Ron Brown delivered a drug-free message at Nebraska's Spring Game last April.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Ron Brown: Right Man, Right Place, Right Time

By NU Athletic Communications

By Randy York

"God, there are a lot of little boys around the country today watching this game and they're trying to figure out what the definition of manhood is all about. Father, this is it right here. I pray that this game will be a training ground for what manhood looks like."

Those were just some of the words that Ron Brown delivered Saturday in a two-minute pregame prayer as Penn State and Nebraska players went to their knees, side-by-side, brothers in life and opponents only for the next few hours ... two traditional football powers gathered together with one collective heart and reaching out to each other, their fans, a national television audience and, perhaps, more important than anything else, trying to connect with young boys across the country wondering what real manhood is and how football and winning and idols are all inter-related but separate from where their minds should be focused each and every day.


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Voices from Across the Nation

I am a University of Michigan fan and couldn't be prouder to have Nebraska in our conference than I was yesterday. Your offer to not only join, but lead a prayer at mid-field with the Penn State players was one of the most moving, touching, and classiest events I have ever been privileged to watch. Thank you for the moment and God bless. Tyrone Maranian, Fowlerville, Michigan

You probably know how we as a Nittany Nation have been feeling this last week. We feel confused, betrayed, and hurt that members of our community have let us down. Have we reacted in the appropriate manner, by rioting and lashing out on Facebook and Twitter? Probably not. So many different outside influences that could not know how we feel have dictated and somewhat influenced the current students’ actions. It was certainly a dark moment in the darkest of weeks here at Penn State. But Saturday, with the help of your Huskers, we took back some pride. It would have been so easy for the Nebraska fans to capitalize on our pain and sorrow for the true victims of this week, the children that were abused and are abused all around the world. However, I have never seen fans be so courteous and even comforting in our defining hour. They bowed their heads in the moment of silence, wore blue ribbons, and shed tears as we all did throughout the game. I spoke with several Husker fans after the game who said they have never felt so welcome anywhere, and I was so glad they felt that way. The only way we will get through this is with the help of our friends around the Big Ten and around the world. I like to think that Nebraska is a similar school to Penn State. I know you may feel that is a strange thing to say at this moment, but like Nebraska, Penn State is not only about football. Both schools are fantastic land grant, academic and research-minded schools which happen to have incredible athletic programs as well. You also have a fan base that, like Penn State, has your University's culture, both academic and athletic, in your blood. Only a school like yours, and indeed others in the Big Ten Conference could fathom what it is like to feel betrayed by a few individuals at the schools. So I guess I'm trying to say Thank You, Nebraska. You supported the true victims of this scandal, you played a great game, and you helped us bring class back to Beaver Stadium. It was difficult to have our first game without our beloved coach, and I don't think any other team in the Big Ten could have brought the class and warmth you brought today. We will see you in Lincoln next year! We are, forever and for always, Penn State. Elizabeth Stark, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

I would say both teams won Saturday because of their effort, performance and sportsmanship. I will also say the fans won; especially the Penn State fans, because of their demeanor, dedication, and class. I feared neither team would “win”. That is why I leaned towards not playing the game. Usually I believe one of the most important things to do in times of crisis or tragedy is to continue a normal schedule. Go ahead with what is scheduled.  But in the case of this game, I thought going ahead would bring too much criticism on several fronts, and it would make losers of everyone. However, now that it is over; maybe some good came from playing the game; mainly from the conduct of the players and the Penn State fans. I think Penn State was “restored” in a sense. Today showed not everything about Penn State is a negative. Not that I ever thought it was, but events and publicity made it appear that way. Today Penn State demonstrated there is a lot of good on campus, too. I know I take no joy in scoring more points. I’m ready to move on to playing someone else. I hope the national media can give the story some rest. Let law enforcement and the courts handle it. Let advocacy groups promote child safety. But let’s not hear about the Jerry Sandusky Case every minute of the day on every type of media there is. Gene Finke, Beatrice, Nebraska

I sit here in Arlington, Texas (my residence for 27 years, but I am still from Nebraska). I sit here so proud of that guy from Plano, Rex Burkhead, who is such a neat human being and just makes us look good as human beings and athletes. I saw some of Coach Bo's press conference and watched how he toned down the victory, but he earned it with our guys. Right now I am just relieved our kids are okay and the game is over, and they could return to Nebraska with a victory. No athletic program or "tradition" is worth the suffering of the victims. I've always admired Dr. Tom, but never so much as now. Of course, there will always be a very special place in my heart for Coach Bob Devaney. We had nothing 'til that guy arrived. You know the song “There Is No Place Like Nebraska!” You betcha, and I wear my Nebraska shirts here win or lose. I am a Creighton grad but never had a conflict since we didn't have a football team. I belong to the North Texas Nebraskans, and I just want to say that Dr. Tom, Bob Devaney and Rex Burkhead do us all proud. Thanks, Nebraska, for taking away some of the pain from last week’s World Series! Judy Yacio, Arlington, Texas

As a Penn State graduate and a football season ticketholder, I want to thank the University of Nebraska and their football program for how they handled Saturday’s football game. This has been a terrible time for everyone at Penn State. The character and class that the University of Nebraska football team and fans exhibited towards Penn State was truly appreciated. Thank you. Mark Bevevino, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, PSU class of 1988

Thanks so much for this blog. It has been truly amazing to see what has happened nationally with Coach Brown's prayer. My husband, Brett, knows Ron fairly well -- he's been a campus minister at UNL for 39 years with Christian Challenge and helped lead chapels sometimes back in the Osborne era. As all this has transpired, I was wondering if there is some sort of "National Assistant Coach of the Year" honor. If so, Ron Brown certainly deserves to be nominated for it. Thanks again. Mary Yohn, Lincoln, Nebraska

Just a thank you to the Cornhusker fans and especially your Big Red team for being so gracious. You helped us take a huge step toward our future, and it is very much appreciated. Go Big Red! Judy and Bill Carr, PSU season ticketholders

I am a lifelong PSU fan and want to thank Nebraska for the way it handled playing at PSU in a very difficult situation. The pregame prayer was touching. It was a great game and a class act. Thank you for joining the PSU football team in its attempt to move forward with class and dignity. I have great respect for your team and university. Joe Sileo, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

In my 46 years of being a Husker fan, through five national championships, three Heisman Trophy winners and countless football heroes, I have never been more proud of the men who work as coaches at Nebraska. Thank you, Coach  Brown. Greg Weiss, Tulsa, Oklahoma

I just want to share my thoughts about Nebraska at Penn State yesterday. I am a Penn State graduate, Class of 1998 and was not in attendance at yesterday's game but I was super impressed at the class Nebraska fans and especially the team came with to PSU.  It has been a super-trying week at PSU, but the way Nebraska came out, played hard yet respectful, and was gracious winners did not go unnoticed. Most importantly, I was overwhelmed at the way your coach, Ron Brown, led the teams in prayer, securing uninterrupted national air time!  I have prayed all week that somehow God would get the honor in the midst of this unspeakable tragedy and that prayer time at the beginning of the game was a glimpse into that. So, Coach Osborne, you need to be proud of your program and the class with which your team came to Penn State!  Good game! Stephanie Punchard, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Thanks for giving credit where credit was due to Coach Ron Brown and thanks for reprinting your N-Sider from three years ago for those of us who had no idea who he is. That column really lays it on the line and explains why Coach Brown was the right man to lead that pregame prayer from both teams' perspective. What an honor for everyone who was there and what a privilege for those of us who got to watch it on national television. ESPN deserves a lot of credit for not cutting something like that off. It speaks volumes. Congratulations ESPN. Steve Harrison, Columbus, Ohio

Please share this with the football team and coaches. I am a PSU season ticket holder and alumni. I want to express my deep gratitude and admiration to your team and especially coach Ron Brown for leading both teams in prayer before the game. Yours is definitely a class act! It speaks volumes about your young men to be able to come together with their opponents with mutual respect and camaraderie on the field for a cause much larger than athletics. You are truly a remarkable group of which our community, state and nation should be proud. Our school is suffering through the darkest chapter in our history, and we are beginning the healing process. Knowing that we can count on support from our brothers and sisters half a nation away gives us strength to continue. I know I speak for all in attendance when I say how proud I am of all of you. May God continue to bless you with health and success not only on the athletic field but in your journey through life. Sincerely, John Galchefski, Kingston, Pennsylvania

I want to express my sincerest thanks to your football program for the very sensitive manner in which they behaved at the PSU game. We are going through a very difficult time as fans of Penn State, and your participation in the pregame showed class and the maturity of your team. Thank you so much. Betty Reed, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Thanks for reminding all of us Nebraska fans of why it's so important to show fans from other schools respect and appreciation for their teams. Nebraska fans have been that way for decade upon decade. It's just the way we are, and the more you read about other schools and other conferences, you realize that we truly are unique in the sportsmanship we show, in good times and bad times, when we win and when we lose, when there's shame and when there isn't. Nebraska rose up like an eagle Saturday and even though so many didn't see the need to play that game, the result proved it was well worth it. Even if we had lost, we won the hearts of a nation that could see what few other schools might have done. Larry Johnson, Omaha, Nebraska

Thanks for letting Ron Brown pray at Penn State on Saturday! I work at Penn State and really appreciate this. It was the best thing we saw here in State College, and I worked here all week. It was so good to see the teams come together. Thanks to the University of Nebraska and to Ron Brown. John Pitterle, State College, Pennsylvania

I am so proud of my team, especially Rex Burkhead. I moved from Lincoln where I was born. I miss my home but I will always love my team and will always support ya'll by wearing my Nebraska colors. We will win the Big Ten championship! GO BIG RED! Kimberly Hadley, Lithonia, Georgia

Wow, was I proud of our Nebraska players and Ron Brown to go to their knees and say a prayer before the game Saturday. What class that shows of our beloved Nebraskans! My prayers and thoughts go out to those poor young boys victimized by a horrible predator. My email is to thank the Nebraska players, Ron Brown, and the fans. I am so proud to be a Wyoming Nebraskan. I have left the state but I will always be a Nebraskan. Please relay my thanks. Linda Baker, Class of 1971, Gillette, Wyoming


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