‘The Rex Burkhead of Women’s Basketball’
Randy York's N-Sider Blog
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Before we begin, please understand today’s N-Sider is a history lesson, a geography challenge and a supreme compliment all rolled into one. This blog ties two well respected Husker walk-ons – offensive lineman Brodrick Nickens and basketball guard Mike Peltz with Jordan Hooper, one of the hottest Division I women’s basketball players in the country.
It’s a history lesson because all three current Nebraska student-athletes and three former Husker student-athletes – women’s basketball legend Amy Stephens, men’s twice Academic All-Big 12 basketball center Tony Wilbrand and Randy Borg, a walk-on who succeeded Johnny Rodgers as Nebraska’s punt returner – are all linked with one of the nation’s most popular Super Bowl commercials through Paul Harvey. We’ll explain that later, but let’s get to that supreme compliment before “the rest of the story” – our personal tribute to Harvey’s unique style and renowned tagline.
When Nickens came out of NU’s strength complex Tuesday, we chatted a bit about another stellar Hooper performance last night against Iowa on BTN and how the Alliance native is on such a roll that she’s earned back-to-back Big Ten Conference Player-of-the-Week honors. No one appreciates that kind of recognition as much as Nickens, whose sister was a friend of Hooper’s in high school.
“I love it when someone who grew up on a ranch in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills shows the world what she can do,” Nickens said. “So many people think Nebraska starts in Omaha and ends somewhere around Kearney, and that just isn’t true. I just feel there’s a work ethic out there in the Panhandle that’s as good as anywhere, and Jordan is proof of that work ethic. She’s quiet, very quiet. She’s unique. She’s a different person, but a really good person. I’ve tried to think about someone she reminds me of, and I would say, to me, she’s The Rex Burkhead of Women’s Basketball. She just does everything possible to get better every day. She’s a really, really, really good person, and what you see is what you get. She’s as honest as they come.”
A year ago, we wrote an N-Sider describing how Hooper took a different road to stardom, how she chose her path carefully, unselfishly and masterfully and how she was fortunate to arrive in Lincoln one year after point guard Lindsey Moore, who counsels her, motivates her, laughs with her, cries with her, rooms with her and even travels with her to visit what most might consider one of the loneliest places on earth to grow up.
A Personal Experience with a Legendary Man
And that takes us to the late, legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, whose two-minute Super Bowl commercial resurrected his ‘So God made a farmer’ speech, a commercial that “transfixed” Kearney Hub columnist Lori Potter, who obviously believes Nebraska stretches well west of what she calls home.
With more than 10 million Internet views, that commercial made Paul Harvey relevant again. The nostalgic application from his 1978 address to the Future Farmers of America brought millions of Super Bowl viewers back to our roots. I found it interesting that so many photos of ranchers were featured in a “farmer” video, and that certainly connects more with Hooper. But so would a 1968 Paul Harvey piece that Alliance KCOW Radio put together four decades later.
Both Paul Harvey audio files resonate with me because I was working at the Alliance Times-Herald that summer in 1968 when Gene Kemper, our legendary publisher, asked if I would like to pick up Mr. Harvey that Friday at the Alliance Municipal Airport, then drive him into town where he would be the featured speaker for the Alliance Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet. As an intern earning money for his sophomore year of college, I was more than honored. I was thrilled because I grew up listening to Paul Harvey each and every day.
The following Monday in 1968, during lunch hour, I tuned into KCOW and couldn’t help wondering if an American broadcasting icon would even mention Alliance. To my complete surprise, after his news segment, Paul Harvey devoted his three-minute editorial that day to our unpretentious hometown, heaping heavy praise on our hard-handed cowboys and sod busters. Four years ago, when I had the opportunity to speak at the Alliance Chamber of Commerce Banquet, we played Paul Harvey’s radio tribute to Alliance. And, just as his voice-over Super Bowl commercial did, his words are as relevant now as they were in 1968. Listen to this vault of Alliance history. It stands the test of time, and I would bet that many Alliance natives and even current residents will be surprised when they hear certain facts they didn’t know or forgot about. With that in mind, we end this blog in honor of a revered broadcaster … Paul Harvey … Good Day!
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Voices from Husker Nation
I enjoyed reading your story about small-town athletes but truly appreciated your tribute to Jordan Hooper. It is so ironic that you call her the Rex Burkhead of Women’s Basketball. I have been relating the two athletes that way all season. I am a season ticket holder for women’s basketball and know how hard all the ladies work to be what they are, but Jordan is on a higher platform of hard work to me, just like Rex is. Jordan can be found many nights and early mornings on the practice court, shooting and working on her game. You do not find people like Jordan very often. I am sure glad we did. Players in the future should be saying, “I want to be the Jordan Hooper of Women’s Basketball!!” Great piece! Bill Rethmeier, Crete, Nebraska
Thank you for sharing the greatness that is Alliance. Thank you for telling the stories of the three kids making a difference in Lincoln. And thank you for making this Alliance kid aware of the Paul Harvey story. I am now calling my parents (my dad was a high school counselor and my mom a pharmacist) so I can ask why in the world did I not hear this before. Yes, like the young ones Paul references, I left Alliance and, ironically, now live in that awful orgy of ugliness. Thank you. Jason Reno, Chicago, Illinois
I really enjoyed your Alliance/Paul Harvey column. If memory serves me correctly, Marv Toedtli and I made a banner out of a newsprint “end-roll” from the Times-Herald that day to welcome Paul Harvey to Alliance. It didn’t last too long though because the wind was blowing hard at the airport. Anyway, Alliance is a great town with great people! Keep up the outstanding reporting. Doug Edwards, Hastings, Nebraska
I am not an Alliance native, but I am a Nebraska basketball fan, and I’ve commented before how unusual it was to have an Alliance player play an important role on each team this season. Mike Peltz was a scrappy sixth man until knee surgery took him out. He played hurt most of the season, and you have to admire how tough he was. That work ethic in the Sandhills must have something to do with it. Jordan only has only one speed, and that’s all out. Her effort is fun and fascinating to watch. I bet all the locals are tired of hearing that Alliance is the home of Car Henge. It’s also the home of Jordan Hooper, Amy Stephens and everyone else who contributed to the Huskers. Now that Paul Harvey has informed us that Alliance had the first touch-tone phones in America and was the source of inspiration for Dale Carnegie, maybe the next time I drive through Alliance on the way to the Black Hills, I’ll stop, check it out and see what makes it so special. Robert White, Omaha, Nebraska
The “Rex Burkhead of Women’s Basketball” story was a great read for all of us out here in the Panhandle, and we appreciate your permission to publish the story in the Alliance Times-Herald. Aaron Wade, Times-Herald Director of Operations, Alliance, Nebraska
Thanks for sharing. It’s always good to remind us of what a great place Alliance really is. We can be justifiably proud of our hometown kids, including Jordan, Mike and Brodrick. Dorothy Kunzman, Alliance, Nebraska
Thanks so much for the great story on Alliance and the star athletes that have come from here. Our proud heritage lives on.The Brew crew were born and raised in Alliance, and we proudly talk about our home town whenever we represent Nebraska as the Husker Elvis brothers. Our past, present and future endeavors have been, are and will be the result of our honest upbringing in this small but special town in Western Nebraska. God bless Alliance and God bless Nebraska! Larry Brew, Alliance, Nebraska
Thank you for another excellent piece of journalism with our hometown, Alliance, as the subject matter. I have enjoyed watching both Jordan Hooper and Mike Peltz play this year and was saddened that Mike was out with a knee injury. What a hustler he is! When I think about it, work-ethic is what made that part of the state so remarkable. I know I grew up with role models at every turn that taught me the importance of work ethic, and you, too, are a product of that way of living. Andrea Durfee, Lincoln, Nebraska