The Legend of Brook Berringer Goes Beyond His 1994 Performance Against CU
Randy York's N-Sider
To "Respond to Randy" click on the link below and choose "Randy York's N-Sider" under "Area of Interest" on the new screen. Please include your name and city/town/state and share your thoughts on Brook Berringer. Your comments may be published at the bottom of this column.
It doesn't seem possible, but it really was 15 years ago when the player who's featured with Tom Osborne on the statue in front of Nebraska's North Stadium entrance had his miracle game in a Husker uniform.
"Brook Berringer played a great game against Colorado in 1994," recalled Osborne, the former Hall-of-Fame coach and now Nebraska's athletic director. "Colorado had the Heisman Trophy winner and four or five first-round draft picks that year. They probably had more overall talent than we did."
But Berringer, who helped Nebraska control nearly 39 minutes of the clock on that pivotal day en route to the Huskers' first of three national championships under Osborne, "played almost a perfect game," Osborne said.
"Brook really emerged as a national quarterback that day," said Ron Brown, Nebraska's tight end coach who was the lead recruiter for what he calls "the quiet, Kansas range boy" who was "a competitive rascal" and "a salt-of-the-earth kind of young man" ... a Husker legend who died in a private plane he was piloting days before the NFL draft and about a month before he was to graduate from college.
Berringer's legacy is immeasurable. We all know, of course, how he came out of nowhere to take over for the injured Tommie Frazier earlier in the season, but that Oct. 29 afternoon against Colorado was his coming out party ... his date with destiny ... the game that he used to prove to everyone that the Huskers had what it takes to win it all.
"That kid had something inside that began to emerge into something really special," Brown recalled. "I mean, he was developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Eight Conference and, in fact, made second-team All-Big Eight that year."
Brown: Berringer 'The Star' of a Sensational Show
The Colorado game solidified Berringer's place in Husker history. "He became the catalyst on our football team that day," Brown said. "He became the charge guy. You could see the spirit in him, and it really culminated in that game."
Among others, the Buffs had future NFL stars Kordell Stewart at quarterback and Michael Westbrook at wide receiver. They also had running back Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner.
"But Brook was the star that day," Brown said. "He was sensational."
Because of Colorado's style of defense, Nebraska designed passes for the tight end over the middle of the field that day. Berringer was so technically efficient that he was able get CU's linebackers to suck up on the fake, so he could connect with tight ends Mark Gilman and Eric Alford.
Four minutes into the third quarter, CU bit again, and Berringer and Alford hooked up on a 30-yard touchdown pass to give Nebraska a shocking 24-0 lead (24-7 was the final score).
"Brook was just lighting up the sky with short, persistent possession-type throws," Brown recalled. "The traps were going well with Cory Schlesinger. The option game was working. It was a fabulous, beautiful day, and Brook was on center stage in front of a nationally televised audience against some of the best players in America.
"It was fun to see," Brown said. "We knew there was something special there, and after that game, we knew, if we could keep going, despite all the injuries and all the setbacks, that somehow, someway, we were going to get to the national championship game."
For the Rest of the Story, Watch New Husker Videos
No doubt the Brook Berringer Story goes far beyond one almost perfect football game, and we could write that story right here, but it just wouldn't do it justice.
Instead, we offer something much more compelling ... Tom Osborne and Ron Brown remembering Brook Berringer 15 years after a game that showed the nation why Nebraska could still win a national championship with its backup quarterback.
Brown, who gave the eulogy at Berringer's funeral, took the time in his demanding schedule en route to a possible Big 12 championship, to paint a particularly poignant picture of the life and the legacy of one of Nebraska's all-time favorite players.
Take the time to watch Brown's four video installments linked at the top of this column, as well as Osborne's remembrances of Berringer.
Then, after you've watched all of those, hit the play button at the top of this column and watch Berringer describe that memorable day against CU on the Tom Osborne Show from 1994.
Make sure you stay to the end of the highlight reel. You'll see a certain pass that Berringer executed to perfection against CU that day - a play that has found its way back into the Husker playbook.
Enjoy the videos and let us know how you remember Brook Berringer ... who he was, what he stands for and why he is as relevant now as ever in a program that's going back to its roots.
Voices from Husker Nation
Brook Berringer was and still is an inspiration here in the State of Nebraska. Parents still tell their kids about the positive role model he was. Back in 1995, a year before Brook was killed, my husband and I had a daughter. My husband claims to be the biggest Husker fan, as do thousands of others throughout the U.S. (smile), so we named her Brook. We liked the name, but chose the spelling due to Brook Berringer's influence on Nebraska. Our Brook is now a freshman in high school and loves sports. Last fall, a friend of ours gave us a frame with autographed pictures of Brook Berrenger and commemorative tickets to the National Championship celebration. Of course, Brook and her dad argue over who gets to keep those mementos. I have to say I agree with my daughter and just want to say thanks to Brook Berrenger's family. We think our Brook is a great kid with high values (I'm sure we're biased) because those values can be traced to all of the stories and examples she's heard about Brook Berringer. Thanks for listening and giving us a chance to tell others how we chose to honor Brook and his family. Lisa Boucher, Maxwell, Nebraska
Being a Nebraska kid, Husker fan, hunter and fisherman, it was easy to identify with Brook! The fact that he was such a great person made it all the more special that he was our QB. I always hoped I would run into him someday while out hunting and maybe we could share the day together. We didn't get the chance, but I still think of him when the air starts to cool and the days get shorter. We were blessed to have had him for the time we did! Todd Tipton, Omaha, Nebraska
I had the pleasure of meeting Brook Berringer in Scottsbluff just days before he was taken from us. Brook and his mother were out here for a signing at Mike's Husker Stuff, and I had him sign an Orange Bowl ticket from 1995. He said that it was the only one he had signed. I am very proud to have met Brook. He left a lasting impression on me as well as others. He is missed. Walt Howton, Scottsbluff, Nebraska
I just want to say thank you so much for your article on Brook. It meant so much to my family. I grew up pheasant hunting and going to the lake house with Brook. My dad was his dad's identical twin brother. We miss him dearly. We attended as many games as we could during Brook's five years at Nebraska and were at the CU game with him. What a great memory. I fly F-16s for the Colorado Air National Guard. My gun number is #18 in memory of Brook. I've had the unique pleasure and honor of serving with some remarkable folks and have observed and served with some exceptional leaders. Brook was both. Thank you for honoring him. We love being Husker fans in Colorado, especially this time of year. We look forward to Saturday's game against Texas and will be watching to see Ron Brown at the 50-yard line for the players' post-game prayer. What he started in college football is tremendous. Brook was blessed to have him as a coach. We appreciated Coach Osborne's presence in Brook's life as well as Turner Gill's. They are all wonderful family men and influenced Brook's life tremendously. Thanks again for sharing the impact Brook had in other's lives because he certainly impacted ours. Brett Berringer, Maj., Frederick, Colorado
I certainly remember with pride the role Brook played at NU. I now have a 14-year-old boy, and though not an NU football prospect, he is a Husker fan. I am showing him your documentary on Brook as an example of the effect that good character can have on a group. Also, I am about to support him on a path to being a pilot, with some trepidation, given its risks. Thanks for remembering Brook. I have never forgotten that season and how he stepped in, displayed his skill, then his toughness - playing with a rib fracture and a punctured lung ... unbelievable, and I am a physician! David Einspahr, MD, Topeka, Kansas
Going to college at Nebraska and learning who Christ was at that time has affected my life forever. I wrestled as a Husker in the late 1980s and came to respect Rob Brown and who he is, so honoring Brook Berringer and who he was is something I greatly appreciate. Brook stands as an example for all of us on what to focus on in life - in our best and in our worst times. I am now a Principal at Intermountain Christian School, and Brook inspires me to share his life story with the students I now serve. I think it's important for them to see REAL faith being lived out in this world. Thank you for printing this story. Layne Billings, Salt Lake City, Utah
Thank you so much for the article and videos on Brook Berringer. I was working in Des Moines when he died in the plane wreck. Your article and videos are a great testimony to Brook's life, and show why he was a great witness for Jesus. Please thank Coach Brown for his excellent interviews. We enjoy Huskers.com immensely. Thanks again, and GO BIG RED. Ron Tanner, Fairfax, Virginia
I am responding to your story about Brook Berringer and how I remember him. I was fortunate enough to meet Brook several times throughout his career at Nebraska because a family friend had taken Brook under their wing when he first came to Lincoln. I was about 13 when I met Brook and remember having the biggest crush on him! He just seemed to be the perfect man. Being that age, I had no idea what love was, but I cherish every memory I have of Brook Berringer. The day he died, my parents weren't sure how to tell me, and I actually found out while watching ESPN. That was the saddest day of my life, but now I know he is watching over all of us. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. I have several posters hanging in my living room of Brook, several autographs that are framed, a personalized car decal in memory of him and a personalized license plate with #18. But my favorite is the remembrance tattoo on my wrist that says Phil 1:3. This bible verse was on the program from Brook's memorial. It states: I thank my God every time I remember you. Brook Berringer was and always will be my role model!! Thanks for sharing your story on Huskers.com. Every time I read or watch a story about Brook, it still brings tears to my eyes. Brynn Schuckman, assistant athletic trainer/instructor, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas
I'm from Goodland, Kansas, and Brook was EVERYTHING to me while growing up a Husker fan in Goodland! Brook's mom, Jan, made it even more special for me because she was my grade-school teacher through those years! So we had the honor of having Brook come in and see us as he was visiting his mom when he got chances to come home! He was a true hero to all of us in Goodland! He still is! My dad also spoke at Brook's funeral at the field house that day. It was an unreal time, but Brook will NEVER die, and there will never be another human like Brook!! Thank you for the article. It was a pleasant surprise! Andrew Melia, Sports Director, Hometown Family Radio, McCook, Nebraska
Watching Tom Osborne and Ron Brown discuss Brook Berringer on the videos that support your column explains why Brook is the player on that statue in front of the stadium. I've always known that he belonged there, but now, we all have even more reasons why he was the most deserving and the most inspirational choice. I hope some parts of these videos end up in that new video room inside the front door. Lonnie Irvine, Cheyenne, Wyoming
What a great tribute to Brook Berringer. I will never forget the day he died. It was almost as if a family member had died. He was a young man that deserved the respect that he got from everyone around him and from the fans who had followed his career. He handled his backup role to Tommie Frazier with dignity and grace, and he is the type of young man that every parent hopes their son will emulate. That's why his death was very sad for all Husker fans. I know it was for me. Thank you for sharing this story to help us remember one of the greatest players in Husker history, not only for his talent, but even more for his character. Terri Fisher
It's impressive that Denver Bronco Quarterback Kyle Orton wore Brook's No. 18 both at Purdue and with the Chicago Bears because he looked up to Brook while growing up. I enjoyed watching the video where he explained why Brook was such a role model for him. He's a role model for all of us. Robert Cookson, Salina, Kansas
The Life and Legacy of Brook Berringer
Born: July 9, 1973, in Scottsbluff, Neb.
Died: April 18, 1996, at age 22 in crash of small plane he was piloting near Raymond, Neb.
Funeral: Goodland, Kan., where Brook lived from age 7 through high school graduation. Brook, sisters Nicoel and Drue and mother Jan moved to Kansas after their father and husband, Warren Berringer, died of cancer. "Brook's death had more impact on our football players than any other single event that I can think of," said Tom Osborne, his former head coach and now Nebraska's athletic director. "When you're 19, 20 and 21-years-old, you think you're bullet-proof. You think you're going to live forever. That's what our guys were thinking in 1996, and then, all of a sudden, here's this guy who was admired by virtually everyone and was young and was on the threshold of possibly an NFL career. He was engaged to be married to a beautiful young lady and was about to get his college degree. Then, all of a sudden, he's gone. I think it hit home - first, the brevity of life and secondly, the legacy he had as a Christian with a very strong spiritual base. Almost all of our team attended the funeral, and a lot of players re-examined their lives and their stance on faith. As we went down to Goodland, I remember seeing all of those people in both Nebraska and Kansas standing along the roadside as the hearse rolled along. There are not many players who would draw that kind of attention. Brook had a great impact on lots of people, including me. When you lose someone like that, it's almost like losing a member of your own family."
Memorial service: April 20, 1996, at Memorial Stadium. Attendance: 48,659.
Primary recruiter: Ron Brown. He delivered Brook's eulogy, which was broadcast live statewide. Brown and Osborne first saw Berringer at the Nebraska Summer Football Camp, where he impressed both with his arm and overall athleticism. Kansas and Kansas State also offered scholarships, but Brook's Nebraska roots simplified the recruiting process.
Primary athletic legacy: Becoming Nebraska's starting quarterback in Nebraska's 1994 national championship season for Tommie Frazier, who developed blood clots in his leg and missed eight straight games. Huskers did not lose any games with Berringer at the helm.
Career highlight: Oct. 29, 1994, Nebraska's 200th consecutive sellout against Colorado. "Brook played a great game," Osborne recalled. "Colorado had the Heisman Trophy winner and five first-round draft picks. They probably had more overall talent than we did. Brook threw a touchdown pass to give us a 24-0 lead, and we won, 24-7, after holding the ball for almost 40 minutes. Brook played almost a perfect game."
Competitive savvy: "The thing that was particularly memorable about Brook was that in spite of what he did in 1994, when 1995 came and Frazier was healed up, he certainly had as much claim to be the starting quarterback as Tommie. The only difference was that during preseason scrimmages, Brook had one interception, and Tommie had none. Tommie graded a little bit better, but not much. It was close."
Maturity that belied his age: "Brook could have been bitter. He could have been divisive. He could have caused a fracture within the team," Osborne said. "But he didn't do that. He was supportive of Tommie. He was a consummate team player. He always said the right thing and always did the right thing."
Inspiring figure: From former Chicago Bear and now Denver Bronco starting quarterback Kyle Orton, who remembers getting Brook's autograph as a seventh grader while growing up in Iowa: Orton told Sports Illustrated: "I liked how Brook handled himself as a player. He played well when they won the national title, and then Tommie Frazier came back and got the job back. Brook could've tanked, but he showed what he was made of as a backup. Ever since then, I've worn 18 (in junior high, high school, at Purdue and with the Bears. Orton wears No. 8 with the Broncos because 18 is one of Denver's three retired jersey numbers). I met Brook's mother (Jan). She saw me mention Brook in an interview, and she tracked me down. It was cool. I thought we would talk for 10 minutes, but we spent a lot of time talking about him. It wasn't even about football. It was about the kind of guy he was."
Reason that Brook Berringer is an equal part of the Tom Osborne statue at the front entrance to the North Stadium: "When approached, I didn't want a personal statue," Osborne said. "Some have wondered why there isn't a generic player, and I can understand that reasoning. But in a sense, Brook's spirit epitomizes the sacrifices that so many small-town kids have made to make this program great. He was not a walk-on, but he symbolizes the efforts of so many of those kinds of players. His impact has been great. He embodies a lot of the things that we're trying to get done here ... good student ... good person ... unimpeachable character ... well-liked ... well respected ... good leader. As a result, like so many others before him and after him, he made his mark here."