Lincoln - Nearly 4,500 middle-school youth from more than 45 schools across Southeast and Central Nebraska descended on Pinnacle Bank Arena for the first Nebraska Life Skills Sportsmanship Pep Rally Friday morning.
Students from Friend to Fullerton, Pawnee City to Plattsmouth and Beatrice to Bennington helped tip-off Game One for the Nebraska women's basketball team with an inspirational rally with featured speakers from across Husker sports.
The Nebraska Life Skills Sportsmanship Pep Rally received assistance in recruiting middle schools from around the state from the Nebraska High School Sports Hall Fame, helping to make the event a resounding success.
Following a national anthem sung by the Norris Middle School choir, Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles tipped off the rally by talking about the importance of setting goals and working work.
Mattie Fowler from Coach Rhonda Revelle's 2013 Women's College World Series softball team discussed the importance of dreaming big and following through to achieve those dreams.
NCAA discus champion Chad Wright talked about working hard in all areas of life, before Olympic and NCAA champion wrestler Jordan Burroughs talked about the importance of being positive across all social media to uplift people, rather than criticize or cut people down.
Nebraska baseball coach and Major League Baseball All-Star Darin Erstad spoke about hard work and "sweat equity." Erstad encouraged all in attendance to "empty the tank" on their commitment to working hard in academic, athletics and other areas of their lives for the rest of the year.
The students and sponsors were then wowed by the high-flying Acrodunk team that has performed around the nation and on America's Got Talent. Acrodunk will be performing at halftime of both the women's and men's games today at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
After Acrodunk got the crowd rocking with its amazing acrobatics and combination dunking, Husker men's basketball sophomore Shavon Shields told his story of being a lightly recruited high school junior from the Kansas City area to being a starter for the Huskers as a freshman. Shields, who carries a 3.8 GPA as a micro-biology major, emphasized the importancing of believing in themselves, having goals and working hard to achieve them.
The rally wrapped up with a message from former Husker women's basketball player Meghin Williams, who simply talked about the secret of being nice and treating others with respect. She shared her story of being picked on as youngster, and how she battled to overcome to achieve her dreams of being a Division I athlete.
Williams, who was a contributor on Nebraska's 2010 and 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 teams, then got the crowd ready to cheer for the Big Red as they tipped off their season 90 minutes later against UCLA.