A Tale Of Two Teams

18 Sep

I used to work with this guy named Matt.  He was really funny.  No, I mean REALLY funny.

Did you see his story, In Carl We Trust, on KETV in 2008?  Let’s just say when Carl Pelini was later hired by Florida Atlantic as their new football coach, the University started printing T-shirts reading CARLFENSE.  Seriously–KETV photographer Tyler White bought one.  And it is awesome.  And now Matt Schick is an anchor at ESPNU.  Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

A few years earlier Matt also put together a story called West Coast Defense, featuring Nebraska Blackshirts Corey McKeon, Stu Bradley and Bo Ruud.  Just a few games into the season in 2005, the Husker defense had scored HALF of Nebraska’s touchdowns. four huge Pick 6’s.  Matt’s look into this trio’s ‘secret to success’ on the field was HILARIOUS–one of my favorite stories of the season.

COREY MCKEON

#13 Corey McKeon, photo courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

That, and his explosive play on the field, was how Husker Nation was introduced to this guy, Corey McKeon.  McKeon had a monster season as a sophomore in 2005, leading Nebraska with 98 tackles and at the time, marking his name as second-best in school history for tackles for loss.  This was the best of times; success on the field alongside the Blackshirts who were also his best friends.

“We had so much fun doing it, that’s what really mattered to us,” McKeon told me in a recent interview.  “If we can go out and have fun and make those kinds of big plays, that’s what Husker Football is all about.”

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CHECK OUT KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY SPECIAL ON COREY MCKEON!

Ironically, McKeon’s most memorable game was not one of those fun plays, it was the heartbreaking loss to Texas Tech in 2005.

“At the end of the game they were going for the game winning drive, we were up by 4 and I tipped the ball right in the red zone,” said McKeon.  “Our defensive lineman, I’m not gonna name his name because he’s still a lot bigger than me and could come whoop me, he intercepts it.  In those situations, you’re just supposed to fall down because the game is over.  He runs by me, you see my hands out on the field telling him to stop, he runs by me, their running back forces a fumble, they get the ball back, they get the next touchdown.”

McKeon says that loss, while tough to swallow, was against a great team; a game that came down to the wire.  That, he says, is what you remember the most.

In a way, it’s fitting the Texas Tech game stands out for a player like Corey McKeon, a guy who ended his career at Nebraska in the midst of controversy and arguably, one of the darkest eras of Nebraska football.  In 2007, the Huskers lost 7 games (they went 2-6 in Big 12 play), head coach Bill Callahan was fired and McKeon often took a stand, never mincing words defending his teammates and coaches.  This was the worst of times.

“The best part about Husker Nation is also the most difficult part,” McKeon said, noting he doesn’t regret his outspoken nature while with the team.  “They are so involved, we need them so much and the second they’re not there for us, even an inkling, it takes it’s effect because Husker Football is as much about Husker Nation as it is about the players and coaches.”

McKeon also told me at the height of the controversy, he consulted the sports psychologist, frustrated about everything going on, especially with his Defensive Coordinator, Kevin Cosgrove.

UM05WL13

Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Journal Star

“Coach Cosgrove fought for us year after year, he did so much for us,” said McKeon.  “He was a player’s coach and no, his schemes didn’t work out the best all the time, but he was always there for us personally.  Even if we weren’t performing well on the field, he always had our back.  I think that’s what got to me the most.”

McKeon has two pieces of advice for today’s players; one is to cherish the good times on and off the field.  Those same buddies he had two-a-days with, who went through the same losses he did, remain some of his best friends.

teammates

His other suggestion is to realize the impact all Huskers can have, both now and in the future.  It’s something McKeon sees firsthand as an Ollie Webb Center board member and Executive Vice President of the group.  His wife, Erika, organizes the annual fundraising gala.

McKeons

Both, associates with McKesson Pharmaceuticals, say they came to Ollie Webb hoping to learn more about something they didn’t have much experience with, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  When we followed around the McKeons for our interview at Ollie Webb, they shook hands with students, checked out their artwork, and joked about which Huskers they like best.  (One student’s, no surprise, Ameer Abdullah.)

fun with friends at Ollie

Thanks to the Ollie Webb Center for the photo!

The teenagers and adults get to be with friends for art activities and events, to learn computers and programs, and to work on life skills like how to keep a budget.  Erika McKeon calls their interaction with Ollie Webb life changing.

“Seeing the families that are [at the gala] and seeing the kids come up and perform on stage and just show us how happy they are and how appreciative they are for what we are doing, it’s just amazing,” said Erika.

performer AJ Taylor at gala

Ollie Webb’s AJ Taylor performing at the 2014 Fundraising Gala

The McKeons stress how powerful Nebraska football can be and how they hope players from all eras, especially the 2014 squad, use that to make a difference.  Corey notes that when he reaches out for auction items or other help, former players and the University are often the first to step up.

donation for gala

Autographed portrait donated for the 2014 Ollie Webb Fundraising Gala

“You’re going to come back to your community and want to impact it,” said McKeon.  “Husker Football is the number one way to do that.”

And THIS is how Corey McKeon hopes to impact you now, years after his name covered message boards and newspaper articles across Husker Nation.  When I contacted him about being part of our Huskers Throwback Thursday series, he agreed, IF we also made the story about Ollie Webb.  Shoot the story there, let he and Erika talk about what the organization is and how it’s helping people in our community, and hopefully draw some attention to THOSE names and faces, like the young woman at Ollie Webb who smiled and waved when Corey McKeon recognized her from the gym.

It’s not the kind of story we always get to share, but in this post of best of times and worst of times.. it’s certainly GREAT.

The Ollie Webb Center is always in need of donations and volunteers.  If you’d like to help, or would like to learn more about programs and services, contact them online or via Facbook.

To learn more about #13 Corey McKeon, check out his bio with Nebraska Athletics.

***

CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Class of 2003, Pat Ricketts!

Next week’s Throwback Thursday.. Classes of 1971 & 1997, Bill & Jesse Kosch!

Behind The Crown

11 Sep

 It all comes down to this.. Miss America.

Last spring I profiled each of the young women competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.  From 19, there is now one.

Multiply those 19 state contestants times 53 (in many cases, double or triple that number); from thousands of young ladies who competed in preliminary competitions this year, there are now only 53 vying to become Miss America.

She’ll be crowned Sunday night on ABC.

Miss America

As a little girl, I’d sit eagerly at my TV, waiting to see MY state–who was Miss Nebraska?  And who was our neighbor, Miss Iowa?

They are both incredible young women who are well-spoken, talented, beautiful and as you’re about to find out, HARD WORKING.

Getting ready for Miss America is NO easy task.

  Megan intro  Aly intro

Photos courtesy of the Miss America Organization

Tuesday night, Megan and Aly took their first steps onto the Miss America stage in Atlantic City, New Jersey as they began preliminary competition.  It was a moment they’ve been preparing for, intensely, for months.

“I’ve pushed myself harder physically than I ever have,” said Megan, moments before boarding her flight out of Omaha.  “I’m in the best physical shape of my life, and the best spiritual and emotional shape as well.”

Megan professional photo

Thanks to Ashley Frantz and Twisted Lens Photography for the photo!

I’ve been in touch with Megan since she was crowned Miss Douglas County last fall (full disclosure: I’m a volunteer with the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant).  I talked to her the day after she was crowned Miss Nebraska.  I had the honor of hosting her send-off party and fundraiser.

megan and me

Every time I’ve spoken with Megan, her intent has been clear in both her words and actions; she is DETERMINED to win this thing.

“I’m just so thankful to represent the state of Nebraska, my home,” said Megan.  “To go there and win it as Miss America!”

I’ve only known Aly for a few weeks now, first meeting her in a Skype interview for our story, but  I don’t think she EVER STOPS SMILING–she just exudes positive energy!

“I’m just trying to BE Miss Iowa,” Aly told me.  “Representing the whole state, absorbing as many experiences as I can has been the best preparation.”

Miss Iowa

Thanks to the Miss Iowa organization for the photo!

Check out KETV’s story on Miss Nebraska & Miss Iowa ‘Behind the Scenes’!

For the last three months, these young women have been putting in 18 hour days to become the best version of themselves.  They’ve been in the gym nearly everyday.  They’ve spent countless hours rehearsing their talents (both are talented vocalists).  They’ve been up at the crack of dawn to travel across their states for appearances, interviews and fundraisers.

Aly and Megan 2

WHY?!? For a silly pageant?!?!

“Miss America isn’t just about promoting women to be their best,” said Aly.  “It’s really about encouraging every single person to find some lofty goal, whatever that may be, and to tell them to run for it.”

There’s also this ‘little’ matter of scholarships..

“The Miss America Organization is the largest scholarship organization in the world,” said Megan, a student at Belmont University in Tennessee.  “It provides 45-million dollars in scholarships each year.  That’s part of the reason I’m here.”

Aly, a student at the University of Iowa, will graduate with her bachelor’s degree debt-free thanks to the scholarships she’s taken in through her participation in the Miss Iowa program and it’s associated teen program, serving as Miss Iowa’s Outstanding Teen a few years ago.

“MAO has helped me become a better, stronger, more pulled together young woman,” said Aly.

Nebraska has only had one Miss America.  Iowa has NEVER had one.  Both, hoping to make history this year, are already making names for themselves at Miss America.

Megan was named as one of 9 finalists for the Quality of Life Award for community service (here, in blue.. yes, she’s very tall.. 6-foot without heels!)

quality of life

Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization

Aly received high praise from the Twitterverse during preliminary talent competition this week and was arguably one of the favorites that evening.  (Click here to watch Aly’s performance to win Miss Iowa!)

Aly prelim talent

Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization

Both know there are pageant ‘cliches’ in the world and many who disagree with young women even taking part in this system.  But both ALSO want you to know how hard they have worked to represent their states to make little girls and everyone else watching at home PROUD.

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You can help Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson and Miss Iowa Aly Olson make the Top 15 at Miss America through the America’s Choice vote!  CLICK THIS LINK to watch videos from all of the contestants and to vote for your favorite.  Voting ends at MIDNIGHT EST TIME THURSDAY NIGHT.

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Miss-Iowa---Aly-Olson

To learn more about Miss Iowa Aly Olson, follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You can also learn more about the Miss Iowa Pageant via their website.

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To learn more about Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson, follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You can also learn more about the Miss Nebraska Pageant via their website.

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WATCH MISS AMERICA ON KETV SUNDAY NIGHT AT 8PM CST!

Brothers In Blue

10 Sep

I was very lucky a few years ago (OK, MANY years ago..) to become friends with a guy named Jeff Nathan.  I was the only student from Papio-La Vista at speech nationals, and for whatever reason, Jeff and his teammates from Millard North ‘adopted’ me and let me hang out with them.  As fate would have it, Jeff and I had a broadcasting class together in college at UNL and again, his close circle of friends took me in like they’d known me for years.  I remember one night in particular, Jeff asked if I wanted to come to their intramural softball game on campus; all the players were his friends from Millard North.  If you follow me on Twitter, you know I LOVE softball, and was totally game.  When I showed up, the guys were already on the field practicing, including THIS guy.

Ricketts Head Shot

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!

My first thought, “holy crap!! That’s Pat Ricketts!”

My second thought, “ummmm.. is he allowed to play intramural softball?”

Yes. Yes he was.  And their team DOMINATED everyone they played against.. mostly because of Jeff’s Cy Young quality pitching. (You’re welcome, Jeff.)

In the early 2000’s, Millard North was well-represented not only on the softball field, but at Memorial Stadium.  Eric Crouch, Mike McClaughlin, Judd Davies and Pat Ricketts.. they all played together in high school, were recruited together to come to Nebraska, and played together as Huskers.

“It was really neat to go from high school to college, to bring that work ethic,” Ricketts told me in a recent interview.  “We had a lot of pride, and still do have a lot of pride, as Millard graduates and especially as Mustang graduates.”

Check out KETV’s Throwback Thursday Husker feature on Pat Ricketts!

Each player made an impact in his time at Nebraska (Crouch going on to win the Heisman Trophy), and Ricketts was no exception.  The cornerback was a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week his junior year in 2002, and as a senior, was part of  the defense that set a school record and led the nation with 32 interceptions.  One of those in 2003 was by Ricketts against rival Colorado.

Still, Ricketts’ favorite moment as a Husker came off the field.

“My sophomore year, I earned a Blackshirt,” said Ricketts.  (Blackshirts are an iconic symbol awarded to members of Nebraska’s defense for strong performance and leadership.)  “That was the first Blackshirt I was able to earn, it was right after practice.  It was a complete surprise.”

with his blackshirt--NOT TO BE USED IN STORY

Photo courtesy of John Peterson Photo/Hail Varsity Magazine 

Ricketts’ advice to current players is to have a good time, because it goes by way too fast.  In a way, he always knew that, and knew what path he would take when his playing days came to an end.

“I worked in several financial institutions, and with the family starting TD Ameritrade in town, that’s what I grew up around,” said Ricketts.  He worked hard in the classroom at Nebraska, landing on the Honor Roll nearly his entire college career.  Today, he is President and CFO of Vintage Financial Group offering investment advice to both his clients and the public as a frequent guest on KETV First News Weekend.

Ricketts married his college sweetheart, Kirstin (who also came to those softball games!), now a fellow Vintage associate; together they have three children.

Ricketts Family pic

Ricketts also remains committed to the school district that helped shape him as a kid.  He is currently President of the Millard Public Schools Board, playing a key role in guiding the future of 23,000 students.  He hopes to someday see some of those kids wearing red ‘N’ jerseys (maybe even his own boys!)

family in front of stadium

“It’s extremely important to get those in-state kids down to Lincoln, down to the University,” said Ricketts.  “Those are bonds across the state of Nebraska, those small towns to large towns, to know that’s their boy down at the University.  It’s fun; they’ve watched that kid grow up, and to be able to go on to college, that creates that fan base that is unique to Nebraska.  It’s important that Nebraska keeps that tradition going.”

Ricketts says this fall, like every other year, he’ll be watching Nebraska’s Blackshirts, a group he calls a fraternity.  I’m guessing once or twice, he’ll catch a game with his other brothers, his longtime friends from Millard North.

Here’s to a great season, and to friendships that stand the tests of time, change, and intramural softball.

Learn more about Pat Ricketts via Nebraska Athletics or on Vintage Financial Group’s website.

***

CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Classes of 2004 & 2007, Barrett & Bo Ruud

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. Class of 2007, Corey McKeon

A Family Affair

2 Sep

If you watched a Nebraska football game in the 2000’s with a visiting friend or someone who doesn’t really follow the Huskers, maybe you experienced this.  A HUGE sack by one of Nebraska’s Blackshirts.  The QB on the opposing team loses yards.  And 80,000+ Nebraska fans BOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

“Why are they booing??” your confused friend asked.

That’s when you explained that the fans weren’t booing, they were saying RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!

Yes, years before that one guy, Ndamukong Suh, made the response legendary in the NFL, two brothers from Lincoln created a legacy within Husker Nation, inciting tens of thousands to yell THEIR name after one of their hundreds of combined career tackles.  Their names: Barrett and Bo Ruud.

Barrett Ruud Bo Ruud

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photos!

“It started happening with my brother, then me,” Bo Ruud recently told me in an interview in Lincoln.  “Like I tell Suh, he owes us some money because that’s ours, he stole it.  It was copyrighted, trademarked.”

All jokes, of course.  Those moments, listening to a crowd going crazy because of something he did on the field, were simply ‘an amazing experience’ according to the younger Ruud.  Bo played for Nebraska from 2003-2007, racking up an impressive resume of accolades including First-Team All-Big 12, a multi-game Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and the Nebraska Guy Chamberlin Trophy.  Arguably his most impressive moment came against Iowa State his senior year, when Bo intercepted the ball and returned it 93-yards for a touchdown.  At that time it was the third longest in school history and the longest ever by a Husker linebacker.

Click here to watch the KETV Throwback Thursday story on Bo Ruud!

Still, it’s hard for Bo to pinpoint one standout moment in his career at Nebraska.

“It’s such a large collection of just great moments, it’s like a feeling almost,” said Bo.  “Nebraska football, that was a dream growing up for me.  I’m a Lincoln guy.”

Bo not only lived about five minutes from Memorial Stadium, he was surrounded by the Nebraska Football dynasty all of his life.  Great-grandfather Clarence Swanson played for Nebraska from 1918-1921.  Uncles Bob Martin and John Ruud were Huskers in the 1970’s.  Dad, Tom Ruud, earned All-Big Eight honors with Nebraska from 1972-1974.  Combine Tom and his boys, and you’ve got three of the top 30 tacklers in Nebraska school history.

Bo, now a medical rep working in Lincoln and traveling across the state, will be keeping a close eye on the position tied so closely to his family.

‘Always watching the linebackers, that’s always first,” said Bo.  “You’re always watching and rooting for those guys to do well.  Randy Gregory’s a standout, I think he’s going to be really good.”

Bo also calls running back Ameer Abdullah the ‘heart and soul’ of the Nebraska team.

As for brother Barrett Ruud, he may not be able to pick any favorites on this year’s squad; he’s one of their coaches.  Barrett Ruud is officially a ‘Football Intern’ as part of the Nebraska Football Support Staff.

Barrett Coaching 2 Barrett coaching

Photos courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

“I’m excited, really excited,” said Bo, when asked about watching his brother on the sidelines.  “It’s going to be different.  Different for him, too, but the whole family’s excited for him.”

And no doubt his players can learn a lot from their new coach.  Barrett Ruud played for Nebraska from 2001-2004; a team Captain, on the Butkus Award Watch List, and the 2004 Nebraska Defensive MVP.  He was a second round NFL Draft pic, and played several years in the pros.  Before Nebraska’s game against McNeese State, Barrett Ruud will officially be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

***

14 years ago, these brothers were in Lincoln, playing under the Friday Night Lights for Lincoln Southeast.  They dreamed of high school state championships and maybe, just maybe, playing in front of tens of thousands in the stadium they grew up hearing about.  Now, they are back in Lincoln, each showing how their time as Huskers impacted their lives.  Barrett Ruud, by coaching a new generation of players.  Bo Ruud, by proudly wearing red every Saturday, and once in awhile offering commentary on sports talk radio with long time best friend (and Creighton Basketball legend) Nick Bahe.

With that, Bo Ruud has a message for today’s Huskers.

“Everybody’s going to tell them, but you’ve got to soak it up!” said Bo.  “Every second, enjoy it.  It’s the best years of your life, it really is.”

It may be awhile before Nebraska fans again here the rattling RUUUUUUD reverberating through Memorial Stadium, should the family legacy continue.  But Bo Ruud is grateful for the fans who remember him taking down a quarterback and making that growl happen.

“It’s an honor, if that’s the case,” said Bo.  “Just continue being great fans and supporting the Huskers, because I will continue to do that, too.”

Click here to learn more about Bo Ruud, via Nebraska Athletics

Click here to learn more about Barrett Ruud, via Nebraska Athletics

***

CLICK HERE to Throwback to the Class of 2006, Zac Taylor

Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. Class of 2003, Pat Ricketts

Throwback Thursday

28 Aug

I love Throwback Thursdays. A trend on social media that’s taken on a life of its own, a chance to look back and share a photo, a video, a memory from years past.

Kind of like this..

Huskers

September of 2006.  On the road with the KETV Sports Crew covering the Huskers in Los Angeles at the Coliseum.

All of my friends in this picture, photojournalists Mike Richard and Jim Healey, and legendary sportsman Jon Schuetz, have all since gone on to new adventures!  But I can still remember, 8 years ago, Assistant News Director Vonn Jones coming up to me in the newsroom and asking ‘you want to go to LA and cover the USC game?’

YES. YES I DO.

Covering the Huskers has been one of my favorite parts of my job at KETV.  There’s just something magical about the minutes before the game starts, positive energy radiating from tens of thousands of fans, and literally feeling vibrations from the roar of Memorial Stadium after that first touchdown.

This year, as part of our award-winning Big Red Zone coverage with Sports Director Andy Kendeigh, Thor Tripp and our Husker experts Sean Callahan and Damon Benning, I get to share a series of stories we are dubbing ‘Throwback Thursday: The Husker Edition.”  Who are your favorite Nebraska players?  And where are they now?

I’m hoping to cover all the eras, the big names you know and remember.  Some, like Damon, have become well known off the football field years after hanging up their cleats. (Damon, for example, is currently a sidelines reporter for the Big 10 Network and a Sports Talk Radio host on 1620 The Zone with Gary Sharp.)  Others have moved on in less public ways, off Husker Nation’s radar but certainly not out of fans’ memories.  Kenny Walker, who made national headlines at Nebraska when he became one of only a handful of deaf players to play in the NFL, now coaches hard-of-hearing high school students in Colorado.  Lawrence Phillips, famous for his athletic ability at Nebraska and infamous for his criminal activity, is now serving a 31-year prison sentence for assault in California.  CJ Zimmerer, the brainchild behind the now iconic ‘Team Jack’ touchdown run that brought millions to tears, is a juvenile probation officer in Sarpy County.

We kick off Throwback Thursdays with a Husker Fan Favorite in recent years, 2005-2006 quarterback Zac Taylor.

Zac Taylor with Nebraska

Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the photo!

 When I first pitched this crazy Throwback Thursday idea to Andy, along with a list of potential former players to follow up with, Andy noted this about Zac Taylor: ‘Tough. (NFL Assistant).”  Taylor is in the beginning of his third year coaching quarterbacks with the Miami Dolphins.  Still, Zac Taylor was the first former Husker to respond when I contacted him.

“I wish I would’ve been able to meet more people,” Taylor told me by phone from Miami.  “Just to travel out in the state and get more opportunities to affect more people.”

Read our story here, and watch our Throwback Thursday piece with Zac Taylor THURSDAY NIGHT AT 10!

Taylor only played two years at Nebraska, but in that short time, arguably made a huge impact on the team and the program.  During one of his favorite games, against Texas A&M in 2006, Taylor broke both the all-time career passing record and the single-season touchdown pass record. He would later be named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Nebraska won the Big 12 North that year, a highpoint of the Bill Callahan Era of Nebraska Football.  Taylor, who still holds several individual offensive records in passing at Nebraska, was the team leader.

His passion for the game never dwindled after college; Taylor moved to Texas and was hired as an assistant coach at Texas A&M.  He calls his move to the NFL a few years later ‘exciting’.

Zac coaching Dolphins

“I hadn’t played in the NFL, only been briefly associated with the team, really didn’t know what to expect,” said Taylor.  “What I’ve learned is this team and this organization is full of professionals who love football as much as I do, so it’s been a real pleasure working with the Dolphins.”

coaching Dolphins Aug 2013

Taylor says he still watches Nebraska football, whether it be from a hotel on the road with the Dolphins, or at home with his wife, Sarah, and their two boys. The University and the football team will always have special meaning for the couple; it’s where they met 10 years ago.  Back then, Sarah Sherman was a grad assistant in media relations.  Taylor still remembers seeing his wife for the first time at his first practice at Nebraska.

“She would come to practice, after practice, and grab players for interviews,” said Taylor.

Sarah and Zac family picture 2

As for the Huskers, Taylor says Coach Pelini’s done a great job and that his players enjoy playing for him.

“We played them at Texas A&M a few years ago and it was one of the most disciplined, toughest defenses we faced,” said Taylor.

And for those players getting ready to take the field this season, Taylor has a message.

“Soak up every moment and embrace the fans,” said Taylor.  “It truly is a great thing to play for all of those people.”

Good luck this season, #13!

Click here to learn more about Zac Taylor, via Nebraska Athletics.

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Next week’s Throwback Thursday Husker.. Class of 2007, Bo Ruud

Witnessing History

28 Jul

One of my favorite things about being a journalist is what we get to see, hear, WITNESS.  As a student of history, this is invaluable to me–you can read about things in books, you can watch things on TV, but only a few get to be there as history happens and share those stories.  Sometimes, though, as journalists we witness events so remarkable, tragic, overwhelming, the moments never really leave us. We close our eyes and can still see and feel what happened the day we covered the story.

For KETV’s Managing Editor Jim Reding, those moments happened on July 19, 1989, when Flight 232 crashed in Sioux City, Iowa.

jim photo

 25 years ago this month, Jim watched with his own eyes as United Flight 232 and the hundreds of people aboard cartwheeled down the runway.  His coworker captured the crash on camera, video that was later seen by millions and endlessly analyzed by aviation experts.  Jim shared the stories of the survivors, the heroes, and the 112 people who died that day.

Here is Jim’s account of Flight 232.

**

Summer of ’89, Jim Reding was the 10pm producer at KTIV in Sioux City and on July 19, had just started his shift.  The news broke around 2 or 2:30 of an Alert 3.

“We knew the plane had lost all hydraulics somewhere near Storm Lake, Iowa,” said Jim.  “Our assignment editor at the time sent Dave Boxum, a reporter/photographer, straight to the airport.  I got in a van with Cathy Egan, a reporter, and we were heading to Highway 20 east of Sioux City.  We were told the plane was going to try and land on Highway 20.”

Within minutes, Jim and Cathy got word that the pilot was going to try and land at the Sioux Gateway Airport.  The two took the first exit they could and headed that way.

“We spotted the plane coming over Southern Hills Mall,” said Jim.  “It was flying so low, and it was so strange to see this large plane barely above the buildings and tree tops.  I sped up, and got nervous that I wouldn’t get a shot of it landing.  Just as we were parallel with the airport, the plane was coming right over us.  I remember one of us saying, ‘God, please let the plane land safely’.  As it went over our heads it then cleared the Air National Guard building and the next thing we saw was the explosion and the plane rolling off the runway.  I know we both yelled or screamed.”

Jim, knowing his coworker, Dave, was already at the airport somewhere, drove as fast as he could from where he was on I-29.  He found Dave directly at the fence south of the runway where the plane had crashed.

“As I got out of the van I asked Dave if he got video of it,” said Jim.  “He said, ‘I think so’.”

ktiv

A still photo from Dave Boxum’s video, taken as Flight 232 crashed in Sioux City.

Jim, Dave and Cathy immediately got to work, setting up equipment on top of the van to try and see what was going on.

“There was so much debris and parts of the plane strewn all over,” said Jim.  “The Airport Firefighters were already on the scene and more fire departments and first responders were arriving.  That’s when I saw a Red Cross van driving towards the entrance and recognized the driver.  I told Dave to relieve me on top of the van and I would take his camera gear and try to get access to the crash site.  I distinctly remember the feeling that we wanted to have a camera rolling at all times on the scene.”

sioux City Journal 2

Photo by the Sioux City Journal

 Jim began shooting as he got closer to the crash site, using the same camera and tape that held such an important piece of video.

“The record deck was not working properly.  It was stopping and starting on its own.  All sorts of lights were flashing,” said Jim.  “I started to smack the camera with my hand to see if that helped.  It didn’t.  I tried rewinding the tape and fast forwarding the tape to see if that would make a difference and it didn’t.”

In the chaos that followed, Jim radioed KTIV to tell them what he thought he had and that he was having problems with his gear.

“All this time, I didn’t realize how close I come to erasing or taping over Dave’s historical video,” said Jim.  “Dave would tell me later that he wasn’t sure he had gotten the video because his deck was acting up.  When the video got back to the station, they had to dub it over to a one-inch reel to play it.  By the end of the day, the whole world would see that video.  Robert Hager, reporter with NBC who covered all the big plane crashes, told me and others at the time, that it was one of the most important pieces of video in aviation history.  This was long before cell phone videos and Go Pros; it was so rare to capture a major crash on tape.  I’m sure United and other companies learned a lot by watching that video.”

Jim spent the rest of the day and night there at the airport, shooting interviews and field producing coverage of the crash for KTIV.

Sioux City Journal

Photo by the Sioux City Journal

“We weren’t used to covering a story of such magnitude, and it was a story that kept expanding,” said Jim.  “The survivors, the families, the investigation, the community reaction and endless personal stories of people impacted by the crash.”

Click here to watch KTIV’s look back at Flight 232.

We know now that United Flight 232, originally scheduled from Denver to Chicago, suffered catastrophic failure of its tail-mounted engine, which led to the loss of all flight controls.  296 people were on board; 111 died.  Despite such unimaginable loss, many considered it a miracle so many survived, 185 people, a credit given to the flight crew and captain Alfred Haynes, who essentially landed the plane without conventional control.

survivor

Spencer Bailey, a young survivor, being carried to safety by Lt. Colonel Dennis Nielsen after the crash.  Little Spencer and his brother survived, his mother did not.  A statue in honor of this iconic image now stands at a memorial for the crash.
The crash changed how we fly today; DC-10’s were modified with hydraulic fuses to prevent catastrophic loss of fluid.  Experts use the flight as evidence why all children should have their own seat and be properly restrained.  Researchers have also studied Flight 232 to see whether computers could control aircraft using the engines alone.
It also forever touched a young journalist who would eventually make his way to Omaha, Nebraska and the news desk at KETV.  In his 28 years in TV News, Jim has covered officer involved shootings, the tragedy at Westroads Mall, tornadoes and mass snowstorms, serial killers and lengthy criminal cases;  you name it, Jim has played a role in 20 years of coverage at KETV.  Still, he says no story has had an impact on him like Flight 232.
jim in background

“The fact that I witnessed the crash and was physically on site to talk with survivors and those involved in the rescue probably has something to do with how I feel,” said Jim.  “I was in the field and felt the real impact of the story.  You have to remember that 112 people died! That’s the greatest loss of life in this region that I know of.  You had Captain Al Haynes, who with the help of his crew, made a miraculous landing, saving 184 people.  An emergency response that would be a model for the world.  An NTSB investigation that would lead them to find a cause to the crash.  And for the first time, video of a DC-10 crashing, that would help educate pilots and engineers in the future.  And of course, you would have a movie made about it, with Hollywood legends.  It was, and still is the biggest story I’ve ever covered.

“There hasn’t been a summer I don’t think about that day and the crash of Flight 232,” said Jim.  We have family and friends that still live in that area and we drive by the Sioux City Airport on our way.  I know often times my first instinct is to look west at the airport and the location where the plane crashed, but I usually find myself looking east and into the sky at that spot where I saw that plane go over my head.  It was so big and still so clear to me.  It’s hard not to think about all those people on that plane and how just seconds after they went past me so many lives ended and so many other lives changed.  I won’t ever forget it.”

Back To School

16 Jul

And with a simple phrase, ‘back to school’, I can hear thousands of screams from children (and teachers) across the Omaha metro area…

But it’s almost time, folks!! In less than a month, your kiddos will be heading out the door, ready to start a new year of learning, friends and memories.

Wait… will they truly be ready?

For thousands of kids across the metro, the answer is no.  No backpack, no new school supplies, no motivation to head to a place where they feel like they aren’t good enough or as prepared as all of the other kids.

CUE: The Seven Can Help Kids Back to School Backpack Drive.

drive

This is arguably the biggest fundraising/donation event we put together every year here at KETV.  We work with nonprofits, corporations and businesses, schools, etc.. to provide as many backpacks and supplies as possible for area kids who need them.  This year, our goal is 14,000 stuffed backpacks.

WHY???

Before I became actively involved, it’s a question, I admit, I asked; why, when we could raise money and awareness to get kids food, or shelter, or countless other causes or plights, WHY BACKPACKS?

This may be a stretch.. but for me, here’s the reason why.

Last night, Rob and I listened to a story from KETV’s Tony Cornett about the expected trial in the murder case of Brandon Wallace.  The alleged shooter: 15 years old.  His alleged accessories? 13 to 17 years old.  Rob and I watched each boy’s mug shot appear on our screen, and I just shook my head.  They look so young.  THEY ARE so young.

What the hell happened?!?!? What happens in any case where young people, teenagers and young men and women, turn to crime and violence?

There are no easy answers, but how about DREAMING BIGGER.  HAVING GOALS.  MAKING PLANS.  Where does that start?  At home.  For some, in church.  AND IN SCHOOL.

Could it be that simple?  Get kids pointed in the right direction EARLY.  Make them EXCITED about going to school, learning, finding structure and vision for their futures.

Although it was many, MANY, MANY moons ago, I can still remember the excitement of my mom getting our school supply lists, heading to the store, and choosing all of our supplies.  I’d get home, lay all of my new gear on my bed, and organize it into my new backpack.  It made me so excited to go to school.

Let’s get kids excited.  Let’s HELP THEM find that right track and stay on it.

Yes, money is tight, for all of us it seems.  But I hope the next time you are at the store you check out the school supply bins; a quarter for a notebook.  50-cents for a brand new pack of crayons.  5-bucks goes a long way, and if a couple thousand people each chip in, IMAGINE the huge amount that adds up to.

This year, our community partners are doing even more.  The Salvation Army, who has been KETV’s Backpack Drive partner for years, is again offering a text donation option; if you don’t want to hassle with buying supplies and dropping them off, you can simply text “OMAHA” to 80888 to make a $10 donation, or go online.  Again, I know $10 isn’t an option for everyone, but perhaps it’s your sacrifice of your 2 weekly trips to the coffee shop, or that lunch out.  What you are giving up, could mean so very much to a little boy or girl in our city.

In addition, Methodist Health Systems is offering free health screenings this year when these families pick up their backpacks.  Another HUGE impact, for children who may not see a doctor and get checked out otherwise.  Rob and I sat down with Methodist’s Katina Gordon recently to talk about this year’s efforts.  Check out her blog about it here!

KETV and the Salvation Army will be at Nebraska Crossing Outlets July 26 from 10am-4pm, and July 27 11am-4pm, collecting donations and backpacks.  For every backpack or $10 donation, Nebraska Crossing Outlets will match it with a backpack of their own!

Our team will also be out at the Methodist Women’s Hospital on Friday, August 1 collecting donations. If you need any other motivation, I hear Rob is signing autographs FOR FREE that day!!!

rob

Thumbs up for Rob! He’s kind of a big deal!!

We hope to see you there BEFORE you head back to school!  THANK YOU for considering this, to make a difference in the lives of kiddos in our area!

You’ll find more information, including maps where you can drop off your donations, on our website!

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