You Think You Have Time

Buddha

I first heard this phrase a few months ago and thought, wow… this is so true. It seems we are always looking ahead and waiting for things to happen; we’ve got vacation circled on the calendar, or are willing the clock to speed up until the weekend begins.  Then, once in a while, we are reminded how quickly time truly flies.

You think you have time.

Sunday night, an unforgettable reminder of that to all of us from a woman who doesn’t take anything for granted.

family 3

Kayla Hebenstreit and her husband, Joe, should be enjoying this first Christmas with their daughter, Kendall.  She should be in stores, buying every pink tutu and sparkly pair of shoes she can find for that sweet baby girl.  This family should be smiling in every photo they take, just like this one.

Instead, Kayla Hebenstreit spends six days, every 2 weeks, getting around the clock chemo at the Nebraska Medical Center.  She’s battling cancer FOR THE FOURTH TIME.  One month after her ‘miracle baby’ Kendall was born, doctors told Kayla the cancer was back and she had less than a year to live.

I don’t even know how I would respond to that.  THREE SEPARATE TIMES, Kayla heard the word ‘cancer’, said NO, and beat this terrible disease.  Why, when she and her husband FINALLY got pregnant and had a baby, did this horrible thing, cancer, return?

 SUNDAY NIGHT at 10, you’ll hear the Hebenstreit’s story, one of love and incredible strength.  Every kiss, every laugh means something because they truly know how precious time is.  At a time of year when it’s so easy to get wrapped up in ‘my Christmas cards aren’t done’… ‘how am I going to pay off these holiday bills’… ‘I can’t STAND so-and-so at the Christmas party!’.. this little family will remind you of how lucky so many of us are.

FAMILY 2

Thanks to J Sallenbach Photography for the photo

I believe God has a plan for everything.  I believe God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  But why, WHY do things like this happen to people like Kayla Hebenstreit?  A beautiful woman, who dug deep to fight back so many times.  All she wants is TIME, time to live life with her husband and love her sweet baby girl, not yet 3 months old.

I don’t know.

I DO know Kayla and her fight have inspired thousands of people, evidence you can plainly see by checking out her website, Kayla’s Crew, and her Facebook page.  I hope people who watch her story Sunday night will have more appreciation for everything they have, as I did leaving our interview.  Most of all, I pray Kayla and Joe Hebenstreit are given a miracle, the only thing they want for Christmas.  TIME.

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Saturday December 13th, Kayla’s friends and family are hosting a fundraiser to help them with their medical and travel expenses.  It will take place at Clancy’s at 168th & West Center from Noon until at least 8pm.  Check out their Facebook page for more info, posted daily!

Watch Kayla Hebenstreit’s story on KETV Sunday night at 10

The (Shocking) Series Finale

All season during this Husker Throwback series, I’ve tried to post these blogs the day or two before the story has aired on KETV.  There have been a few exceptions.. Monte Anthony had an ‘encore’ post thanks to Pearl Jam in Lincoln, and last week, legendary coach Milt Tenopir took a backseat to a terrible head cold.  (No one puts Coach in the corner!)  I fully intended to sit down at my desk Sunday and give Coach Tenopir the write-up his storied career at Nebraska deserved.

Then we all got the email that changed everything.

‘University of Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst has dismissed Head Football Coach Bo Pelini effective immediately.’

I’ve been sitting here,  contemplating what to type next.  The truth is, as I’ve written before, I don’t KNOW sports.  There are journalists, commentators and analysts who make a living sharing the whys, the what ifs and the could bes.  They research and study programs and team histories; they KNOW the game.  Still, one of the things Pelini told me himself in our interview last April was that there were sure a lot of people outside of his program who THOUGHT they knew everything.

me and bo

Yes, that’s part of the job, and Pelini was the first to say that in our interview.  Yes, he got paid a good salary, a GREAT salary, for that job.  Still, quite an unenviable position to have tens of thousands of people criticize your EVERY. MOVE.

I KNOW I don’t know.  Does ANYONE have all the answers for the success of Husker football?

COACH TENOPIR

Maybe not now, but from 1974 to 2003, Offensive Line Coach Milt Tenopir sure knew a lot.

“Here’s an example, the offensive line had zero, ZERO penalties,” said Tenopir of his 1995 team.

ZERO PENALTIES. ALL SEASON.

Milt Tenopir was the man behind that original Pipeline of sheer, impenetrable muscle.  The coach who was often off camera, calling plays upstairs, looking down at the field inside Memorial Stadium.  The role model who turned out hundreds of young men he says became beloved friends.

pipeline

The 1994 Pipeline, an unbreakable Husker offensive line.  4 of the 5 starters that year went on to play pro ball.  (Photo Courtesy Brenden Stai Golf Classic)

“I never demanded respect.  I felt you had to earn respect whether you were a coach or whomever,” Tenopir told me last week.  “If the kids believe in you and you believe in them, you’re going to develop a friendship.  And we had a friendship, you know.  There’s not many that would come through that door today that we wouldn’t hug, maybe shed a tear, because there was just a bond set up there.”

Tenopir was a players’ coach (“I beat ‘em up if they didn’t say that,” he joked), but it wasn’t because he went easy on them.  Tenopir says today’s players run 50-70 snaps, MAX, at practice.  His players ran 110.  ALL of his players, starting or not.  THAT, he says, is how his Huskers dominated their opponents on the field.

“The reason for that success was we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot.  We didn’t have a bunch of jumps offsides, we didn’t have a bunch of chop blocks.  We didn’t have a lot of holding stuff,” said Tenopir.  “We beat everybody we should’ve beaten and a lot of times we beat people maybe we shouldn’t have beaten.  We never lost a game that we were supposed to win.”

There were losses, of course, but not many.  Tenopir credits his longtime head coach, Tom Osborne, who suffered two of those losses back to back at the start of his head coaching career.

“Coach Osborne was in our locker room before you could even get your clothes off to shower, he was not a happy camper,” remembers Tenopir.  “He wanted change, and he got change.  We ended up winning 9 that year.  The following game we played Colorado and we thumped ‘em pretty good.”

That is one of the things Tenopir says bothers him about so many programs today; the inability to make adjustments, especially during a game.  He says in 95% of Coach Osborne’s games, he brought a team back after halftime that performed better than in the first two quarters.

“When you look back at coaching 25 years, 255 wins, that’s an average of 10 games a year.  That says something,” said Tenopir.  “Being in Coach’s presence made you all better people.  He was just that type of a guy.”

milt 2

There are other things Tenopir would like to see done differently, including at Nebraska.  He’d like to see the Big Red get back to a run-first mentality.  He says his coaching strategies, practice and consistency, while not perfect, were proven.

“If they have repetition and the ability to make it second nature to them, then they’re going to be better.  I see that as an area of change that needs to be done,” said Tenopir.  “You’ve got a red N on your hat and that means something.  It means you don’t ever give up.  It means you try to be a perfectionist in everything you do.”

That red N might as well be tattooed onto Tenopir’s heart; though the 74-year old’s coaching days are over, he is still living by that Husker motto to keep fighting.  Tenopir battled cancer and won, twice (he is in remission, hoping he’ll be able to continue therapy at home in January.)  This latest bout with leukemia, diagnosed in May, and the treatments that followed, drained Tenopir of his strength.  When the 1994 National Championship team was honored during the Nebraska vs Miami game, his fellow coaches pushed Tenopir onto the field in a wheelchair.  On his lap, he held the ’94 trophy.

tunnel walk

Photo Courtesy Huskers Illustrated

“It was heavy,” said Tenopir, smiling.  “It was a thrill to me to be with those kids and the fact so many of them showed up.  Rob Zatechka, Brenen Stai, Aaron Graham, Joel Wilks, Zach Wiegert, those were some pretty special kids.”

As for Tenopir’s favorite?

“Can’t tell you that, I coached so doggone many,” said Tenopir.  “There’s not a kid I coached that I didn’t fall in love with.”

And from all accounts, the feeling is mutual.  Even during our interview, Coach Tenopir stopped to wave back at people passing by our interview, even hugging a woman working in the athletic department.  Still, 11 years out from the day he retired from coaching, he’s beloved in Husker Nation.

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That’s the thing about Nebraska that has been verified time and time again for me, putting together these Throwback Thursday stories.  To be a Husker, is something very, very special, both to the players and to the fans.  It’s not just a game here.  It’s a tradition, it’s prominence, it’s a dynasty.  It’s hard work, it’s adrenaline, it’s victory.  It’s something we collectively look forward to and join together for.  It’s more than the games, yet it IS the games, the players, the coaches that make all of this happen.

Will we ever have another coach like Milt Tenopir, like Tom Osborne, like Bob Devaney?  Will Nebraska ever win another national title?  Will ANY program see another team become a legacy like the 70-71 Huskers, or the 90’s powerhouse Nebraska teams?

Less than a week before Coach Bo Pelini would be dismissed, Coach Tenopir told me every head coach will take the blame for what goes wrong with his team.  He added, you can’t put it all on one guy.  In my interview with Coach Pelini, he was honest, down-to-earth, and seemed grounded by the things that are truly important; his family, and helping young men develop as players and people.  KETV Sports Director Andy Kendeigh said it best tonight during our 10pm newscast: “He’s truly a good man.”  Coach, I wish you the best.

For all of you who have followed this new Throwback Thursday Husker series, THANK YOU–I’ve really enjoyed following up with these players and coaches and sharing their stories.  Ironically, as I close the door on the 2014 season, another door is opening.  Tomorrow, Husker Nation will welcome in new Head Football coach Mike Riley.

A new season of Nebraska Football is about to begin.

Paging Dr. Husker

A few years ago, photojournalist Dave Hynek and I chronicled an AMAZING story about a father, donating a kidney to his young son.  We followed their journey from start to finish, including in the moments leading up to the transplant.  We interviewed a very brave Dad as his anesthesiologist inserted his IVs to prepare him for sedation.

You’d think I would’ve learned…

I don’t handle needles well.  Like, I pass out when I see one.  (Really.  It’s not embarrassing AT ALL.)

So here I am, in the surgery preparation area of the Nebraska Medical Center, getting more and more lightheaded, trying to conduct an interview.

Right at the moment I feared I was going to lose my breakfast or crash head first into the floor, I HAD TO LEAVE THE ROOM; Dave finished the interview for me.  Apparently, it was pretty obvious I was having ‘problems’.  Dave came out of the area laughing, and noted that the anesthesiologist had noticed, too.

‘You know who that was, right?’ Dave asked me.

DR. ROB ZATECHKA.  As in Husker legend turned doctor Rob Zatechka.

REALLY.  Not embarrassing AT ALL.

Clearly, I was not destined for a career in medicine, but a lot of Huskers have been.  ‘Dr. Rob’, Judd Davies, Sean Fisher… and now..

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Dr. Mike Stuntz, Nebraska Free Safety (photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics!)

#16 permanently sealed his place in Nebraska Football history as just a freshman, taking part in one of the most memorable plays in recent years.  Nebraska versus Oklahoma in 2001, a key game in Nebraska’s journey to the national title game and Eric Crouch’s road to the Heisman trophy.  Out of nowhere in the 4th quarter, Crouch tosses the ball to Thunder Collins, who tosses the ball to Stuntz.  Stuntz, just 18, delivers a rocket to Crouch downfield, who then ran for a 63-yard touchdown.  Nebraska beats the Number-2 team in the country, 20-10.

“I can’t think of one [play] that meant more to our team that I contributed to. I can’t think of one that people talk about with me more often than that one,” Stuntz told me in a recent interview.  “We started practicing it early in the week.  I knew about it, even starting that Monday I think.  We ran I throughout the week and it never really worked that well in practice.  During the game, they told me even in the first half they were think about running it.  Whey they finally called it, I was a little surprised, it was so late in the game and the game was so close.”

What many might consider a nerve-rattling task, Stuntz just ‘played the way he’d always played’.

“It’s almost one of those ignorance is bliss things,” said Stuntz.  “I didn’t really realize just how much people cared about Nebraska football, college football in general, how big of a game it was.  You’re just kind of oblivious to all that when you’re 18 years old.”

You want to talk nerves, imagine this: HOLDING YOUR NEWBORN DAUGHTER FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Dads, do you remember that moment?  Mike Stuntz does–it just happened a month ago when he and wife Natalie welcomed their first child, Blakely Autumn.

“I knew what I was doing on that play, I played football all the time, I’d never been a dad before,” said Stuntz.  “So that was, definitely, without a question, more nerve wracking the first time I saw Blakely.”

“He did use the football hold, though!” added Natalie with a smile.

Stuntz doesn’t just know football, he was pretty darn good at it.  An incredibly versatile player, Stuntz saw time at free safety, split end, and reserve quarterback at Nebraska.  While off the field, Stuntz also excelled in the classroom, a 9-time Academic Honor Roll member in the Big 12, and a 2005 First-Team Academic All-Big 12 student.  His college major also attracted attention; Stuntz was a professional golf management major.

golfing

This photo shows Stuntz golfing Lilongwe Golf Club in Malawi in 2011.. his former career colliding with new.  See, Stuntz told me he loved golf, but didn’t know if he had passion to pursue it for 40+ years.  He discovered a new passion: medicine.

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Natalie Stuntz is also a doctor, a pediatrician with CHI Health.  Mike is in his first year of residency at the Nebraska Medical Center, specializing in ophthalmology.  The two didn’t meet in medical circles, but certainly have A LOT in common professionally now, including the summer they spent together in Africa working at a Pediatric AIDS hospital.

mike in clinic

They even found a Husker fan, thousands of miles away!

working in Africa

THAT is pretty normal for Dr. Mike Stuntz, still recognized 9 years after hanging up his cleats, 13 years after that legendary play.

“I’ll be in the hospital or in the clinic or something like that, and it’ll be a patient and they’ll just say ‘aren’t you that guy?'” said Stuntz.  “It happens much more often than I thought it would.  I always enjoy talking about it.”

ESPECIALLY, with his biggest fan.  Miss Blakey is also his smallest.

Mike and baby

“I come downstairs, and whether she’s awake or not she comes with me.  We sit on the couch right here, we turn on the TV and we don’t move for the next 12 hours or so,” said Stuntz.  “I’m pretty sure she’s very engrossed in the games, and then afterwards we have a nice group discussion about it.  Her input is limited, but it’s growing.”

Stuntz’s message for today’s players is about the bigger world outside of football.  Even when he bumps into his fellow teammates Dr. Judd Davies or Dr. Kyle Ringenberg, they talk about research and their goals in the hospital, not on the field.

And when Dr. Stuntz, Dr. Stuntz, and Lil Stuntz are at home, the focus is on family.

“I want to be Mom and Dad,” said Natalie.  “When we’re at home, we leave work.  We’re Mom and Dad, Mike and Natalie, and I want that for her.”

And when that little beauty opens up her gorgeous blue eyes to gaze up at her mom and dad, it’s easy to see why.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON MIKE STUNTZ!

For more on #16 Mike Stuntz check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Brett Lindstrom!

Next week, A SPECIAL FINALE of the 2014 Throwback Thursday Series, Coach Milt Tenopir!

Saving Baby Lawrence

There are few things more innocent, more perfect, more beautiful, than watching a baby turn because they recognize the sound of their parent’s voice.  Thinking back on those moments with my own boys brings me to tears–seeing their first smiles, and knowing they’re smiling at you, their momma.

The first time I met Baby Lawrence–that’s what I remember most.  He only had eyes for his momma.

Shalina and Lawrence

We get Facebook messages, tweets, and emails everyday from viewers asking us to do stories.  THANK YOU for that–you are the eyes and ears of our community, YOU are who help us tell stories.  I wish we could tell them all.

I don’t know how many messages I got that day last March, but there was SOMETHING about Shalina Bolden’s message to me one night that pulled at my heart.  A mother, writing to me from her son’s room at Children’s, where he had been for MONTHS.  Her son was very sick with a very rare disease; she needed help.

#CantStopWontStop

She had that phrase EVERYWHERE across her Facebook page.

#CantStopWontStop

Shalina Bolden would not quit fighting until her son was living a healthy, happy life.

#CantStopWontStop

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Lawrence and my son, Evan, are less than two months apart in age, so as any mom does, I couldn’t help but compare the two.  First, BABY LAWRENCE IS A BIG BOY!!  I think during that first visit, Shalina told me she was buying 2T t-shirts for his 1st birthday outfit.  He was also popping 4 teeth at the time and was a drooling machine!  But while my little Evan was scooting around and playing with toys (mostly his brother’s), Baby Lawrence was stuck in his hospital bed.  Where he had been for 5 MONTHS.  Lawrence was born with complete Di’George Syndrome, possibly the first child in Nebraska to have it.  Lawrence had lung issues, a heart defect and NO IMMUNE SYSTEM.  To even see him, my photographer Dave Hynek and I, as well as Children’s Media Relations Director Cherie Lytle, had to scrub our hands, then gown up top to bottom (including our faces, hair and shoes), before entering Lawrence’s room.  A simple cold that our bodies could fight off, could’ve killed Lawrence.

5 MONTHS.  He’d been in that bed 5 MONTHS.  That’s all I kept thinking about.  He hadn’t been to a park.  He hadn’t been in a stroller.  He couldn’t just crawl around his living room floor playing with blocks and Hot Wheels.  He’d been in bed for 5 months.

That got to me.  And what almost brought me to tears was thinking about that time in his room alone.  Shalina worked full time at a nursing home.  She often went straight to Lawrence’s bedside after her shift, and her young daughters knew Children’s like a second home.  I kept thinking of those hours she couldn’t be there–of Lawrence, alone in his hospital bed.

“I just want Lawrence to have a chance at life,” Shalina told me that day, through tears.  “To understand what it’s like to not be in a hospital bed.”

Shalina got word of a procedure that offered hope; a thymus transplant only being performed by one doctor at Duke University, and it was not federally approved.  At the time Shalina contacted me that message, the state of Nebraska had denied the family’s request, twice, to cover a thymus transplant.  Doctors told Shalina Bolden that Lawrence might live to see two years old.

#CantStopWontStop

***

Our first story aired March 30, 2014.

 Baby Lawrence, wearing a onesie reading ‘Bananas for Mommy’, stole viewers’ hearts around the country (ABC News also picked up his story.)  Changes were already in the works; after our interview with Shalina we learned the state set aside earlier coverage denials.  Advocates with the state of Nebraska, Dr. Louise Markert, the surgeon at Duke, and Lawrence’s team at Children’s all joined forces to figure out a solution.

#CantStopWontStop

***

April 14, 2014, I was sitting at my desk in the newsplex and took a phone call.

It was Shalina Bolden, in tears.  Nebraska Medicaid approved Lawrence’s transplant.  We were there as Shalina told her family, friends and the nurses who had cared for her baby for so many months, that Baby Lawrence was finally getting his surgery.  He had just turned 1 year old a few days earlier.

baby lawrence birthday

“It took a couple of minutes for it to digest and then tears just fell down my face,” Shalina told me.

At that point, Lawrence was third on the transplant list.  He had to be healthy enough to fly to Duke; he had to be healthy enough for surgery.

Shalina had to leave her job.. and her two daughters.  She had to find someone to take care of her little girls, while she took care of her little boy in a strange place far from home.

Bolden family

What she thought would be 8-weeks.. turned into nearly 4 months, waiting for that bittersweet moment when she’d leave her children to give her baby boy a chance at life.

baby lawrence july

#CantStopWontStop

***

August 19, 2014, Baby Lawrence, at just 16-months old, took his first jet ride.

lawrence on plane

“We landed and Lawrence slept through the whole flight and everything,” Shalina messaged me.

More waiting. Lawrence stood for the first time on September 18th..

September 18, Lawrence standing for first time

He started to learn how to crawl in his hospital room..

lawrence crawling

His mom rarely left his side..

shalina and lawrence sept

..heartbreaking for a mother of not one, but three children.  While Shalina and Lawrence waited in North Carolina through August, then September, her sister cared for her daughters Ja’Era and Ja’Lesia 20 hours away in Omaha.

October 11, girls at school txt from teacher

“I miss my girls like crazy.  It is very hard to be away,” Shalina told me.  “My oldest daughter just had a birthday, that was super hard, but I’ve explained it to them so they understand why I’m away.”

#CantStopWontStop

***

September 26, 2014.
“A pray has been answered today!” Shalina posted on Facebook.  “I got confirmation that Lawrence will be getting his transplant October 9th!!! If everyone can keep him in your prayers.”

On the morning of October 9, 2014, ‘Baby Lawrence’ Bolden finally received the transplant his mom fought so hard for.

 October 9 post op 2
Later that same day, Shalina sent me a message.

“Everything went good, it only took an hour,” she said.  “He is already back to being busy Lawrence.”

WATCH MONDAY NIGHT AT 10 ON KETV

We’re showing you how Lawrence is doing today, and what his prognosis is.  I cannot get ENOUGH of this little man.  So many surgeries, so many needle pokes and painful procedures and long waits.  And yet, he is SO SWEET-always smiling.  Always big, open eyes checking out his world.  Still, always looking at his Momma.

shalina shirt

Author Elizabeth Stone once wrote: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”

As a mother, you would do anything for your child.  You would take on their pain so they wouldn’t feel it.  You stay awake all night holding them if it gives them comfort.  You would die in an instant for them.

Shalina Bolden NEVER took no for an answer to save her little boy.

#CantStopWontStop

God willing, she’ll have her little boy home and healthy, with his sisters, for the first time in a year.. just in time for Christmas.

Representing Nebraska

 We are now in Week 12 of Husker football season, and Week 12 of our Huskers Throwback Thursday series on KETV.  This has been one of my favorite assignments in recent memory, strolling down memory lane with different players representing different eras of Nebraska Football.  With each player, I tailor my questions to who they are and what they’re doing now, but I also have a handful of questions I ask in every interview.

What was your favorite moment as a Husker?

Do you have any advice for today’s players?

Who is your favorite Husker on this year’s team?

The vote has been nearly unanimous; Husker alumni LOVE Ameer Abdullah.  Their reasons are also similar; not only is he a tremendous player (many hope a Heisman contender!), he’s a great role model and representative for the University and the Nebraska football program.

This week’s Throwback Thursday Husker echoes those sentiments, and also hopes to be thought of as a terrific representative..  in a different way.

Brett Husker 2

Class of 2003, Quarterback Brett Lindstrom

Lindstrom had an unenviable job at Nebraska, playing backup to first Eric Crouch and then to Jammal Lord.  You may not have seen him much on the field, but he was always ready when his Huskers needed him, including helping the team get to the title game in 2001.

“Just the experience of going to the national championship game, the Rose Bowl in 2001, was probably one of the greatest experiences I had down there,” Lindstrom told me last week in a brief interview.  There’s a reason why it was relatively quick; Lindstrom’s got a jam-packed schedule as a Senator-Elect, just voted into the Nebraska Legislature November 4th to represent Northwest Omaha.

Brett-Lindstrom-Legislature

Lindstrom still laughs when called ‘Senator’.

“I’m not used to that quite yet,” said Lindstrom.  “Got jokes from some of my friends, laying it on pretty thick.  I still just like to be called Brett.”

It probably feels good to laugh after several tough years of campaigning.  Prior to his run for District 18, Lindstrom ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in District 2, going up against incumbent Lee Terry in 2012.  He lost in the primary.  Less than a year later (his son, just 2-weeks old at the time!) Lindstrom announced his bid for the Legislature.  In 2012, Lindstrom told me it was his daughter that compelled him to run for public office, that he was concerned for her future.

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campaigning with baby

Lindstrom feeding 7-month old Barron while making campaign calls (pic from the Vote Lindstrom Facebook page)

Campaigning also brought him back to his Husker roots.

“What’s interesting about the campaign trail, going door to door, I’ve actually run into some old players,” said Lindstrom.  “I don’t know who I’ll meet when I go to the door.  Lornell McPherson, I played with, he came to the door.  Damon Benning, he came to a door.  Probably half the doors I went to had a Husker rock, a Husker flag.  Obviously it doesn’t hurt when you can go up there and say, ‘I played for the Cornhuskers.’ It at least gives you a shot, people give you an extra second to listen.”

It appears voters heard Lindstrom’s message about his goals for Nebraska. (Listen for yourself in Alex Hoffman’s profile of the District 18 race, or by checking out the KETV ‘In Their Own Words’ section featuring Lindstrom.)  He won the election and a ticket to Lincoln in January, one of 17 incoming freshman senators.  Lindstrom will represent an estimated 37,000 people from his district.

“There’s a huge responsibility that we have moving forward,” said Lindstrom.  “It’s an exciting time.  It’s a new start for a lot of us and a new start for the state.”

Lindstrom follows a handful of other Huskers who have entered the political arena; Coach Tom Osborne became a Congressman, Pat Ricketts (Lindstrom’s teammate) just won re-election to the Millard School Board, and Jim Pillen became a University of Nebraska Regent.  Lindstrom says he’s surprised more Huskers haven’t become elected representatives.

“I think there’s a lot of correlation between athletics and politics,” said Lindstrom.  “The competitiveness of it, the perseverance it takes to go through it, getting knocked down, getting back up.”

Lindstrom’s advice for today’s players: staying committed to the team will pay dividends later in life.  He hopes that still holds true as a Husker alumni planning to be in Lincoln a lot more for the next four years.

“I thought maybe I could give the University a call and see if I could go use the weight room if I have a little down time at the Capitol, to go workout,” said Lindstrom.  “I don’t know if the Capitol has a workout area, I doubt they do! See if I can drop my 40 and get my vertical back up!”

Maybe Lindstrom will be running sprints alongside his favorite Husker representatives, Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell.  Maybe they’ll call him ‘Senator Lindstrom’ in the weight room.  As this Nebraska representative prepares for a busy four years as a husband, dad, financial advisor and now Senator-Elect, he puts this victory in sports terms.

“It was just nice to come home with a W.”

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CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON BRETT LINDSTROM!

For more information about #15 Brett Lindstrom, check out his bio via Nebraska Athletics, his professional profile with UBS Financial Services or his campaign website.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 1987, John McCormick!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. the Class of 2005, Mike Stuntz!

Hail To The Chief

One of the coolest things about this Throwback Thursday Husker series we’ve been sharing this football season is seeing how many different paths these former players have taken since leaving Lincoln.  I’m not sure why I’m so surprised–think of the people in your graduating classes from high school and college and ask yourself, where are they now?  Of the 100+ players on the roster every season at Nebraska, there are bound to be any number of careers and futures these young men pursue.

Today’s featured Husker didn’t dream of or plan for the career he ended up in, but he calls it ‘great’, and has risen to one of the highest ranks in his department.

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Assistant Fire Chief John McCormick (thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!)

By our guess, there are 7 or 8 men on the Omaha Fire Department who played football at Nebraska.  Ironically, the highest ranking member of that small club has kept his time as ‘Captain’ a secret at work.

“Most don’t know,” McCormick told me in a recent interview.  “Most of the guys on the fire department weren’t even a twinkle in their dads’ eye when I played.”

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY SPECIAL ON JOHN MCCORMICK!

1987, John McCormick was in his senior season, his third year starting as Nebraska’s right guard.  That year, he was named Team Co-Captain, First Team All-American, First Team All-Big 8 and Academic All-Big 8 player.  McCormick’s Huskers earned respect by playing some of the biggest names in football that season.

“Arizona State, UCLA, South Carolina, big power teams,” said McCormick.  “But all the hype was usually around Oklahoma.  That was always a big rivalry back then.”

87 nu ok

Screen grab from our friend Jake Jacobsen at HuskerTapes.com; watch his clips of the 1987 NU vs OK game here!

McCormick, an Omaha native and graduate of Gross High School, is still passionate about today’s Huskers.  His favorite: Nebraska’s star running back Ameer Abdullah.

“I think he’s a quality person, he has good character,” said McCormick.  “And he’s a very good running back.  I think he’s going to do well in his life.”

So has McCormick, who is now SAVING other lives as an Omaha firefighter.  A quick search in the KETV archives shows McCormick was one of the first responders at Molotov cocktail fires, at 2-alarm house fires, at scenes where firefighters risked their own lives to save strangers.

January 20, 2014 was no exception.

international nutrition collapse

Then Battalion Chief John McCormick was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the International Nutrition plant minutes after the building collapsed, trapping workers inside.

 “We had to rely on training and on our experience throughout our career to do the best we could,” said McCormick.  “We were able to get a few people out.  Sad that we couldn’t get everybody out.”

Two men died that day.  Firefighters rescued at least nine others who were hurt, but survived.  I remember anchoring our coverage that day while reporters Kyle Gravlin and Amanda Crawford reported from the field, and none of us knew how many were trapped or lost inside.  We did know firefighters were inside, trying to find them, NOT knowing how stable the plant was or what could happen around them at any moment.

Just last month, seven of those firefighters were given Medals of Courage and/or Lifesaving Medals for their heroic efforts that day.  At the same ceremony, Battalion Chief John McCormick was named Assistant Chief.

“I consider it to be a lot like football in that it’s a team sport,” said McCormick.  “It’s a team job.  You need to accomplish a lot by using other people.  The old cliché, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

And as the Huskers are hopefully gaining strength during this bye week, preparing for new Nebraska rival Wisconsin, McCormick offers this advice.

“This is such an important part of their life, but it’s only a short part of their life,” said McCormick, now a married father of eight in addition to his duties with the fire department.  “Play hard, practice hard, prepare well and leave everything out on the field.”

To read more about #61 John McCormick, check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics!

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Jammal Lord!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. the Class of 2003, Brett Lindstrom!

Comeback Kid

I’m no sports reporter.  There are days I WISH I was.. like today.. at ‘the K’… cheering on the Kansas City Royals in Game 7.. yes, this is one of those days :)  Yes, sports reporters get to witness some incredible moments from amazing vantage points, but they are also some of the hardest working guys in TV News.  Andy Kendeigh, Thor Tripp and Matt Lothrop shoot their own material, write their own material, write their own sportscasts, and are often on set, anchoring, after working all day covering games and stories out in the field.  They don’t ‘sit back and watch the game'; they are keeping track of stats, editing while the game is in progress, and thinking about how they’ll present it all.  While fans watch and enjoy, sports guys (and ladies) work 20-hours days to bring those moments to the rest of the world.

They also know a RIDICULOUS amount of information about sports.  I’d like to think I know the game of baseball.. I love gymnastics.. I like football a whole lot.. but I’m no sports reporter.  I’m a sports reporter wannabe at best.

When I started profiling former Huskers as part of this Throwback Thursday series, I turned to our sports guys and my husband, ALSO a former sports photojournalist in TV News, to see who they wanted to hear from.

SEVERAL gave me this guy’s name.

Jammal Lord

#5, Nebraska Quarterback Jammal Lord, photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Even if you don’t know the ins and outs of this game, you can see this guy was impressive on the college football field by looking at his stats.  Lord made the record books for total offense in a season and in a career.  He set a record at Nebraska for a rushing quarterback in a single game and in a season.  His name appears among Nebraska’s greats at the position, Eric Crouch and Tommie Frazier.

Nebraska’s last true option quarterback also marked the end of an era.  As he left Nebraska at the end of 2003, so did his Head Coach Frank Solich, fired after a 10-3 season.

WHAT IF?  What if they didn’t have that 7-7 season in 2002?  What if there hadn’t been a coaching controversy?  What if Lord, who only had 2.5 seasons on the field after a torn PCL in his knee, had gotten all four years as starting QB?

Lord tells me he has no regrets about his time as a Husker.

“No, not at all.  I had fun at Nebraska,” Lord told me by phone last month.  “I loved the coaches I had from Coach Solich to Coach Gill.  Those guys were role models.  They showed me tough love and I needed that.”

jammal%20lord%202

Thanks to Lord’s alma mater, Bayonne High School, for the photos

Husker nation again had high hopes for Lord as a pro player, drafted in the 6th round in 2004 by the Houston Texans.  He played safety, wide receiver, cornerback, eventually retiring from pro football with the Abilene Ruff Riders of the Indoor Football League in 2007.

Jammal Lord NFL pic

Lord then returned to his roots, and the place where he developed his passion for football.  He became a football coach at his Alma Mater, Bayonne High School in Bayonne, New Jersey.  COACHING became his new passion, a role that eventually brought him back to Nebraska, coaching at Concordia High School alongside his friend, Steve Warren.

“I miss it every day,” Lord told me.  “Everything about football, I miss coaching, the kids, helping the kids out.  Just seeing them grow.”

But during those coaching days, even now, it’s hard to not miss PLAYING the game, too.  Lord says his favorite game came his junior year at Texas A&M.  John Oakey’s Aggies had the Huskers on the ropes in the 3rd quarter, down 31-14.  Lord and Nebraska charged back and WON 38-31, at the time, tying the school record for the biggest comeback in football history.  Jammal Lord was named Team Captain the following season.

“Just going out, playing hard and winning games,” said Lord.  “I miss my friends, mainly.”

Today, Lord is a long way from the friends he made in Lincoln, Houston, Bayonne and Omaha; he’s working in the oil fields of North Dakota.

WHAT?!?! For anyone asking the same question I did when I heard that, a quick Google search reveals the average annual salary of an oil worker in ND–more than $110,000.

“A friend of a friend had a business here, offered me a job,” said Lord.  “I said never! Then I caved in.”

It’s hard not to like this guy in talking to him on the phone.  In that answer and in so many others, he laughed throughout.  You could ‘hear’ his smile on other end.  Jammal Lord seems like a guy who truly enjoys life, whether he’s making a comeback on the football field or anywhere else.  He has a passion for life, just as he does for football.

And he still has that love for the Huskers.

“I like all of them,” he said of today’s players.  “I like Ameer, he’s doing his thing right now.  I like Tommy.  I’m biased for the quarterback position, you know what I mean?”

What about Coach Pelini, Lord’s then Defensive Coordinator who took over head-coaching duties in Lord’s last game with Nebraska at the Alamo Bowl?

“LOVE him.  Love him,” said Lord.  “Just the passion, he has passion for his kids.  He has passion for the game of football.”

Finally, to Husker fans who like so many sports guys do, remember Jammal Lord and hold him as a Husker favorite, he’s got a message for you, too.

“I love you.  You’re number one in my book,” said Lord.  “I had fun down there.  It was a great time.  I love the fans, I love the stadium.  GO BIG RED!”

CHECK OUT KETV’S HUSKERS THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON JAMMAL LORD!

For more on #5 Jammal Lord, check out his bio courtesy of Nebraska Athletics.

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Click here to Throwback to the Class of 2013, CJ Zimmerer!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. the Class of 1987, John McCormick!