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Meet Kirk Hartman, the creative force behind HuskerVision and the famed Nebraska Tunnel Walk.
It’s Friday morning, 29 hours before another Nebraska season football opener. A little more than a dozen people are sitting patiently in the HuskerVision studio inside Memorial Stadium.
|Respond to Randy regarding today's question or your own feedback about the story:
If you could create your own Tunnel Walk, what music and images would you use?
They’re waiting to see what more than 85,000 fans are going to witness the next day on one of the biggest videoboards in all of college football.
The lights dim. The screen comes to life. There’s a new 30-second promo for Nebraska basketball season tickets, a new 30-second spot on how to evacuate the stadium, a clip on how well some ex-Huskers did in NFL preseason games the past week and a new feature on how fans can text their cell phone pictures so they might see themselves on HuskerVision later in the game. Next up is a new approach to introducing Nebraska’s offensive and defensive starters.
Everyone in the room knows what’s coming next. You can almost cut the anticipation with a knife. What kind of new twist to Nebraska’s famed Tunnel Walk has Kirk Hartman come up with now?
As the sound amps up and the secret is revealed, no one in the room moves an inch or takes their eyes off the screen. As the lights begin to come back on, someone tries to clap, but gives it up to stay as professional as possible.
Every person in the room has a satisfied look, but no one’s smile is bigger than Steve Pederson’s. Nebraska’s athletic director extends his right arm and shakes the hand of Kirk Hartman, the creative force behind HuskerVision since 1994.
“Great!” Pederson says.
“Thanks,” replies Hartman, 44, who grew up on a farm three miles north of Paxton in the shadows of the Nebraska Sandhills on the North Platte River.
Pederson, a native of North Platte, has more than a vested interest in the Tunnel Walk.
“I didn’t create this monster. Steve did. The Tunnel Walk was his idea,” Hartman says. “When we bought our new videoboard in 1994, Steve and I were discussing how we’d been coming to football games since we were little kids. We were in a meeting, and Steve (who was Nebraska’s recruiting coordinator at the time) said the most exciting part of the game for him as a kid was watching the team come out of the tunnel.”
Hartman agreed. Then Pederson, who wanted a more dramatic opening-game effect, asked the HuskerVision team if a camera man could walk backwards as the team came out of the tunnel. Jeff Schmahl, then the director of HuskerVision and now an associate athletic director at Texas A&M, was more than willing to give the idea a try.
And the rest is history.
Soon after Nebraska installed what was then the largest video screen in the history of college football, the Tunnel Walk was born. Hartman has directed every single version of it over the past 13 years. Three national championships in its first four years of existence only enhanced what the Tunnel Walk means to players, coaches, fans and others who have watched it climb the popularity charts.
Hartman appreciates Pederson’s support. But he’s even more interested in what his much larger target audience thinks. Remember, this is a guy who raised cattle, fed hogs and grew corn and wheat before he moved on to Kearney State College and then came to Nebraska as a freelance producer.
Everyone who works around Hartman calls him the textbook team player . . . a man driven by technical perfection and a deep-seeded fervor for Nebraska Athletics. “I run almost everything I do through the entire HuskerVision Team. They help me take it to the next level,” he says. “I have another important focus group, too – my wife, Linda, and our two kids (Megan, 11, and Cole, 8). We’re all devout Husker fans. It’s a family passion.”
Every year, Hartman adds a special touch. This year, it’s a combination of video and animation. That’s all he’ll say. “We like our place at the top of college football polls that describe the best traditions and experiences,” he says. “The Tunnel Walk seems to always battle it out with the Texas A&M band and the pre-game smoke in Miami.”
Hartman plans a little fireworks of his own Saturday at approximately 2:30 p.m. Check out Huskers.com right after the game and let us know what you think.
Hear From the Voices of Husker Nation
I was at the last NU vs. UT game in Austin. Can we do something to counter that blasted cannon (no pun intented) they fire after every UT kickoff? -- Joe Rusnak
If I would create my own Tunnel Walk, I would use the animation from the 1998 Tunnel Walk showing the three Sears trophies, coming from different parts of the state (Scottsbluff, Omaha and the southeast part of the state), flying over the state as in the 2001 Tunnel Walk, all converging on Lincoln and Memorial Stadium, landing on three of the four pillars of Memorial Stadium, with faded images of the three Heisman trophy winners and the five national championship teams in the background of the quotes on each of the pillars, with a fourth national championship trophy in ghost-like form with the engraving: "There's always room for one more." Included would be Lyell Bremser, Kent Pavelka and Jim Rose with their calls of each play. At the end, I would have a Nebraska helmet flying into the live picture of Memorial Stadium and into the tunnel, with the doors opening to the team walking out into the tunnel and onto the field. -- Dan Smith
If I could create my own Tunnel Walk I would think about using the Transformers theme some how with Optimus Prime's voice. Have something transform into the players. You could have different players each game. -- Jerry Madison
I think that they should use videos from all the national championship games (especially Tommy Frazier's touchdown run against the Florida Gators) and then show the 5 national championship trophies. Then I would go to the real video of the Huskers in the Tunnel Walk, because I think that's what gets the fans going the most, and intimidates the other team. -- Lance Johnson
No one that I know of has done anything with the Blackshirts insignia in connection with Tunnel Vision. I envision a short video, depicting the Blackshirt skull and crossbones driving a van, pinto, or some kind of muscle car from Scottsbluff to Lincoln via Interstate 80. Once the skull and crossbones reached the parking lot outside of Memorial Stadium, he plows over the opposing team's vehicle with a bulldozer. I know that ACDC wouldn't be too family friendly, but something of that nature would be perfect! -- Shannon