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By Randy York
Dan Jervik lives in Parkston, South Dakota: Population 1,700 and located 20 miles south of Mitchell. He works at the local small-town bar, owned by an uncle of a well-known Iowa Hawkeye player. Jervik, however, is a staunch Nebraska Cornhusker fan, and he traces his love for the Huskers to two words: Tommie Frazier. "Watching him perform in the mid-'90s helped turn me into a Big Red fan when all my friends liked Notre Dame or Florida State," Jervik said Monday afternoon after learning that Frazier's Hall-of-Fame coach and now Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne approved two options for fans holding tickets to last Saturday's canceled Spring Game.
Jervik, his mom, stepdad, sister, sister's best friend and two nephews made the four-hour trek to Lincoln on Saturday, and Monday's announcement from Osborne was equivalent to his family hitting the daily double at the racetrack. Jervik and everyone with him, you must understand, were raving about their Lincoln experience despite the massive disappointment that six of the seven missed an opportunity to see their first Tunnel Walk. "I've seen one game at Memorial Stadium (Nebraska's final Big 12 game against Colorado two seasons ago)," Jervik said. "I've been a lifelong fan and slowly turned my family into Husker fans. Now that my nephews have started to fully embrace the Huskers and are old enough to enjoy it, I wanted to show them what a magical place Memorial Stadium really is."
You can only imagine how much Mother Nature spoiled that magic on Saturday. "Our whole family was so excited for the trip," Jervik said. "Having the game called off was a heartbreaker for everyone, but particularly for my nephews (ages 7 and 4). This was their first journey to Memorial Stadium. They wanted to see Rex Burkhead. They call him "Sexy Rexy". We took the time on Saturday to walk around the stadium as much as we could and even got the boys down for a couple autographs and their first picture with a Husker (defensive lineman Kevin Williams). Walking away from the stadium, we were full of Big Red energy." That's what happens when a family makes the most of disappointment.
Delivering More Than Anyone Could Imagine
Saturday was so fun, in fact, that all seven decided to head back to the stadium Sunday for one last look before heading home. "We all noticed a sign saying the Experience Room would open at 8 a.m. Sunday, so we wanted to do that and get closer to those national championship trophies," Jervik said. "What we got was more than we could possibly imagine. The minute we went through the front door, a man behind his desk asked if we had a scheduled tour. We said no and told him our reason for being in town, and he asked: 'Are you all sad that you didn't get to see the Huskers play?' We all answered: 'Yes!' Then he said: 'Did you drive a long way to get here?' Again, we all said: 'Yes!' Then he looked around and said: 'Do you want to go on the field?' When we all yelled 'YES!!', it put a smile on his face."
Jerry Zimmer, a customer-focused NU guest relations/security attendant, must have thought to himself, if there's ever a time to go outside the box, this is it. So very quickly, "He took our family around to places I've only dreamed of seeing," Jervik said. "We went past the paintings and the individual awards of Huskers past. We saw the new Suh weight room and the paintings of all the All-Americans. We touched the horseshoe, walked the 'Tunnel Walk' and then we went out on the field."
Talk about a magical experience. Jervik admitted he had to stay in the back of the group just so he could "fight back my own tears of joy!" He also said: "What that man gave us was more than any ticket to any game could ever do. We can't thank the University of Nebraska and the Memorial Stadium staff enough. They made our Spring Game experience absolutely unforgettable!!"
Butch Hug, Nebraska's associate athletic director for Facilities and Events, was not surprised that Zimmer delivered exceptional customer service. "He did the right thing. He took care of people who deserved extra attention," Hug said. "I would expect that anyone on our staff would have done the same thing."
$50 Voucher Becomes 2013 Down Payment
Once heartbreak turned into something priceless, Jervik didn't expect anything more. But learning that his family qualifies for a $50 voucher whenever he turns in five tickets, Jervik knows where that money will go ... into another unforgettable weekend a year from now. "There's no doubt what we'll do with our 50-dollar credit," he said. "We'll use it to buy tickets to next year's Spring Game and maybe next time, we'll actually see the game."
What can be better than paying a year in advance and giving other appreciative Husker fans the idea to follow suit? "On the way back to South Dakota Sunday, we all decided we were going to make the Nebraska Spring Game an annual trip from here on out," Jervik said. "We thought the experience was already priceless. I can't wait to see what everyone thinks when they actually see the Tunnel Walk and everything that comes with it. We're all hoping Mother Nature's a little kinder next spring."
Jervik manages an amateur baseball team during the summer months and helps coach his nephews' Tee-Ball team. When he feels like it, he lends his voice to sdsportsbuzz.com, a South Dakota high school sports blog. He signs into the discussion as "Hutch Hobo", and that makes me wonder. Even though he's only seen one Nebraska game live in his entire life, maybe Dan Jervik should change his online identity. Based on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, maybe "Happy Husker" makes more sense.
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Voices from Husker Nation
It was great to see this story and the mention of what Jerry Zimmer did for the Jervik family. Last year, when I had my family over from Des Moines on an off-season weekend morning, Jerry, figuratively, "held our hand" and gave us the tour of the place. It was remarkable, and my two young sons were in awe. Thanks to Jerry and the entire Husker staff for great hospitality. I'll always be proud to be a Husker and a native Nebraskan! Michael Elam, Lincoln, Nebraska
I attended the Spring Game. Although I was disappointed in not seeing the game, a person has to realize that safety comes first, and there is nothing a person can do about Mother Nature. The reason I am writing is for another reason. After the game was cancelled I heard that there was a possibility for getting autographs. I have been a Husker fan for 40-plus years and never tried to get an autograph before. Prior to this game I decided to get a football just in case there might be a chance. After hearing over the P.A. that this would be happening and asking numerous people, staff included, where this would be happening, my wife and I figured it out. There are plenty of reasons to be a Husker fan or a fan of college football in general, but what I witnessed that day was something that I will never forget. You can wish for a national championship but there is more to it than just winning games. I witnessed some pretty incredible young men giving autographs to young children (and old men like me) with dignity and generosity. The players were courteous and very respectful. At one point, one of the players was surrounded by children with no pen to sign their footballs. I am not good at names and faces, so I am not sure who the player was. I handed my Sharpie to him so he could sign these autographs for the kids around him. I did not want the poor guy to get attacked! It was something to see all these children asking for autographs and being so proud of those small footballs with autographs. The player did ask if I wanted my pen back. I just asked him to sign my football and told him to keep it. He needed it more than I did with everyone surrounding him. I did get seven autographs Saturday, and that football looks really good on my mantel. Someday, I will get Coach Pelini’s autograph, as well as the rest of the team. But until then I just have to say I will always be humbled and honored by what happened after the only Spring Game in Nebraska history was canceled. Joe Carda, Omaha, Nebraska