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By Randy York, The N-Sider
Sunday afternoon was a great reminder for nearly four dozen first-time Nebraska Athletics’ letterwinners to reflect back on why they chose to become Huskers.
That thought resonated with DaiShon Neal, a 6-7, 270-pound sophomore who relishes battling for playing time at defensive end in the Huskers’ new 3-4 defensive alignment.
Neil, a Houston native who played at Omaha Central, was inspired listening to Husker sophomore soccer goalkeeper Aubrei Corder deliver Sunday’s keynote speech on Memorial Stadium’s third floor.
Nebraska Football Letterwinners (Alphabetically)
Jalin Barnett, Lawton, Oklahoma; Mohamed Barry, Grayson, Georgia; Ty Betka, Superior, Nebraska; Tre Bryant, St. Louis, Missouri; Cole Conrad, Fremont, Nebraska; Zack Darlington, Apopka, Florida; Alex Davis, Riviera Beach, Florida; Carlos Davis, Blue Springs, Missouri; Khalil Davis, Blue Springs, Missouri; Michael Decker, Omaha, Nebraska; JoJo Domann, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Tanner Farmer, Highland, Illinois; Christian Gaylord, Baldwin City, Kansas; Tyler Hoppes, Lincoln, Nebraska; Lamar Jackson, Elk Grove, California; Garret Johns, Aurora, Nebraska; Connor Ketter, Norfolk, Nebraska; Sedrick King, Plant City, Florida; Eric Lee Jr., Milton, Massachusetts; Caleb Lightbourn, Washougal, Washington; Mitch McCann, Omaha, Nebraska; A.J. Natter, Milton, Wisconsin; DaiShon Neal, Houston, Texas; Peyton Newell, Hiawatha, Kansas; Robby Painter, Centennial Colorado; Logan Rath, Giltner, Nebraska; Bryan Reimers, Lincoln, Nebraska; Jamie Sutcliffe, Thousand Oaks, California; Corey Whitaker, Murrieta, California; Tanner Zlab, Wilber, Nebraska.
For Soccer Goalkeeper Aubrei Corder, Home is Where Nebraska’s ‘N’ Is
“I may be 14 hours away from where I grew up and where my family and friends from childhood are, but I’m home because to me home is where this ‘N’ is,” said Corder, a native of Barboursville, West Virginia.
“I agree with what she said,” Neal said of Corder. “It means a lot to me to get a letter. It is a very long process at a high-level, and I’m glad to be part of the club. It feels like family here, and like her, I’m proud to earn a varsity letter with the ‘N’ on it.”
Neal also considered Michigan, Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma. “I’m a man of my word and once I made my decision, I knew this university was the right place for me,” he said.
Corder Had Connection to Nebraska Long Before She Knew What It Was
Corder (pictured above) never dreamed of Nebraska. “My story is unique,” she said. “I was looking for something more, something different…something special. I was looking for some place I could call home.”
She had no idea there was initial connection to Nebraska. The late Peter Underwood was Corder’s club coach when she was nine-years-old in West Virginia.
Underwood became a very popular assistant coach at Nebraska. He was killed in a car accident two years ago while recruiting in Iowa. His passing had a profound effect on Corder, who shared a deep faith with Underwood.
Nebraska Soccer Letterwinners (Alphabetically)
Meg Brandt, Ankeny, Iowa; Emilee Cincotta, Tigard, Oregon; Aubrei Corder, Barboursville, West Virginia; Helena Ferraz, Campina, Brazil; Lindsay Hargreaves, Victoria, British Columbia; Elyse Huber, Sioux City, Iowa; Hannah McKinney, Rancho Cucamonga, California; Sinclaire Miramontez, Lenexa, Kansas; Emily O'Neal, Dallas, Texas; Brenna Ochoa, Omaha, Nebraska; Alexis Rienks, Lincoln, Nebraska; Lauren Smith, Glenview, Illinois.
Nebraska Cross Country Letterwinner: Karson LeComte, Mount Prospect, Illinois
Nebraska Volleyball Letterwinner: Andie Malloy, Allen, Texas (transfer from Baylor)
Future Nebraska Family Reached Out to Support a Mourning Teenager
“I was with my parents in Cambodia when we received the news of Peter’s death,” Corder said. “I received calls from coaches and players checking in on me. This new Husker family brought tremendous support and comfort.
“At that point in time, I had no idea how fond I would become of this place,” she said. “I was homeschooled by my mom my entire life. People always told me I would know when it was the right fit for me.”
Corder’s Nebraska career began when she was just 17. “I was welcomed with open arms and tons of support not only from my team, but from staff and other athletes," she said. "Upon arriving at Nebraska, I knew this was the right place. I gained more than 20 sisters just from my team. I’ve met people everywhere throughout the University of Nebraska. They’re what makes Husker Nation one-of-a-kind.”
Letterwinners Pull a Fast One on the Administrator Who Writes the Scripts
Just like some who write the songs that make the whole world sing, Keith Zimmer writes the scripts that keep Nebraska letterwinner induction ceremonies moving like clockwork. That was true again Sunday with one notable exception – Kenny Wilhite and Karen Jennings collaborated on a surprising stunt that caught Zimmer by surprise and enabled both former Husker student-athletes to present him with an honorary varsity letter of his own.
In his fourth season on the Nebraska football staff serving as director of high school relations, Wilhite ended his short description of what a Husker varsity letter meant to him, then introduced Jennings, a two-time All-American who also was named CoSIDA’s Women’s Basketball Academic All-American of the Year.
“Keith Zimmer has given his heart and soul to the University of Nebraska,” Jennings said. “He seeks excellence in every way possible to make Nebraska a better place. His natural and wide visionary Life Skills program is the nation’s best. I have known Keith for 25 years. He has gone above and beyond in everything he does, and no one is more deserving of an honorary letter than Keith Zimmer.”
With his wife and two sons sitting in the shadows of a full crowd, Zimmer was caught off guard. “Ok, I’m the one who writes the scripts around here and I have to tell you, what just happened was not in the script," he said. "Whoever had a part in this, thank you very much. It’s an incredible honor and a privilege to walk through the front door of Memorial Stadium for 30 years and serve the student-athletes who come here.”