De'Mornay Pierson-El (No.15) enjoyed holding a newborn at Nebraska's annual Thanksgiving visits to Lincoln hospitals.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Brown, Pierson-El Thankful for Nebraska Experience

By Randy York

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If life really is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it, Nebraska has at least two senior football players who could be valued advocates and appreciative believers every Thanksgiving.

Husker standouts Drew Brown, a stellar kicker from Southlake, Texas, and De'Mornay Pierson-El, a talented receiver/return man from Alexandria, Va., expressed their respective gratitude Wednesday for Nebraska’s lifelong lessons that turbocharged their respective thankfulness.

“This was my fourth year going to one of the four hospitals we visit on Thanksgiving, and it hits you every single time you go,” Brown told me Wednesday. “The experience is a great opportunity to show your appreciation. Taking a couple hours out of your day the day before Thanksgiving motivates you to be a better person and become the best you can be when you move forward.”

Pierson-El agrees wholeheartedly. “The experience makes you cherish the things that you have,” he said. “When you see people going through stuff and still smile, it lights you up. You appreciate the way they hang in there, and you love that you are part of a university that believes in reaching out to others. I used to be nervous when I was out of my culture zone, but not anymore.

“When you see the smiles on people’s faces, you realize why it’s such a great experience,” Pierson-El said. “We’re all together on the day before Thanksgiving and it helps you understand why we’re all so thankful. You think back where you were and how blessed you are to do what you do every day. It’s helped me from where I came from.”

Friday’s Nebraska-Iowa game in Lincoln “will probably be a game I will never forget,” Brown said. “Nebraska has definitely shaped me to be the man I am and hopefully, the man I become in the future. Nebraska taught me so many lessons about life, about football, about adversity. I mean, visiting hospitals is important. It's about caring, friendship and brother-hood.”

That, in essence, is the beauty of Thanksgiving on a daily basis, not once a year for football players.

Adversity Helps You Discover Who You Are and What Drives You

Both Husker seniors believe that adversity helps you discover who you are and what drives you. It also enables you to realize what made you.

In the minds of Brown (No. 34 above with teammate Nick Stoltenburg) and Pierson-El, nothing is more urgent than returning thanks. Both gifted seniors are equally focused on their last game wearing scarlet and cream.

“Every experience I’ve had at Nebraska has been valuable,” said Brown, who acknowledges the passing of Sam Foltz, his roommate and best friend. “Sam always thought of others instead of himself, and that’s been one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned. Whether something was required or requested, Sam was always ready and willing to go out of his way, so he could put a smile on someone’s face, even if he didn’t know them. I'm so thankful of the caring that Sam showed throughout his life.

“It’s amazing to think back on Sam and all the people that he affected,” Brown said, acknowledging that every day was Thanksgiving for his close friend and roommate. “He was always willing to give rather than receive, and we all learned that from Sam.”

Such experiences help Brown and Pierson-El cope with the Huskers’ losing season and how important it is to beat Iowa on Friday.

“Iowa’s a great team,” Brown said. “They’re well coached, fundamentally sound and physical. It’s been that way since I remember. It’s a game about who runs the ball the best and who can play the best defense and get the most stops. This rivalry typically is not a high-scoring game. Points are at a premium. We’re just going to take it play-by-play and hope to finish the season on a high note.”

Pierson-El embraces the opportunity to be healthy in his last game as a Husker. “I’m going to enjoy this one because it's the last time I put the ‘N’ on,” he told me. “It'll be my one last time to strap that helmet on...we need to get this win.”

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