Photo by Josh Wenger/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Participate in Day of Outreach Throughout Lincoln

By NU Athletic Communications

Lincoln, NE – One of the overarching themes at the University of Nebraska is a commitment to “supporting our student-athletes to achieve success in academics, athletics, and life.” On Wednesday, December 5, the “life” portion of this mission could be observed on full display, as the Nebraska football team devoted their off-day from practice to a city-wide day of community outreach.

With the University shut down for a National Day of Mourning to honor the late President George H.W. Bush, five buses departed Memorial Stadium early Wednesday morning with nearly 100 student-athlete volunteers. As part of the day of outreach, these student-athletes would be serving five separate locations throughout the Lincoln community: North American Martyrs Catholic School, Tabitha Senior Services, Bryan LGH West Hospital, Matt Talbot Kitchen, and Food Bank of Lincoln.

The early December trip comes on the heels of the team’s hospital visits on November 21, a 23-year tradition at Nebraska. Along with the visits on the eve of Thanksgiving, the team’s most recent day of outreach conveys that volunteerism and service is an important part of Nebraska football. That is how it always has been, how it is now, and how it will continue to be for years to come.

One player in particular, sophomore defensive back Tony Butler, was among those to travel to North American Martyrs Catholic School. Butler left the school touched by the energy of the kids he had the opportunity to meet.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Butler. “It’s important to go out into the community because we are the face of the state and being able to show them that we appreciate them as much as they appreciate us is a big thing. Everyone gained something out of it.”

Another group, while visiting the Food Bank of Lincoln, spent the morning pre-packing bags of groceries for the organization’s senior clients. Before their time was done, they had completed 220 bags for the Food Bank to disperse.

“Everyone who showed up yesterday was eager and willing to help in whatever way possible,” said Kati Umberger, Distribution Center Volunteer Coordinator at the Food Bank. “As far as just impact for our mission and our community, they helped get food into 220 homes in a matter of hours.”

In the state of Nebraska, one in eight people is food insecure. Included in this statistic are 82,000 children 18 years or younger that do not have enough to eat on a regular basis. Umberger related this to the players by comparing it to a sold-out Memorial Stadium filled with hungry children. At that time, Umberger observed the looks on the players faces as the number sunk in.

“For any Nebraskan, the football players have a special place in the state,” Umberger added. “To see them working together off the field, to give back to people who they may never meet but are certainly cheering for them on those Saturdays in the fall, is a pretty cool thing.”

It is indeed true that Husker student-athletes tend to have a special place in the heart of the average Nebraskan. When the players themselves are able to take a step back and acknowledge such a fact, the level of impact that can be created is boundless.

Yesterday, while visiting Tabitha Senior Services, freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez had a special interaction with one of the facilities’ residents who had attended a Husker football game back in 1939. The visit had a unique effect on Martinez, leaving him with an enhanced perspective on what it means to be a Husker student-athlete.

“I think interacting with other people in general is a great thing to do for Husker student-athletes,” said freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. “The support they give us is unmatched, and so is their faith. I learned that we represent more than ourselves here at Nebraska, but also people like those at Tabitha who have so much pride in us.”

Similar to those at Tabitha, countless Nebraskans cheer tirelessly for the Huskers throughout the season from the comfort of their own homes. Yet, many do not have the ability to go out and see the players first-hand. This past week’s day of outreach is an example of just one way in which Husker student-athletes can eliminate these boundaries between the players and those in the community.

“Some of those people, they don’t get a chance to come out and do things like other fans do,” said sophomore football player Brian Perez. “It’s like them going to our game, but instead we’re going to them. We’re going to their field. We’re there to encourage them and change their lives a little bit.”

By traveling to the “home field” of those in the community, Husker student-athletes can begin to bring the support observed in Memorial Stadium on a given fall Saturday full-circle. In this way, Husker players are showing that there is more to the student-athlete experience at Nebraska than competing on the field, or even excelling in the classroom for that matter.

Rather, there is that little something extra, that something sweet added to every Christmas recipe this time of year, that represents the “life” portion of the experience. It is in this part of being a Husker student-athlete that a lasting impact can truly be made, both for those who don the jerseys, as well as the unwavering members of the community that call themselves Nebraskans.

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