Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Why Grant Wistrom Was the Right Leader for Day by Day

By Randy York

Captains Rave about Walk-Ons, the Heartbeat of the Huskers

When Nebraska celebrated the 20th reunion of its 1997 National Championship football team Saturday night inside the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium, HuskerVision and Media Relations collaborated on back-to-back Tunnel Walks that produced goose bumps, meaningful memories and incomparable roars.

The highpoint in my mind, however, was Grant Wistrom, Nebraska’s iconic rush end who addressed the team Saturday and then led the Huskers in their fabled pre-game prayer inside the North Stadium entrance. The explosion of energy prior to the nationally televised kickoff against Big Ten power Wisconsin was a 10+ kind of experience.

The prayer psyched up Wistrom, his former teammates and coaches and every Husker fan who hears and respects what the The Prayer is designed to mean in competitive battle.    

The Prayer is a strong staple of history and a vivid reminder of what's most important in major competition. “We start in low voices and build to high voices before saying amen,” said Wistrom, fully equipped to lead the chant because “The Prayer was the purpose that allowed our team to win a national championship for Tom Osborne.”

A St. Louis Rams’ first-round draft pick and a member of three Nebraska National Championship teams, Wistrom respects the purpose of The Prayer. “I still get goose bumps being with my old teammates,” he said. “It meant a lot to all of us to revisit the atmosphere we had 20 years ago. There is nothing better than cheering on others.”

In Simplest Terms, The Prayer Defines Why Student-Athletes Compete at Nebraska

The character and camaraderie of his teammates became “an immeasurable amount of good when you, your teammates, coaches, fans and everybody else experience a prayer that defines why you’re here,” Wistrom said.

Without chemistry, Wistrom told me he never would have won all the awards he received. That includes the Lombardi Award, a two-time All-American and two-time Academic All-American, plus an NCAA Top Eight Award winner. He also earned the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

The constant drive in Wistrom’s mind is woven into the pregame prayer that motivates his spirit. He enjoyed addressing the team over the weekend and his favorite line in The Prayer is an important stretch goal – "Can’t be beat, won’t be beat.”

When the guy leading The Prayer gets to that part, Wistrom can’t help but apply what it means to him personally. “It’s an opportunity that doesn’t happen often,” he said. “As a Blackshirt, I was very proud to do it.”

Yes, Grant Wistrom was the right leader for Day by Day. Check the content that was carried live with cameras that captured Wistrom in 1997 attire and Husker players joining in the special treatment inside the North Stadium door that leads to the Tunnel Walk (above).

The Prayer:

Dear Lord,

In the battle we go through in life,

We ask for a chance that’s fair.

A chance to equal all your stripes,

A chance to do or dare.

If we shall win,

Let it be by the code,

With our faith and honor held high.

If we shall lose,

We’ll stand by the road,

And cheer as the winners go by.

Day by Day, getting better and better!

A team that can’t be beat…

WON’T BE BEAT!

Wistrom Offers Up Special Praise for Mike Brown, Who Was Special and Integral to the Cause

Saying an All-America teammate is underrated might be a stretch, but Wistrom offered up special praise for one of his favorite teammates – Mike Brown. “I’d say Mike didn’t get the credit he deserved at Nebraska,” Wistrom said.

“He went on to bigger things and had a great pro career,” Wistrom said. “At that point, however, I don’t think Mike realized how special and integral he was to our defense. He was awesome. He’s the best.”

Osborne brought a team-oriented group together. “I don’t know how Coach defined himself early on as a head coach,” Wistrom said. “Mystique isn’t the right word, but his persona was very special, whether he was recruiting or coaching, and it made him unique.”

By the time Wistrom played for Osborne, his favorite coach had put everything together. “We looked up to Coach Osborne and did what we were trained to do,” Wistrom said. “To me, it was similar to the New England Patriots. You just go out there and expect to win. You don’t think someone’s behind you. You do what you’re asked to do.

“Coach Osborne was never a screamer. You just wanted to play for him because it was all about team,” Wistrom said. “I still don’t know how it all started, but I do know that the culture and mindset were already there.”

Whenever Rush End Grant Wistrom Steps on the Field, He Feels Like Taking a Snap

The only time Wistrom misses football is when he comes back to Lincoln and sets foot on Memorial Stadium. “I love football,” he said. “I think God put me on earth to play football. I knew that from a young age and that’s why I ended up at Nebraska. The only time I miss the game is when I’m back with the guys and coaches I played with and the fans who were so loyal to this University. They gave me four of the best years of my life. When I step on the field, I feel like taking a snap, but that’s the only time it happens.

“Even though the team I love most has struggled this year, they have a lot of determination and their teammates are still at the core of who they are,” Wistrom said. “They want to win so badly, and I will tell you that is a big part of the game. I will also say that all of us who came before them will be Nebraska fans until the day we die. There isn’t anything that can happen that would sway me away from that. That’s why we have the best fans in America. They’re entitled to be jovial when we’re doing well and concerned when we’re not.”

Whenever letterwinners hear the song Can You Feel It? Grant Wistrom certainly can. In Saturday night's third quarter, all of Husker Nation could feel it. Wistrom, in fact, says he feels every win and every loss.

“The great thing about Nebraska players and Husker coaches is the passion that we share with the fans who are called the best fans in college football,” Wistrom said. “We really do stick together in all kinds of weather.”

One of Wistrom’s Favorite Husker Heroes: Eight-Man Player Joel Makovicka

Dozens upon dozens of kids want to be the next Joel Makovicka at Nebraskabecause he played eight-man football, came to Lincoln, earned a scholarship, became a starter and was the central figure that helped us win a national championship,” Wistrom said.  

“Every year you get a guy like Joel, who earned his opportunity and became a household name,” Wistrom pointed out. “You look at Joel and he’s probably 6-foot if he’s standing on a stack of phone books. But he puts his head on the ground and runs right through you every time. If he sees one iota for an opportunity to block you, he’ll run right through you every time.”

Guys like Mackovicka come out of nowhere and help Nebraska defy the odds.

How did Mackovicka accomplish that? “Because Joel sells out for his teammates, his university, his family and the fans who loved watching him play,” Wistrom said. “All of that meant something because he had to earn every bit of it through hard work to earn his scholarship.”

Wistrom shares his favorite stories and experiences for a simple reason. “When you see guys like Joel, you just wish you could sprinkle a few other guys to have that kind of attitude.”

Count Wistrom among those who believe that an accelerated and expanded walk-on program can help Nebraska contend for more conference championships and recharge the battery of the Huskers’ No. 1 all-time ranking among NCAA schools which have won the most conference championships. Wistrom is eager and ready for that to happen in the near future. Stay tuned.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include city, state)

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

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