Kathy Griess and Gary Launderville are the first Nebraska-Iowa Heroes Game honorees.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Everyday Heroes Reflect Rivalry's Roots

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York's N-Sider 

Randy's Latest Blogs

Randy's N-Sider Columns

Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider


Video on Nebraska Hero Griess

Video on Iowa Hero Launderville

Nebraska and Iowa kick off their new Big Ten Conference football rivalry Friday, and the agriculturally based neighbors are already putting points on the scoreboard for both schools and their respective athletic programs. Wednesday, the first two award winners for the first-ever Heroes Game Presented by Hy-Vee were announced, and they reflect the very foundation upon which this rivalry is built.

A three-time breast cancer survivor-turned hero from Nebraska and a law enforcement officer with a passion for children and their personal safety will be recognized at halftime of Friday's inaugural Nebraska-Iowa matchup, which will become the annual post Thanksgiving Heroes Game for Husker and Hawkeye fans across the country and around the world.

It's only fitting that two states known for accomplishing extraordinary things would honor ordinary, everyday people and hold them up as role models for more than 85,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and countless more who will see them on ABC's national telecast.

So give it up for the two heroes selected by Red Cross staff and volunteers from a field of more than 200 nominations: Kathy Griess of Fremont, Neb., and Gary Launderville of Storm Lake, Iowa. They represent families and fans, states and universities and two athletic departments that have worked closely and diligently to base the Nebraska-Iowa football rivalry on all the right things ... victory, valor and a vision to uphold values that carry an equal emphasis on excellence. The game honors both states' everyday heroes, and the trophy symbolizes the victory on the field.

Heroes Trophy Goes to Game's Winner

In addition to announcing Griess and Launderville as charter honorees for an inaugural game, Nebraska and Iowa unveiled the symbol that will carry each hero's name and the final score of every Husker-Hawkeye day-after-Thanksgiving game Friday and forever more.

"The trophy theme is both victory and valor, and our first two honorees definitely reflect the foundation we have in place," said Michael Stephens, Nebraska assistant athletic director for Marketing & Licensing. "We thought it was important to recognize everyday people who have accomplished heroic acts and make the lives of those around them a safer and better place. We think both states are loaded with people who put others before themselves and reflect our shared Midwestern values each and every day."

Athletic directors at both schools share that belief, and Nebraska's Tom Osborne will present Griess her Hero's Award at halftime, while Iowa's Gary Barta presents Launderville with his award at the same time.

Griess was driving home one day when she noticed thick smoke coming from a mobile home park. She pulled off the highway and drove to the park where she found two little boys trapped in a fire. Their sister had escaped through a window and when Griess learned that two little boys were still inside, she assisted the 3-year-old, then reached inside, felt an infant's feet and pulled the 1-year-old to safety before fire trucks arrived.

Instinctive Reaction/Lifetime Achievement

Launderville also has an innate sense of and genuine concern for children and their safety. That's why the sheriff of Buena Vista County and his wife, Sandy, have fostered 125 children, seven of which they eventually adopted and joined their family of six. Eleven months ago, Launderville was hit by an SUV and thrown 20 feet into the air when he was rescuing a mother and a child stranded in a raging snowstorm.

Griess admits she surprised herself when she flew into action without hesitation, and Launderville simply did what he always does - whatever he could to help someone in need.

Griess and Launderville represent decidedly different but equally relevant situations that merit public acknowledgement. Griess is honored for her instinctive reaction in a high-pressure moment. Launderville's award has a lifetime achievement feel to it. Their shared bottom line: Both are worthy of recognition from Huskers and Hawkeyes alike.

And here's the best news as we count down to the first Heroes Game. As heroic as Greiss's and Launderville's everyday acts were, Nebraska and Iowa fans would be shocked to read how many more selfless sacrifices occur week-in and week-out in both states - acts that our N-Sider Blog will chronicle in the coming holiday weeks.

Send a comment to Randy at ryork@huskers.com (Please include name and residence)


More News Sponsor - First National Bank


Tickets Sponsor - StubHub