Meet 28 Husker Letterwinners Who Work for Nebraska
By Randy York
Three hours before Nebraska hosts Arkansas State Saturday night in its 2017 football season-opener, more than 200 Husker letterwinners, representing more than 6,000 N-Club inductees from all men’s and women’s varsity programs, will gather inside the Hawks Championship Center to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the N-Club.
“That ‘N’ meant the world to me when I played here and it still does now,” said Kenny Wilhite (pictured below), a St. Louis native and director of high school relations for Nebraska Football. Because he has worked for NU's football program the last four years, the Life Skills team/N-Club sponsor enabled Wilhite to become the first letterwinner in Husker history to receive an official event nametag and a custom N Club license plate frame.
“I see a lot of license plate frames that advertise alums, but this is the first plate I’ve seen recognizing a varsity letter club,” Wilhite said. “The way Nebraska operates, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re the first ones to do it.”
Whatever the case, Wilhite doesn’t mind being the posterchild for letterwinner plates that will be distributed in conjunction with future gatherings that honor Husker experiences and programs.
“You don’t understand what that N means until you get your letter jacket,” Wilhite said. “Whether you’re 18, 19, 20 or beyond, when you get that first varsity letter, it means something. I don’t know about others, but I wore my letter jacket every day for two months. It meant that much to me.”
For Wilhite, Nebraska was beyond special. It was the standard for everything he did after growing up in the midst of fistfights and gunshots in St. Louis. Somehow, Wilhite cleared those hurdles and overcame the rough roads of his childhood, chronicled in this amazing podcast with The Omaha World-Herald.
“Being at Nebraska these last four years has really made me realize exactly what this place means to me,” Wilhite said. “A lot of guys came before me and after me, and I know how they all feel. We cherish every moment at Nebraska because it takes respect, pride and responsibility to represent what this program stands for. It means the world to me to be part of this staff.”
Kenny Wilhite: Nebraska’s Letter Jacket a Sense of Accomplishment that Reflects Hard Work
Nebraska’s letter jacket “is a sense of accomplishment,” Wilhite said. “Every time I talk to new letterwinners, I tell them to wear that jacket with pride. I also tell them their work isn’t done until they keep going harder and harder. There’s a sense of responsibility in that letter and that jacket. That’s why there’s no place like this place. We thrive on hard work. It’s the biggest part of our culture.”
Twenty-eight Husker letterwinners now work for Nebraska Athletics. That number includes four NU football letterwinners, including Darin Erstad, who also earned a varsity letter in baseball. Erstad helped the Angels win a World Series before returning to Lincoln and becoming Nebraska’s head baseball coach.
Interestingly, World-Herald podcast host Dirk Chatelain sat down for an in-depth interview with Erstad, who described his idyllic childhood in North Dakota and how his father encouraged him with hundreds of handwritten notes, plus his unconventional tryout to make Tom Osborne’s football team.
Nebraska defensive line coach John Parrella and NU student-athlete development coordinator Alvin Banks are two more Huskers who know the rigors of football and how important it is for Nebraska to strive and optimize every aspect of academics, athletics and life skills.
Nebraska Football and Nebraska Baseball each have four former Husker student-athletes who are working for the Department of Athletics, thanks to Erstad lettering in both sports.
Two other NU sports programs have three varsity letterwiners on the Nebraska staff.
Boyd Epley, a former Husker pole vaulter, was an NU track and field letterwinner. Now, he’s Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning after his pioneering experiences in that critical area. Dusty Jonas, an Olympic high jumper and now a Husker coach, joins fellow assistant T.J. Pierce.
Check Out the Credentials and Bios for 28 Husker Letterwinners Now Working for Nebraska Athletics:
Alvin Banks (Football)
Kayla Banwarth (Volleyball)
Heather Brink (Women’s Gymnastics)
Chuck Chmelka (Men’s Gymnastics)
Judd Cornell (Men’s Golf)
Mike Dobbs (Baseball, working in Development)
Boyd Epley (Track & Field, working in Strength and Conditioning)
Darin Erstad (Baseball/Football)
Mattie Fowler (Softball, working in Development)
Jim Hartung (Men’s Gymnastics)
Jamie Hagedorn (Women’s Basketball)
Dusty Jonas (Track & Field)
Robin Krapfl (Women’s Golf)
Curtis Ledbetter (Baseball)
Kerry McDermott (Men’s Tennis)
John Parrella (Football)
Lindsay Peterson (Volleyball)
T.J. Pierce (Track & Field)
Rhonda Revelle (Softball)
John Robinson (Men’s Gymnastics)
Mike Schuchart (Women's Golf)
Sam Sharpe (Baseball)
Lori Sippel (Softball)
Bill Spangler (Men’s Golf)
Bryan Snyder (Wrestling)
Fungai Tongoona (Men’s Tennis)
Kenny Wilhite (Football)
Amy Williams (Women’s Basketball)