Kudos for Everyone Who Missed Center Stage
Randy York's N-Sider
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dedicated to the late Cliff Hillegass,
one of the most dedicated Nebraska athletic fans ever. Cliff was the creator and
publisher of Lincoln-based CliffsNotes. Remember those little guides that
helped countless students study literature? I called the yellow-and-black cover
books creative shorthand to simulate and stimulate literature. Today we're trying
to do something similar for Big Red fans everywhere, so we can capture some
semblance of the overall recognition that went missing when thunderstorms
forced Nebraska to cancel its Spring Football Game for the first time ever. Consider this column
a CliffsNotes version of all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a game that
was never played.
Even though the N-Sider is packaging this product in scarlet and cream, we refuse to project what player performance might have been. We're also bypassing the flyover and Tunnel Walk, the fight songs and balloons, the cheer squad and the dance team, even all those tuba players shifting left to right in unison while the band plays There Is No Place Like Nebraska.
For everyone still holding a Spring Game ticket, please remember that it grants free admission to a Nebraska baseball or softball game this spring. In honor of our loyal fan base, this column is dedicated to everyone who was scheduled to step on sacred ground Saturday and wave to 50,000-plus Big Red fans before Mother Nature rained on their parade. Once-in-a-lifetime chances aren't easily ignored.
Let's start with the winner of the 2012 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award winner – Rex Burkhead. The All-Big Ten running back formed a tight friendship with Jack Hoffman, a 6-year-old with a rare pediatric brain tumor. In Lincoln to present the award was Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Scott Shirley, along with Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne. Jack and his parents, Andy and Bri, ended up spending a couple of the most meaningful hours of their lives before and after they participated in a much more private presentation of his national award in front of the fireplace in the Student-Life Complex. The N-Sider will focus on that memorable experience in a subsequent column, but let the record show that it involved Osborne and Jan Berringer, the mother of Brook Berringer, NU's late quarterback, plus Rex and his parents, Rick and Robyn Burkhead. Even though the families had never met, their time together felt almost like a family reunion. Talk about high praise. Jan told Rex that several Husker fans have said Rex reminds them of Brook. And after meeting the Burkheads, Jan agrees with those fans.
Berringer Honorees Moved Two Doors Down
While everyone was waiting out the thunderstorms and a final decision to cancel the game, Nebraska moved the annual presentation of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team into the Ndamukong Suh strength and conditioning facility just a few steps from Nebraska's locker room door.
football players for their extensive community service and volunteerism is a high honor. The Brook Berringer Citizenship Team was established in 1996 as a tribute to Berringer's dedicated community efforts and role model status. The imprint he left on Nebraska football is reflected in the North Stadium entrance statue, showing Berringer alongside Osborne, the athletic director
who recruited him and coached him. Jan Berringer handed awards to Burkhead,
junior quarterback Ron Kellogg III,
senior wide receiver Steven Osborne,former
defensive back Lance Thorell, junior
fullback C.J. Zimmerer, former
linebacker Jim Ebke, former fullback
Tyler Legate, junior lineman Brandon Chapek, redshirt freshman
offensive lineman Ryan Klachko,
junior offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles,
senior tight end Ben Cotton, junior tight
end Robert Barry, sophomore defensive
end Donovan Vestal and senior kicker
and punter Brett Maher. Honorable
mention athletes on the 2012 Berringer Citizenship Team included sophomore Brion Carnes, tight end Kyler Reed, former tight end Jay Martin, junior offensive lineman Nick Ash, redshirt offensive lineman Chris Long and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Evans.
Austin Cassidy, NU's two-time First-Team Academic All-America safety, is the the 2012 Cletus Fischer Award winner. The Fischer Award is presented annually to a player who has completed his eligibility and demonstrated a high level of athletic and academic achievement. Cassidy meets that criteria and plans to attend post-graduate school. The award honors the late Clete Fischer, a Husker assistant for 26 years. Lou Roper was scheduled to present the award from the Touchdown Club of Nebraska, along with two of Clete's sons, Tim and Dan Fischer. Austin's grandmother, Deloris Cassidy, planned to be on the field with her grandson, who will use the scholarship to pursue his Master's degree in Business Administration at Nebraska. He received his bachelor's degree last May.
Nebraska's N-Club was proud and all set to continue the tradition of presenting coveted letter jackets for 28 first-time letter winners in football. Matt Vrzal, president of the N-Club, and Jeff Jamrog, NU's assistant athletic director for football operations, were scheduled to be on the 50-yard line and welcome new players to their letter-winner fraternity. It's unfortunate they couldn't simulate the ceremony of receiving their letter jackets at the "N" in the center of the field and then running back through a line of former players through the Tunnel Walk gates and back to the locker room. So please give a silent congrats to the following newcomers who were scheduled to be honored in numerical order: Sophomore safety Harvey Jackson (1), sophomore running back Aaron Green (2), senior safety Daimion Stafford (3), sophomore cornerback Braylon Heard (5), sophomore cornerback Josh Mitchell (5), sophomore safety Corey Cooper (6), senior defensive end Joseph Carter (7), sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah (8), sophomore wide receiver Jamal Turner (10), junior safety Dijon Washington (10), junior cornerback Andrew Green (11), sophomore quarterback Brion Carnes (15), junior cornerback Stanley Jean-Bapitiste (16), junior safety Wil Richards (19), senior wide receiver Steven Osborne (21), junior fullback Chris Zimmerer (31), sophomore placekicker Mauro Bondi (37), sophomore linebacker Trevor Roach (43), junior offensive lineman Spencer Long (61), sophomore offensive lineman Jake Cotton (68), senior offensive lineman Justin Jackson (72), sophomore offensive lineman Tyler Moore (73), senior defensive end Seung Hoon Choi (77), sophomore wide receiver Kenny Bell (80), sophomore wide receiver Tyler Evans (88), sophomore defensive tackle Chase Rome (97) and sophomore defensive tackle Jay Guy (99).
Hip, Hip for Two Brandons and One Caleb
Talk about a double dose of unfortunate
timing. I'm almost tempted to ask you to stand up from wherever you're reading
this and congratulate three members of Nebraska's basketball team, who were
scheduled to be honored on the field during the first time out in the first
quarter of the Spring Game. They were getting that coveted spot because
Nebraska did not have a men's basketball banquet this spring. So please join Nebraska
Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc
Boehm in honoring junior forward Brandon
Ubel, the Paul Velander Hustle
Award winner; senior guard Brandon
Richardson, the Jack Moore Most
Valuable Player Award winner; and senior Caleb
Walker for the 2011-12 Play of the Year Award – a one-handed ally-oop dunk against Illinois.
Fans would have stood up and cheered when P.A. Announcer Patrick Combs introduced Tim Miles as NU's new head basketball coach, along with his assistants – Ron Coleman, Ben Johnson, Jayden Olson and Jim Shaw. That group has worked diligently, and a Memorial roar would have impressed new recruits who had to be wowed visiting perhaps the nation's best practice facility, plus the upcoming move to Pinnacle Bank Arena, which promises to rank among the top 5 percent of Division I facilities.
Let's also not forget what would have been another major award presentation to JoAnn Martin, the recipient of the 2012 Dr. Barbara Hibner Trailblazer Award, which honors individuals, companies or families making outstanding contributions of time and support to Nebraska women's athletics. Nebraska Senior Women's Administrator Pat Logsdon and Michael Stephens, NU's Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing, were scheduled to present the Trailblazer Award to the CEO of Ameritas for her company's generous contributions and major corporate sponsorship. Ameritas is the presenting sponsor of Nebraska's annual Ameritas Volleyball Players Challenge. Other Ameritas senior team members who were scheduled to be on the field for the presentation were Bill Lester, Tim Stonehocker and Ken Van-Cleave.
The N-Sider would be remiss if we did not mention three Boy Scouts who represented three councils in Nebraska and were scheduled to be on the field to watch warm-ups and then receive major recognition as the top three popcorn sellers in the state. Anthony Gordon sold $6,500 of popcorn, followed by Tyler Lantis ($4,802) and Thomas Chale ($4,350). In addition to those three, the Boy Scouts donated an additional $34,000 worth of popcorn to send to local National Guard Troops and their families.
Speaking of the military, the First Airborne Command and Control Squadron from Omaha's Offutt Air Force Base was eager to perform the flyover. Hopefully, that crew – Lieutenant Colonel Shane Smith, Major Todd Bode, Captain Jon Grossrhode and Staff Sergeant Rebecca Roberts – will get a chance to wear a Husker shirt under their flight gear and show their true colors sometime in the near future.
Prince and Kaitlyn Were Ready to Lead Pledge
The last acknowledgement commends two prominent Huskers who would have led the Drug
Free Pledge that was scheduled for halftime. Former Husker and New York Giant
Super Bowl starter Prince Amukamara committed to lead the parents' and mentors' pledge, and women's basketball
player and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Kaitlyn Burke agreed to lead the youth pledge.
Amukamara's pledge for adults: "On my honor, as a loving, responsible adult, I pledge to assist all youth in their quest to remain drug, alcohol and tobacco free, and I support their decision to say 'No!'" Burke's pledge for students: "On my honor, as a responsible student, I pledge not to use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. I believe I can lead a better life by staying drug free, and I further pledge to encourage friends not to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco. I am strong to say 'No!'" That pledge works online as well as live.
That's the CliffsNotes version of simulated recognition we all missed from the Spring Game. At this point, we end with what Patrick Combs would tell fans as they filed out of the stadium. "The Huskers return to Memorial Stadium for their 2012 home opener on Saturday, Sept. 1, as they take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Kickoff and television coverage will be announced at a later date. Thank you for coming out today and please use caution when exiting Memorial Stadium. Drive safely to your next destination."
And please feel free to use this column as
official proof of an honorable honor that was unexpectedly rained out and canceled
forever. This column's for everyone who missed that fleeting center stage. We realize it's a far cry from what you expected, but the kudos are sincerely delivered and uniquely yours.
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