Why a Road Race Means So Much to Walk-On Blackshirt
By Randy York, The N-Sider
Even though senior linebacker and future doctor Chris Weber has worked relentlessly this summer to maintain his Blackshirt status, the Omaha native has an equally important priority burning inside his mind and into his heart during the constant grind of summer conditioning.
“I got involved with the Uplifting Athletes Road Race early on because I wanted to be more than just a college football player,” Weber told me. “A lot of us want to be more than just college football players, especially when you have a platform that can raise funds to help kids battle cancer. When you meet these kids and their wonderful families, you do everything you can.”
Weber will be part of his fifth road race in Lincoln on Sunday, July 16, in a 5-K race that begins outside of Memorial Stadium. Weber does more than donate to the cause. He shares his thoughts on the radio and distributes flyers whenever possible to promote participation.
That kind of dedication defines why almost every Husker football player takes the time to participate in the 5-K event in one way or another. Nebraska's Uplifting Athletes chapter is prominent because of leaders like Weber.
Chris Weber Remains Passionate about Raising Funds, Creating Awareness
“Chris has been a rock for the Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Chapter,” said Keith Zimmer, who's finishing his 31st season as Nebraska's Senior Associate Athletic Director for Life Skills and the N Club. “Chris (pictured above sharing a personal item) has been passionate about raising funds and creating awareness to help find a cure for pediatric brain cancer. He leads by example and has the respect of his peers. That's the primary reason why the entire team is eager to volunteer their time and share their talents to make a difference.”
Equally important, Weber has “set the table with two emerging leaders in Bo Kitrell and Tristan Gebbia,” Zimmer said. “Both Bo and Tristan are ready to take the reins in the spring and continue making our Uplifting Athletes chapter among the elite in college football.”
Kitrell is a 6-1, 235-pound junior tight end from Ashland, Neb., and Gebbia is a 6-3, 180-pound freshman quarterback from Calabasas, Calif.
Weber welcomes the emerging leadership to help Nebraska maintain its status as one of the nation's most prominent contributors.
Jack Hoffman's Famous Record Run in Spring Game a Surreal Experience
The springboard of Weber's belief in and fascination for Uplifting Athletes was watching Jack Hoffman, a pediatric brain cancer patient, setting the record for Nebraska football's longest touchdown run in Spring Game history.
“I was watching that game with my dad a few weeks before my high school graduation,” Weber said, pointing out that as a recruited walk-on, he knew something big was going to happen in the fourth quarter with regard to Hoffman, who had become great friends with Rex Burkhead.
“I didn't know exactly what was going to happen, but I knew it was something big,” Weber said. “It was a surreal experience. What a special moment it was for Jack and his family, especially after they had been through so much. That day was very special for everyone there and for people around the world who got to watch it on television. My dad and I were elated for Jack and his entire family.”
Weber described the impact of Jack's touchdown run before he graduated from high school. “First and foremost, you could see how people could become bigger than themselves,” Weber said. “Everyone wanted to help the cause in their own way. Whether you walk, run or cheer everybody on in our Road Race, you support the cause. Husker football is everywhere on the Road Race. It's a great opportunity for fans to interact with us and for us to interact with them.”
The late Sam Foltz (No. 27) had a major influence while encouraging his teammates to participate in the Uplifting Athletes Road Race.
Med School Next Major Goal; Helping Other People Kicks Off Fall Season
Earning a coveted Blackshirt tops Weber's athletic wish, and he is equally eager to hear the penultimate academic accomplishment – an invitation to attend medical school at Nebraska.
“It's something I've always wanted to do,” Weber said. “I've been gifted to understand how important it is to help other people.”
With accountability and togetherness at an all-time high since Weber became a Husker, he isn't surprised that every teammate has made the Uplifting Athletes event a top priority.
“No one is forced to do this,” he said, “but we all see this as an opportunity to get outside of ourselves. This Road Race is about something bigger. We get a chance to help kids and their families. They've all been through so much. They've had chemo and radiation and hospital stays.
“Most of us never deal with that, so we do what we can to help them get through it,” Weber said. “It's an awesome experience for everyone, whether they're running, walking, helping or just cheering people on. It means a lot to every single one of us.”
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Editor's Note: The Sunday July 16 Road Race begins with a 1-mile fun run that begins at 8 a.m. The 5K run follows with an estimated start time of 8:35 a.m. The race will start and finish on Stadium Drive just outside of the west side of Memorial Stadium. Registration online is open until Tuesday, July 11. Participants can register through give.upliftingathletes.org/nebraska2017 or www.upliftingathletes.org and clicking on the N logo. Cost is $25 for the 1 mile and $30 for the 5K. All proceeds benefit national pediatric brain cancer research. Runners will receive a commemorative race day shirt and bracelet.