I know what a fantastic experience it is for visitors coming into our stadium. I've also been a coach for years and wish more people would emulate Husker fans in their sportsmanship. Not only are they great sports (did you notice how much they applauded for a former coach that got fired (Frank Solich) when he came on the screen?) Once a Husker - always a Husker. Our fans are very knowledgeable. Did you notice before the game that our kicker got as much applause when he was introduced as our running backs and quarterback? That's because Nebraska fans know how valuable he is and has been to our team. You may also have noticed our kicker who kicked off always got a big hand because he usually kicks it into the end zone where the other team can't return it, and our fans realize how valuable that is to our success. Yes, we are proud to be Husker fans. I'm glad you had a great experience here. Come back again. I know we will continue to show you Husker hospitality." Clayton Erwin, Wayne, Nebraska
You absolutely captured the spirit of Nebraska football and the incredible atmosphere that envelopes not only Lincoln, but the entire state on a game day. My best memory of all time is the opportunity I had to take my father to the last Big Eight game between Nebraska and Oklahoma. It was a chance for us to bid a fond farewell to an era. He is no longer with us, but I have a great photo of him decked out in Husker gear proudly displayed with commemorative medallions of the game. Respect for the opponent and appreciation for the nuances of the game are what make Husker fans unique. Thanks for appreciating and celebrating that. Gregg Christensen
Thank you, Jay, for the kind words regarding the wonderful people of Nebraska. I have always known that Lincoln was a great place to have grown up and attend college. I do miss all the genuine, kind people of Nebraska who honestly care about everyone they meet. They enjoy a good football game where it's not so much the final score but how much determination and hard work that the players exhibit. Husker fans are found all over the country and world and get together every Saturday during football season to watch their beloved Huskers on television when they can, even if PPV! GO BIG RED! Karen Phillips, Idaho Falls, Idaho
Football really is a way of life in Nebraska and after reading your comments, I was even more proud to call myself a Husker. Even though I am temporarily transplanted to Kansas (I'm stationed at Ft. Riley and deployed to Iraq) I take every opportunity to let anyone and everyone know that I am a Nebraskan and proud of it. Good luck to the Cajuns the rest of this season, and we look forward to having you back in Lincoln soon. Brian Zwiebel, on deployment in Iraq
More than anything, Jay, your great blog epitomizes my pride in being a Husker fan. Thank you. Dustin Will, Lincoln, Nebraska
Hi, Jay. Man, I had some tears welling up in my eyes after reading your incredibly kind words about Husker football fans! No wonder you've been in the business so long. Your writing is still smooth and engrossing. As a kid, I can remember sitting in my truck parked in my parents' driveway in Omaha, listening to a guy named Lyell Bremser announce our games. His words, much like yours written on paper, had me right there, in the game and feeling like I was somehow a part of things. You Cajuns are great people in your own right! Best wishes and continued great career success. All the best, man! Scott Whitehill, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas
Thank you for the great article, Jay. I grew up in Nebraska but now live in beautiful Colorado. My first NU game was a great Nebraska vs. Oklahoma matchup in Lincoln. Oklahoma held Nebraska to four downs in an incredible goal-line stance. It was pure football! Well, NU lost the game (I think it was 17-14) but the energy was incredible, and we all applauded the job well done by the Sooners. I still wear my red and listen to the games on the web. I hope to get back to a game sometime and take my family along to see this great atmosphere where football is not just a game, but an important part of life in Nebraska. Thanks again for your insightful article and for making the trip! Be safe and remember, "There is no place like Nebraska". David Rhoades
Mr. Jay Walker, Just a note to say thanks for the wonderful article that you wrote about your experiences in Lincoln. It was truly a privilege having you and the Cajuns as our guests. I hope that in your future travels around this great country, you will have a chance to visit Nebraska often. Thanks again. Donald Mohler, a native Nebraskan living in San Juan Capistrano, California
Jay, thanks for your awesome blog. There really is no place like Nebraska. In Nebraska, the Huskers are our life, and it was refreshing to hear how visitors see us. Thank You! Sam Murphy, Lake Worth, Florida
Jay, thanks so much for your passionate article about Nebraska's hospitality. I'm originally from southwest Iowa, and have been a Husker fanatic since I can remember. I now live in Colorado and trying to convey how great Husker fans and Lincoln really are is challenging. I literally had tears reading your article. Thank you again, and come back soon for more of the same. Good luck with the rest of your season! Tammy Waller
To Jay Walker: Thanks so much for your comments about the Huskers' sportsmanship and fairness. I grew up in Nebraska and continue to follow the Huskers, although I live 400 miles away in Dubuque, Iowa. I have great pride in the way visitors are extended courtesy and friendship by Husker Nation, and I'm glad your experience attests to that. Good luck to the Cajuns throughout the rest of this and ensuing seasons. Terry Stewart, Dubuque, Iowa
Thank you, Jay, for writing such a well put article about the greatest fans in college football. You really hit it on the nose when you said there is no place like Nebraska. Jake Geiser
To Jay Walker: I'm glad you were able to experience what it's like to attend a Cornhusker football game in Lincoln and sincerely hope that other Cajun fans may someday have the opportunity to do the same. I'm originally from California, and when we moved to Bellevue, Nebraska some 20 years ago, I attended my first Cornhusker football game and was amazed at how the fans were so nice to the opposing team. We need more of that in the world ... in football and in life. I'm proud to say that I'm a Californian for Nebraska. Hope you visit us again someday. You're always welcome! Anita Sohm
Thank you for your kind words. We here in Nebraska have a special love for our football and appreciate you all coming up and playing this game we all love so much. I hope you all felt at home here and hope to see you all in Lincoln again. Thanks again for all your kind words. It really means a lot to Husker Nation. Jeremy Rosenbalm
Thanks for the kind words on your blog. I am glad you enjoyed your time in Lincoln. I respect your team. You have come a long ways in the past few years to start building a respectable football team. You got us on the wrong night. You were the first team ever to play at a 300th straight sellout. Jimmy Schulz
Thanks for the kind words about our fans, Jay. It's really important to me to welcome everyone to Lincoln and Memorial stadium! Chris Ross
Jay: Your article expresses how we all feel about Saturdays in Lincoln. Sure, you can see the games better on TV, but you can't get the full experience. It is about a lot more than the game. I think we have the best fans in the world, and I nearly tear up every time I see/hear the tunnel walk. Thanks for the great article. Jane Dawson
Being a huge Husker fan, I take pride in knowing that "outsiders" like you are treated the same as people from Nebraska are on game day, or any day for that matter. Thank you for writing about this and honoring our fans. Good luck on the rest of your season. Zachary Doffin
Dear Jay, As I sit here, in Seattle, reading your kind words, I am crying like a baby. Although we have not lived in Nebraska for more than 11 years, we would never dream of missing a game day radio cast from pre-game, through post-game. We try to get back to at least one game a year, but if not, rest assured our hearts and souls are with every single fan in the stands! There is truly no other place like Memorial Stadium on game day. And I have been to Touchdown Jesus! We also honor your team and fans because we deeply care about football as a sport. Sure, it's big business now. However, the fans of Nebraska have not forgotten that football is a team sport and the battles are hard fought. May the better team win, and if that doesn't happen to be us, well, good for the other guys! Best of luck to you and your team! Jean Warner, Seattle, Washington
Mr. Walker, you nailed it. I live in South Dakota and have brought many friends and acquaintances to Lincoln so they could experience the 'nirvana' of college football. Many have been Nebraska bashers or haters, by their own admission because they were jealous of Nebraska's success over the years. One who came with me is the sports editor of our local paper. He is from Michigan (enough said). Every single person changed their opinion after a day with me in Nebraska. We always stop by the Sidetrack for a few minutes, and then into the stadium. The respect Nebraska fans show the opposition is unmatched, and every guest I've brought has commented on it, especially the tradition of clapping for the opposing team at the end of the game - win or lose. It is the tradition most Nebraskans are the proudest of, and the one I hope we never, ever change. Tom Gunlicks, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Thanks for pointing out what we Nebraska fans keep in our hearts. My body is in Colorado but my heart will always be in Nebraska, especially on game day. Good luck to you and yours from "College Football Nirvana". Bob Clark
Thanks Jay. You just described everything that makes me so homesick for my home state. I now live in northern Colorado; often attend Wyoming, Colorado State, and Colorado games in their respective stadiums. Each time, I just get more and more homesick for Memorial Stadium and the people I grew up with. There IS a difference, and I see it each game day. Thanks for giving these great fans their due! Debra Mickelson
As a Husker fan and someone who had to work last Saturday when Louisiana came to town, let me just say your article once again made me proud to be from Nebraska. I was happy to hear that you and your friends had such a great time visiting this great state! It is easy to get hung up on the competition involved and poor sportsmanship, as you state, rears its ugly head all too often. I heard it was a good game and want to thank you for taking the time to write your article, reminding all sports fans what it means to show respect while having fun. Your article made me smile :) Nicole R. Preister
Jay, thank you for your words. You capture the pride of Husker Nation well. From Memorial Stadium's Southwest corner: "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory." Phil Kuhlman