Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Give Thanks At Local Hospitals

By Brian Rosenthal

Dale Jackson, originally from Aurora, now lives in Lincoln, and he has been following Nebraska football games, mostly by radio, since the 1930s.

On Wednesday, Jackson pulled out his cell phone to take a picture of players playing the sport, and for the team, he has loved so dearly.

Jackson wore a red sweater as he sat in his wheel chair and gathered a group of Nebraska football players who were visiting Jackson and other patients at the Nebraska Heart Institute in Lincoln.

“This is more than I ever expected,” Jackson said with a smile as he raised his phone for the picture.

Jackson thanked the players for what they do, and he offered words of encouragement for the group, especially for true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez.

He even called Martinez his hero.

“Everything I’ve read about you, you are the guy,” Jackson told Martinez. “Keep doing your best.”

Nebraska football players have been visiting area hospitals on the day before Thanksgiving for years. In addition to visiting the Nebraska Heart Institute, players split into groups to visit Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, Bryan LGH East, St. Elizabeth CHI Hospital and the Vet’s Hospital.

This marked the first such visit for Martinez, a native of Fresno, California.

“Nebraska is truly a special place,” Martinez said. “You can just tell about how much Nebraska football means to the people who live here, no matter where you go. You come to a hospital, and it humbles you a little bit, but the passion doesn’t change, from 80-year-old men to nurses working in the hospital.

“People just love Nebraska football.”

Martinez, as Jackson noted, has had a stellar freshman season. Entering Nebraska’s season finale Friday at Iowa, Martinez needs just 90 yards of total offense to record the seventh 3,000-yard total offense season in school history. He’d be the first freshman, and only the second underclassman, to accomplish the feat.

But on Wednesday, as he and his teammates posed for dozens of photos for hospital workers, patients and visitors of all ages, and signed countless autographs, Martinez saw firsthand why his career in Lincoln is more than just yards and victories.

“Playing here really carries some weight,” Martinez said. “It means more than just playing for your university or for a group of people. Just knowing that, knowing how much it means to this state, it adds value and makes me want to win even more.”

Martinez, in the hospital lobby, smiled when a half dozen of his teammates emerged from a nearby hallway dressed head to toe in white scrubs.

“It’s a great scene to see, just people smiling and having fun,” Martinez said. “It made it even more special doing it with my teammates and for people who love Nebraska football.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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