Randy York’s N-Sider
Before Saturday's Big Red Express Tour to four Nebraska football-crazy cities, I tweeted that no one was looking forward to this inaugural event more than me, a railroader’s son. Why? Because I had the privilege of taking Union Pacific Railroad trips to California twice with my family when I was still in grade school.
I fell in love with the Union Pacific passenger train and being able to ride the rails Saturday brought back a flood of memories, like my parents finding me four cars down from our reserved seats on one of those trips long ago. To the relief of my parents, I was playing cards with a senior citizen. Some things never change. Even though I've reached senior status myself, no one roamed the Big Red Express' 16 rail cars more than I did Saturday, and one head coach, who has a two-letter first name, probably would agree since he saw me pass through his car three times in roughly five minutes.
The only person aboard the train I didn't see was Tim Miles, so I'm assuming Nebraska's 2014 Men’s National Basketball Coach of the Year was doing his share of car-hopping, too. The difference is Coach Miles entertained each car. Me? I was looking for my brief case. At the podium, Bo Pelini told the Grand Island crowd that Miles' attention span is about 10 seconds. That means he’ll never make it through my Top 10 Pics from the Big Red Express experience. Please understand that more than half of these pics were taken with my phone. So go easy on me. Here, in reverse order, are:
No. 10 Pablo Morales Throws the Bones
The Nebraska women’s head swimming coach is still the all-time leading scorer at the NCAA Championships. The Stanford graduate, who earned his law degree at Cornell, is the epitome of humility. The winner of three gold and two silver medals in the 1984 and 1992 Olympic Games, Morales showed full creative force when Greg Sharpe introduced him in Columbus. Or perhaps, Pablo was so fired up listening to Bo Pelini speak that he was ready to put on the pads. Makes me wonder what the hat-wearing, applauding Bill Straub might have been considering as the 2014 NCAA national runner-up women’s bowling coach was introduced next.
No. 9 Robin Krapfl Gets Bo-Like Bold
Yes, that’s Bo Pelini and Robin Krapfl chuckling together on Saturday’s Big Red Express tour from Columbus to North Platte. Bo chided Krapfl, in her 27th season as Nebraska’s head women’s golf coach, and Bill Spangler, in his 13th year at the helm of the Husker men’s golf team, for never sharing any tips with him on the game in which they specialize. Robin, whose teams lead the nation in overall women’s scholastic All-America honors, had a great time riding the rails. In her final tour stop, she followed the lead of Morales and showed some drama after her name was called, moving across the stage quickly and throwing in something equally unique – a sweeping golf swing reminiscent of UNL grad and major Nebraska donor Johnny Carson.
No. 8 Kelly Mosier Takes a Selfie
This is Kelly Mosier, our director of digital communications. He won’t agree with my decision to include him in the Top Ten. I just couldn’t resist the irony of one of the Athletic Department’s most selfless employees taking a “selfie”. The Nebraska Athletics-Union Pacific tour by train was a modern-day first, so Kelly was, in effect, documenting history for his own family. He continues to pursue his master’s degree in broadcast journalism at UNL with an emphasis on digital and new media. He’s another HuskerVision product who settles for nothing but the best in whatever he does.
No. 7 John Walker Takes an Extra Minute
This North Platte fan of Nebraska soccer was one of the last photos taken on the tour. While the buses were loading to head back to Lincoln, she wanted proof that she had met Walker, who has been his sport’s National Coach of the Year (1996) while guiding 11 Husker teams to the NCAA Tournament, including two that reached the Elite Eight, six the Sweet 16 and 10 conference championships. Walker will never take Nebraska’s incredibly loyal fan base for granted. Last week, when he was recruiting, he talked to several colleagues about this train trip. “They wondered if people would be interested and what the point would be,” he said. “Then I realized they don't have the same type of fans we have – the ones who are so loyal and so passionate.”
No. 6 Dan Kendig Takes in the Appreciation
"It was a great experience to partner up with Union Pacific and learn about their history and reach out to fans across the state," Kendig told me. "I just felt like it was a win-win in every city. The fans like it. Our coaches and administrators like it. We saw some former athletes. It was an awesome ride and lots of fun. The train itself was a big highlight and the people running the show helped us reach out to each city in a meaningful way. It's great to talk to people when they come up to you personally and tell you how much they appreciate what we do. It's like a double appreciation. They appreciate what we do, and we sure appreciate what they do to support us. After this trip, I’ve added something to my all-time bucket list – take a train ride through the Pacific Northwest!"
No. 5 Mike Elliott Takes in the Scenery
Mike Elliott was the chief engineer for the Nebraska Football Network when Matt Davison made his miracle catch that enabled a national championship dream to continue at Missouri. Elliott was also a last-second mail carrier who transported a box of special gloves as a carryon bag and personally handed them off to former Nebraska Equipment Manager Glenn Abbott. Yes, his special delivery contributed to “The Catch” that saved Tom Osborne’s final season as head coach. I relate that story for one simple reason. Elliott, now a director for the Huskers Sports Network, has more than paid his dues to have one of the best jobs aboard the inaugural Union Pacific Big Red Express Tour. He took in more scenery than anyone after designing his own power-packed mobile broadcast studio in a dome car. Smart man.
No. 4 Big Red Fan Has Best 4th of July Beard
Mike Nobler found the most unique fan on the tour. Nobler worked with Bo Pelini when he was a co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, and Pelini brought him to Lincoln to become his first football video coordinator. Gary Guetrauze, a Kearney High School graduate and local nurse, showed his Big Red spirit in Kearney. Nobler did his best to create a photo of his boss with Guetrauze, but a crunch of autograph seekers blocked that kick. When the line was leaving and the conductors were telling the stragglers to board, Bo complied. Why? Early in the day, all riders were told the train would leave people if they were not on board on time. So Bo made a wise decision, even if the failed photo op did cost Nebraska an interesting 4th of July pic that would have made national rounds via Twitter.
No. 3 Georgians Finally Where They Belong – Nebraska
Big Red Express emcee Greg Sharpe was the first to notice two of the tour’s most appreciative fans – Ike and Rita Maggert, who brought their coveted Georgians for Nebraska canvas banner to the first stop in Columbus. Once the director of the Beatrice YMCA, Ike moved to Atlanta in the 1970s, and every time he and Rita returned to Lincoln for their annual game, they brought their banner. Rita even sewed a smaller version so the hanging banner wouldn’t block the view for handicapped fans in the North Stadium. Miami fans stole the banner at the 1984 Orange Bowl when the No. 1 Huskers lost the National Championship, 31-30. The Maggerts moved to Lincoln last year and still cherish bringing their banner to any major Big Red event imaginable.
No. 2 Rhonda Revelle Has Historic Insight
Rhonda Revelle, Nebraska’s Hall-of-Fame softball coach, has earned more wins than any other head coach in any sport in Nebraska history. “I've been here for a long time and we've done some very different things,” she said. “Until this tour, I don’t remember all of us being in the same vicinity at the same time for so long. We weren't getting in different vehicles and heading out in different directions. We were all together all day long and I think that's what made this tour so special.” A special bonus for Revelle was seeing the former Cindy Roethemeyer in the final stop at North Platte, her hometown. Cindy and her husband brought their two children to the tour's last stop to introduce them to Revelle. Their son’s first name – Devaney – has an historical ring to it, don't you think?
No. 1 Tim Miles a Resounding Hit Everywhere
Connie Yori has studied Tim Miles since his arrival at Nebraska. The Huskers’ reigning Big Ten Championship women’s basketball coach jokes with Miles, laughs with him and finds Nebraska’s third-year head men’s basketball coach a rarity in the ranks. "If Tim Miles doesn't make it as a basketball coach, from what I saw on the train tour, I know he can make it as a professional comedian," Yori told me before adding: "If I wondered if that was true before, I don't wonder anymore." Anyone who attended the tour's first three stops before Miles had to return to Lincoln would agree. "Tim's a pretty neat guy and a pretty bright guy," Yori said, pointing out that "he knows how far he can push the envelope" between humor and reality.
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