Randy York’s N-Sider
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Bo Knows, But Carl Claims to Know More
Carl Pelini posed Sunday for a photo with a fan wearing a red-and-white baseball hat that said “Bo Knows”. Nebraska’s defensive coordinator had no idea what kind of character he was dealing with.
Jim Huber lives in Seward, Neb., and works at Lincoln’s Burlington Northern Havelock Wheel Plant. He’s enough of a jokester that he enjoyed getting pulled into a verbal joust caused by one of the 177 Nebraska hats he owns.
Susie and Jim Huber. Quentin Castille (19) and Marlon Lucky (5) join NU fans (from left), Curt Youngman, Tom Reddish, Vera Reddish and Nancy Youngman. Scarlet dancer Melissa Cross shares a pompom with 4-year-old Kynlie Sim;son, while teammate Tiffany Campbell helps 9-month-old Keilyn.
Susie and Jim Huber.
Quentin Castille (19) and Marlon Lucky (5) join NU fans (from left), Curt Youngman, Tom Reddish, Vera Reddish and Nancy Youngman.
Scarlet dancer Melissa Cross shares a pompom with 4-year-old Kynlie Sim;son, while teammate Tiffany Campbell helps 9-month-old Keilyn.
In his first trip down the autograph tables at Nebraska’s annual football Fan Day, Carl Pelini took exception to the simple, declarative message on Huber’s hat. “Bo doesn’t know nearly as much as he thinks he does, and you can tell him I said that,” Carl told Huber, who minutes later relayed that message to Bo, who had his own little red tent and small table behind the goal posts in the North end zone.
Nebraska’s head football coach listened to Huber’s message from his brother. Then he responded rather emphatically. “If I don’t know as much as I should, you tell Carl it’s his fault because he’s older than I am, and it’s his job to teach me,” Bo said.
Dutifully, Huber went back to Carl and this time, tapped him on the shoulder outside the ropes needed to keep things organized for more than 8,000 autograph-seeking fans. Carl listened carefully, but instead of taking another jab in a never-ending round of friendly fire, he asked Huber for his hat. He knew how to end this brotherly bickering. He used his own black Sharpie to deliver the final punch line. Right above “Bo Knows,” older brother wrote: “Carl Knows More.”
Yes, Nebraska’s annual football Fan Day was special because thousands of fans like Huber, plus 175 Special Olympic athletes, reversed roles with Nebraska coaches and players. On this special day, Nebraska football reached out and touched its fans instead of the other way around.
Pelini could not have been more gracious. “What’s your name, buddy?” he would ask. “There you go my man,” he’d say after signing his name. The meticulous, left-handed head coach signed the fronts of helmets and the backs of jersey. He signed posters, media guides, cards, pictures, magazines, even scraps of paper for those who didn’t want to miss a golden opportunity on a red-letter day.
Huber and his wife, Susie, a human resources manager at Jacob North Printing Company in Lincoln, admit their family is a bit extreme when it comes to the “Power of Red.” They own thousands of Nebraska-branded items and are always looking for more. But they are just as passionate about other important things, such as helping veterans make it to Washington D.C. to see the National WWII Memorial.
Huber contacted a long-time acquaintance, who, in turn, helped get a check to cover the costs of 103 Nebraska veterans to fly to D.C. last May. Susie’s dad, veteran George Kreifel Jr., was on that first Nebraska Honor Flight, and the couple continues to work to enable hundreds of more Nebraska veterans to have that same memorable experience.
A devout fan, Susie still understands life priorities. “My dad almost lost an arm in Okinawa,” she said. “We want to do everything we can to honor as many Nebraska WW II veterans as possible. Those vets don’t have a lot of tomorrows left, so it’s important to get them to see ‘their memorial’ while they’re still alive.”
Among the Nebraska fans inside Memorial Stadium Sunday with their cameras and autograph materials were 175 Special Olympians. Hall of Famer Tom Reddish of Grand Island was one of them.
“Where’s Bo Pelini?” he shouted to his mom, Vera Reddish, sister, Nancy Youngman, and brother-in-law, Curt Youngman, who were less than 10 yards away.
“Mom!” he yelled to his mother when Nebraska’s head coach arrived. “Bo Pelini’s here! Please bring the camera . . . right now!”
Vera, 83, smiled and hustled over to snap a photo of her youngest child with one of his favorite role models.
“Special Olympics have been a part of our life since 1971,” she said, remembering early meets in Scottsbluff before the family moved to Grand Island and became even more active in Special Olympics, which serves nearly1.4 million people in more than 150 countries.
Tom Reddish has been as active as anyone and has won nearly 300 medals in swimming, bowling, basketball, track and field, softball and roller skating. He’s won medals in two international competitions – the first in the late 1970s in Michigan and the second in the late 1990s in North Carolina.
“Special Olympics give Tom self-esteem,” his mother said. “He meets people from all over the state, and it helps keep me going just like it does him. You’d have to be inside my heart and have a special child to know what it means. It’s 24 hours a day for everybody in his life, but we are blessed. God gave me Tommy, and I’ve had him for 49 years.”
Sister Nancy said Sunday was special for the entire family. The photo of Tom with Bo and another of the family with running backs Marlon Lucky and Quentin Castille will be a source of inspiration every time Nebraska football comes on television.
“We’re huge Husker fans,” she said, pointing out that her husband has been on the Husker Events Staff for 19 years, and she’s been part of it for nine. “I taught Jim Ebke (Nebraska sophomore quarterback) and Rachel Schwartz (Husker senior libero in volleyball) exploratory languages when they were 7th-graders. Talk about great student-athlete role models – they’re both exceptional young people.”
The Reddish and Youngman families wish there was greater correlation between the Special Olympic motto – “Let me win. But if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt” – and the way fans view student-athletes who compete at the Division I level.
“Isn’t that the way it should be in all sports?” Nancy asked, citing the Olympic spirit and Tom Osborne’s belief that athletics is about more than winning. “Really, our fans show more sportsmanship than just about anyone else. We just don’t think it’s ever healthy to yell at 19-year-olds. How can you when you see what kind of people they are, especially out here on a day like today?”
Once that spirit spreads, Nebraska won’t have much trouble getting 8,000 volunteers for the 2010 Special Olympics National Games in Lincoln and Omaha. The event will draw 4,000 athletes and coaches and nearly 15,000 family members for seven days of competition in 14 sports.
Vera Reddish, who was instrumental in starting Special Olympics in Grand Island 30 years ago this month, served on the Board of Directors of Nebraska Special Olympics as secretary-treasurer. As a Torch Award Female Volunteer of the Year, she would like nothing better than to see Nebraskans rise to the 2010 challenge like they do for so many others.
Enterprising Solutions for Crowded Conditions
Finally, even though time and a much larger crowd prevented countless fans from getting the autographs they sought on Sunday, at least two families came up with enterprising solutions.
Lincoln’s Matt and Sara Simpson enlisted the help of “grandma” Charlene Simpson Sunday. They arrived two hours early to join the line outside Memorial Stadium. That way they made sure their 6-year-old son, Cayden, could meet the coaches and players and their two daughters – 4-year-old Kynlie and 9-month-old Keilyn – could get their pictures taken with Nebraska cheerleaders.
Kevin Sullivan, a youth football coach from Springfield Platteview Central, realized the four players he drove to Lincoln from his team weren’t going to get a chance to meet Bo, shake his hand or ask for an autograph. Looking at a line that snaked and stretched more than two full football fields, Sullivan got creative.
He snapped individual pictures of son Ryan Sullivan and three of his friends –Seth Starks, Nick Randles and Chris Mackevicius – in the foreground and included the Pelini hubbub in the background of each frame.
All four young players got what they came for – a chance to get within 10 yards of Bo and imaginative proof of it. Autographs are overrated anyway, they rationalized.
“Is everyone happy?” Sullivan asked, getting unanimous approval.
“Good,” he said, pointing to his and wife Diane’s 16th-row season tickets in Section 1 of the East Stadium. “That’s where we’ll be in less than two weeks. I’m like everyone else. I can hardly wait.”