Randy York's N-sider
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You're standing outside the Nebraska Football Experience Room in the newly redecorated Traditions Lobby that welcomes Husker football players, staff and fans to the Osborne Athletic Complex. The doors are shut, but you know something big is about to begin.
You know because a certain reverberation is emerging from a surround sound system that's starting to shake right next door to Nebraska's massive strength and conditioning facility.
Suddenly, you hear a voice you recognize immediately.
"THIS is Nebraska Football!" bellows Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini, sounding every bit as impressive as John Facenda, the hall-of-fame broadcaster who achieved national fame as the narrator of NFL Films and was often called "The Voice of God" by his countless fans.
You can't help but stop in your shoes, cock your head a bit and wait to hear what you still can't see.
Pelini follows his "THIS is Nebraska Football!" exhortation with a brief pause, then a powerful description: "... a tradition filled with Passion ... Loyalty ... Excellence ... Accountability ... and most importantly - Family!"
We go into overdrive to capitalize every word in that authoritative delivery. Once you hit the play button above and watch the video highlight imbedded in this column, you'll understand why.
Pelini breathes life into every word because he means every word. In fact, he climbs on those five words with so much intensity that you know it's coming from deep within his soul. So you hang in there, stay in your tracks and wait patiently for the punch line.
Buckle Up: It's Game Day at Nebraska
"It's Game Day at Nebraska!!" Pelini says with his patented passion that's usually reserved for a locker room quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
Rest assured, Bo's punch line scores another 10 on the Facenda-Meter.
And not surprisingly, the next seven-plus minutes are a seven-course meal of cinematography and music and slow-motion footage and football ritual that tell you something you already know - there is no place like Nebraska.
Yep, 28½ months after Bo arrived as head coach, he's surrounded by the all the tradition and trophies and pictures and murals and special walls that he's always wanted and are now in place for 34 recruits who will visit Nebraska this weekend for the Spring Game.
"When I was hired here, I thought the one thing that was missing in this building was the chance to celebrate the tradition, which is Nebraska football - the conference championships, all the things that we've accomplished in the postseason," Pelini said this week, standing in front of some of that newly installed hardware.
"Tradition is what makes this place special and makes it unique and different than any place else in the country, in my opinion," he said. "By displaying it to everybody who's out there - everybody who's in and out of this building, be it our players, fans, recruits, whoever it may be - at the end of the day, everybody needs to see and celebrate the traditions and everything that's been accomplished in this program over all these years."
Osborne: Pelini Wise to Embrace Tradition
Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne is well aware of that fact and supports the Traditions Lobby that Pelini helped drive as head coach. "I think Bo did something fairly wise when he came here," Osborne said, agreeing to stand in front of the five national championship trophies that Pelini wanted players and fans to see the minute they walked in the North Stadium's front door.
"We have a good tradition and a good base to build on, and Bo thought it was a good idea to take advantage of that," Osborne said, pointing out that Bob Stoops and other coaches have embraced history and tradition in a similarly advantageous way
"Sometimes," Osborne said, "people want to build their own legacy, and they almost want to deny the past. Bo has not done that. So he's been involved from day one in putting this project together. He's asked his other coaches as well because they have some idea of what recruits are looking for. We're very grateful that coaches have been a big part of the process and the plan."
The football staff worked diligently with Maggi Thorne, NU's assistant director of Capital Planning. She coordinated Project RED (Recruiting Enhancements Display). A former hurdler on the Nebraska track team, Thorne designed the new recruiting path for football, completing Phase I. She will also coordinate Phase II that will continue through 2011 and enhance the recruiting paths for other varsity sports.
Osborne is pleased that his RED Team decided not to build a separate museum-like structure to showcase Nebraska's championship tradition, choosing instead to maximize the overall impact of the project while using existing space in a cost-effective manner.
Honoring the past, of course, is a great way for recruits to learn what will be expected in the future ... national championships, conference championships, major bowl games, Heisman Trophies and other major individual awards.
Huskers Have Won Nearly Every Major Award
"When you're talking about recruiting, you're talking about a bunch of young men who want to come in and accomplish certain things," Pelini said. "They want to achieve. They want to win championships. They want to play at the next level and win awards. They want to have a chance to win a Heisman, a Lombardi, a Nagurski or whatever it may be.
"We have people who have won those awards and still want to come back and help inspire others to win those awards," Pelini said. "We've won three Heisman Trophies and five national championship trophies. We've had major award winners in almost every single category.
"It's important for recruits to see that the minute they walk in that door," Pelini said. "They need to see that we have the resources and the tradition. We have everything necessary to support what they want to achieve in the long run."
Well, guess what? For the first time in a long time, everything that means anything in Nebraska's rich football history is prominently and properly displayed in and throughout the football complex. The Major Trophy Winners Display is museum quality. The new Heisman Video in the Experience Room gets rave reviews just like the Game Day Experience Video.
There's a Walk-On Display and a Blackshirt Display outside the locker room walls, which also feature photos of every Nebraska First-Team All-American - something Osborne authorized the first week he was hired as athletic director.
"This place screams tradition, and that's what all the players who played here want," said Joel Makovicka, a two-time Academic All-America fullback who saw the new Traditions Lobby for the first time this week.
"I remember coming to games here when I was six or seven years old and trying to get gloves and touch the players coming out of the tunnel," Makovicka said. "When you grow up in this state, you understand the tradition that comes with the program."
Helu Recognized Makovicka at First Glance
Nebraska's football tradition is alive and well, and current players seem to be immersing themselves in it.
This week, for instance, Makovicka was eating lunch with Doak Ostergard at the NU Training Table when the Athletic Department's Director of Outreach waved his arm for Roy Helu to come over two tables and meet someone.
"This is a history lesson," Ostergard told Helu when he sat down. "Do you have any idea who this guy is?"
"Makovicka," Helu said with a smile. "I rented a video of that 1995 national championship team. You were a freshman on that team, weren't you?"
A surprised Makovicka nodded affirmatively.
"Didn't you hit someone from Florida (Jacquez Green) so hard on special teams that you took him out of the game?" Helu asked. "I remember you because the announcers talked about how you were only a freshman and that hit was a sign of more things to come."
It was indeed. In his four years as an NU letterman, Makovicka played on teams that won 45 games and two national championships to go with the national title the Huskers won in 1994 when he was a redshirt.
"There's no better place than Nebraska to come and play football," Makovicka said. "If I was a recruit coming in here this weekend, I would feel very special to be asked to get us back in the national championship picture. We're heading back in that direction of competing for the conference championship and the national championship, and the guys they're recruiting now can help set the tone. What an opportunity they have."
Only a Championship Will Satisfy Pelini
This weekend's recruits will be the first group to watch the Game Day Experience Video, then they will get to see the next closest thing to the real deal in Saturday's Spring Game.
"People made a big deal about me saying we were back," Pelini said this week. "I mean, I'm happy with the point we're at right now. The kids in our program are high character. They're representing us well on and off the field. It's all part of the tradition we believe in - in this athletic department, this football program and this university."
But Pelini still wants to make one thing perfectly clear.
"We won't be back football-wise until we win a championship," he said. "I came here not only to win a conference championship, but to win a national championship. That's what will put us over the top. Not until then will I say we're fully back. But I do believe we're at that point in the program right now where we can compete with any football program in the country and do so in such a way that we're doing things the right way on an everyday basis. Our kids are working their tails off to become the best they can possibly be. They want to be a big part of this great tradition."
Voices from Husker Nation
As a displaced Husker living in Tucson, I look forward to seeing this new hall. I remember the old trophy room in the West Stadium. I am glad to see they opened this up to the recruits. I come home every year for a game, and I plan to include this on my trip home. I would especially like to thank Coach Pelini for beating down Arizona for me. Living in Tucson has been rough ... lots of smack talking about the '97 Holiday Bowl against Arizona. Well, it feels great to hold my head up again, and I proudly wear my championship shirt whenever possible. I deeply wish I could be at the Red-White Game, but cannot make it home. Best of luck preparing for the season. Todd Meedel, Tucson, Arizona, NU alumni '94.
First Class all the way! We will be at the Texas game in October for sweet revenge. This venue should be on the 1000 places to visit before one dies and definitely on every football fan's itinerary of classic cathedrals of college football. There truly is...NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA! Keep these articles coming. Brad Loseke
I got to see the new area last week, and it looks great. I'm so glad that Bo is back and making the trophies and other memorabilia accesssible to recruits and fans as well. We are proud of our tradition, and it's nice that it's out there for all to see. Thanks Bo! Lennae Seevers, Omaha, Nebraska
Sounds like an athletic director did what all good leaders do - ask the subject matter experts what they need to be more successful and then make sure they get what they need. To me, it explains why Nebraska has produced two years faster than anyone thought possible. A football coach and Congressman with strong values and common sense also did his research on Bo before hiring him. It's refreshing to see both Tom and Bo embrace the tradition that made us great in the first place. Bo Big Red! Jack Miller
I appreciated Tom Osborne's personal invitation to visit the new Traditions Lobby, and that's exactly what we're going to do this summer on vacation - stop and see the videos and everything else at Nebraska on our way to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play baseball. Gary Andersen, Rapid City, S.D.
We haven't been to Lincoln for a couple years. We don't have access to football tickets, so we're going to do the next best thing and experience our favorite program on display. Sounds impressive. Can't wait to see it. That kiosk will be busy when we get there. Patrick Edwards, Des Moines, Iowa