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"We know citizens of Nebraska and Iowa are doing exceptional things every day, and we think they're deserving of some recognition at The Heroes Game every year." - Tom Osborne
The Nebraska Athletic Department is looking for someone to honor at the first Heroes Game when the Cornhuskers host the Iowa Hawkeyes the day after Thanksgiving in front of an ABC national television audience.
The Heroes Game provides a national stage that will rotate annually between NU's Memorial Stadium and Iowa's Kinnick Stadium to honor citizens from each state for being heroes ... people that Webster's Dictionary describes as "admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities".
While many thought the honor targets only trained professionals expected to be heroes, that's not necessarily true. For me, a Saturday Evening Post cover story - The Hero Next Door - sums up The Heroes Game well, and I suggest you hit that link and read that story because it will change your perception of what a hero can be. You'll find the definition goes well beyond soldiers, firefighters, police, paramedics and search and rescue teams.
A hero can be any us, as long as we meet the simple criteria of Exceptional Citizens ... Heroic Acts. "Every one of us is a hero in waiting. We're just waiting for the opportunity to step forward and do something extraordinary," says Scott Allison, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Richmond and co-author of Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them."
Heroes: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
According to the magazine I grew up with, heroes can be ordinary people on their way to work or picking up milk at the corner market.
They can be a truck driver like Bill Howard of Litchfield, Neb., who saved a woman's life when she fell asleep, crossed the center line and struck his rig carrying a grain trailer 16 months ago on Highway 2 near Ravenna. Howard used his shirt as a tourniquet to secure her nearly severed arm and keep her from bleeding to death while she lay helpless with two broken legs and injuries to her face and head.
Heroes, of course, are often those who put their lives on the line and make split-second decisions that involve risk, danger and consequences. I happened upon a story about Heather Springer, who earned the honor of Flight Medic of the Year in the U.S. Army four years ago. Hit that link, and you'll learn how she helped rescue two wounded soldiers under fire in Iraq - an action that earned her the Bronze Star Medal for Valor.
Noticing that she accomplished this heroic feat as a member of the General Support Aviation Battalion in the Nebraska National Guard, I called Lt. Colonel Jim Murphy, a Nebraska walk-on whose dad was a 1956 Husker football captain. "I can't say enough about how great Heather is, not only as a soldier but as a role model," Murphy said. "I know because she worked directly for me one year."
Micah Heibel, a two-year letterman fullback for Nebraska (1986-87), also worked with Springer in the Math Department at Lincoln High School. He considers Springer "a consummate professional and an invaluable teammate. They don't come any better," Heibel said, adding that he was not surprised that such an exceptional citizen delivered such an heroic act.
Models: Replacing Disappointment with Perseverance
Heather Springer joined the Army after her applications for nursing school were denied. She went on to record 350 combat flying hours on nearly 200 missions. She is now finishing nursing school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Springer toiled in relative obscurity. She was the hero next door and prefers that anonymity, even though she became a hero for her country. Michael Stephens, Nebraska's assistant athletic director for Marketing, Licensing and Concessions, believes there are countless more stories just like Heather's waiting to be heard and eventually recognized.
Stephens encourages anyone who might have a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker that's a citizen of Nebraska and has done an extraordinary thing, to click the link at the top of this N-Sider and make sure that Hy-Vee, The Heroes Game official sponsor, receives that nomination by Oct. 31, 2011.
Who knows? Maybe you live next door to someone whose name and hometown will end up etched on the first Heroes Game Trophy, commemorating a rivalry that has been formally established in the 115th season of the Big Ten Conference, the oldest and most stable league in intercollegiate athletics.
Just remember the criteria: Exceptional Citizens ... Heroic Acts.
Deadline for Heroes Game nominations: Oct. 31, 2011
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