When Good Guys Win

We’ve done it!  Two Husker wins in a row!  In a season that’s been, at times, one to forget, most Nebraska fans will celebrate every victory and milestone with enthusiasm and a smile.  In fact, in our Sunday poll on ketv.com, a majority of voters said they think the Huskers will BEAT the #5 undefeated Hawkeyes on Black Friday!  Who knows!!

For KETV producer Jay Roberts, the secret to Nebraska’s recent success is pretty simple.. I’m NOT covering the games.

I was in LA when USC beat Nebraska in 2006.

I was at Memorial Stadium when Nebraska BARELY lost to Texas a few weeks later.

I was in Kansas City when Nebraska lost in the Big XII Championship game that December.


I was at Camp Randall when Wisconsin crushed Nebraska 48-17 in 2011.

And I was at Ohio Stadium when the Buckeyes blanked the Huskers 63-38 in 2013.  Actually, I think it was at this game I shared my 0-5 Reporter Record with Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell, who then responded ‘maybe you shouldn’t go on the road with us anymore!’

Assistant News Director Vonn Jones, hasn’t let me cover the Huskers since.

BACK TO OHIO STATE… I will always remember a handful of moments from that trip.  The Buckeyes Athletic Department, for whatever reason, provided FREE McFLURRIES IN THE PRESS BOX, and I think I gained 19 pounds in 3 hours.  While I am a HUGE fan of the Pride of Nebraska Husker Marching Band, the Buckeye Band was downright PHENOMENAL, performing a halftime show based on old-school Nintendo games. INCREDIBLE.

Finally, the professionalism and kindness exhibited by Nebraska star Rex Burkhead.


#22 Rex Burkhead, Nebraska I-Back 2009-2012 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

Burkhead had a hell of a game that day.  He recorded the longest run of his career, pushing his own total at Nebraska to 3,046 (only the 7th Husker in history to reach the 3K mark), and he marked the 13th 100-yard rushing game of his career.  Then, in the 3rd quarter, Burkhead went down, badly injuring his left knee.  Even up in the press box, we could see that Rex, who’d taken hit after hit throughout his time at Nebraska, was hurting. The following week, he started against Northwestern, but left the game.. and didn’t return for the four following games.

After each game I covered, I tried to find players or coaches willing to do a live interview with Jon/Andy during our Big Red Zone post-game coverage.  Burkhead was a clear fan favorite and had talked to us several times before.  Looking back to Ohio State, I wonder how much pain Rex Burkhead was in both emotionally and physically, perhaps already worrying how much of his senior year he would miss because of his injury.  Not knowing at the time how bad it was, I once again approached him after the game.  He could’ve just ignored me.  He could’ve cussed at me, or shot me a dirty look.  Rex Burkhead APOLOGIZED, saying he was sorry, but wasn’t up for it.

 A moment for me that revealed character and maturity, probably isn’t even a blip on this guy’s Husker Memories radar.  He was the Team MVP, Team Captain his senior AND junior year, a Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American, a Doak Walker Semifinalist, Guy Chamberlin Trophy winner, and a First-Team All-Big Ten member.

Those are just his awards for his work ON the field. 2011 in particular was a remarkable year for Burkhead, still arguably one of the best rushers in Nebraska history.

Click here to watch KETV’s Throwback Thursday feature on #22 Rex Burkhead!

“Probably my favorite [moment] was the Ohio State game my junior year,” Burkhead told me recently.  “It was our Big Ten opener and we were down by a hefty margin.  I think, at the time, it was the biggest comeback in school history.  We came back and won in the final few minutes.  The crowd was going crazy; it was just an unbelievable atmosphere that night.”

Burkhead also loves that game because a friend of his got some national attention for the first time.


KETV’s Thor Tripp was interviewing Burkhead for a profile story, and asked why he was wearing a ‘Team Jack’ bracelet on his wrist.  Burkhead told him about a little boy with brain cancer who had asked for an autograph; instead, Burkhead invited him to Memorial Stadium to look around.  An incredible gesture, one that to this day, Burkhead doesn’t take credit for.

“Really, it all started with Coach Pelini taking him in, allowing him access to practice, then putting him up in a suite during a game and really, Jack just becoming another teammate with the guys,” said Burkhead.

KETV OCTOBER 2011: Click here to read about Jack’s first Game Day, and how the Huskers all became Team Jack fans.


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Pelini, a father of 3, and Burkhead brought back Jack and other children with pediatric brain cancer, to take part in team activities and traditions.  Through that, Nebraska fell in love with these kids.. and we also learned the terrible truth about this horrific disease.  Isaiah, the little boy in this photo with Jack doing the ‘Tunnel Walk’ with the team before the Wisconsin game in 2012, died just a few weeks later.

KETV MAY 2012: Click here to learn about Jack Hoffman and his family’s mission to spread national awareness of pediatric brain cancer.

8-million people and counting saw what happened next.. the Nebraska Cornhuskers rallied around Jack, bringing the pint-sized player onto the field during the Spring Game in 2013. Wearing his friend Rex’s #22, Jack Hoffman ran for a touchdown, cheered on by 60,000 fans.  In the weeks and months that followed, the Hoffman family was invited to the White House to meet President Obama, they won an ESPY for Best Moment of 2013, and best yet, THE WORLD was talking about pediatric brain cancer.

Click here to read my blog about Jack’s incredible moment at Memorial Stadium: See Jack Run.

Nebraska Fullback CJ Zimmerer (another Throwback Thursday Husker!) was the brainchild behind that magical moment, but the connection, THE FRIENDSHIP between this little boy and Nebraska football players and coaches began because of Rex Burkhead.  He was named Captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, a 3-time member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team and the 2012 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion.  Since Rex Burkhead responded to the Hoffman family’s request in 2012, just asking for an autograph, the Team Jack Foundation has raised more than $2 million dollars for pediatric brain cancer research.


“Myself and Jack and Andy and his family never would’ve thought it would expand like it did,” said Burkhead.  “It’s been unbelievable just to see the expansion of the Team Jack Foundation, how much support is still out there, not just in the state of Nebraska but across the country as well.”


Rex and Jack still keep in touch, the Hoffmans even going to see Burkhead’s new team play.  After graduating from Nebraska, Burkhead was drafted by the Cincinatti Bengals, a team that’s only lost ONCE so far this season.

“I’m really enjoying it, it’s a great team and a great bunch of guys on our team who love the team camaraderie aspect of the game,” said Burkhead.  “It’s a lot tougher to do that in the NFL, just because of the business aspect.”

Burkhead also follows his alma mater, and calls Nebraska’s firing of his coach, Bo Pelini, very tough.

“Bo was a huge reason that I went to the University of Nebraska,” said Burkhead.  I just loved everything about him.  I loved the character he was instilling in the program with the players.  How he taught me not only things on the football field but off the field as well.  Very disappointing and sad to see them make that move, that switch.  Even though I may not have agreed with it, I’m still always going to support the Huskers no matter what.”

Burkhead adds that he met Coach Mike Riley in the spring and that he seemed like a great guy.  Fitting, coming from a guy I once heard described as ‘the most beloved Husker football player since Brook Berringer.’

To the Huskers fighting to the finish line of 2015, Burkhead says keep going forward and stay positive.

“Keep fighting, you never know what can happen toward the end of the year,” said Burkhead.  “Just know the former players have your backs and we look forward to Saturdays every weekend.”


And to all Nebraska fans, from the Hoffmans watching from Atkinson, to the parents who named their baby boys ‘Rex’ (we met two of them!), to the journalists who remember a star athlete and all-around nice guy, Burkhead says he’s honored you DO remember.

“Definitely an honor, a privilege,” said Burkhead.  “That’s Husker football for you.  The support there is unbelievable.”


(Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

Click here to read more about #22 Rex Burkhead via his bio with Nebraska Athletics!

Click here to learn more about the Team Jack Foundation on their website; Click here to connect with Team Jack on Facebook


PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 1982, Dave Rimington!
NEXT WEEK.. Class of 1994, Dr. Rob Zatechka!

What’s In A Name?


What do you think of when you hear that name?

The Rimington Trophy.  The Nebraska Football legend.  All-American student AND athlete.

How about the man who has raised more than $100 million dollars to fight cystic fibrosis and find a cure?

100-MILLION DOLLARS.  Scratch that.. Nebraska Athletics journalist (and legend in his own right) Randy York puts that fundraising total closer to 105-MILLION.  Randy’s recent profile of Dave Rimington, inducted as the first football player to be part of the inaugural 2015 class of the University of Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame, is nothing short of jaw-dropping.  It’s a reminder of how one person, any of us really, can CHANGE THE WORLD.


#50 Dave Rimington, Center, 1979-1982 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

Rimington is a local guy, an Omaha South High graduate, who made the college football history books in his time at Nebraska.  He is the only player to win the Outland Trophy in consecutive years and in 1982, he also won the Lombardi Award.  That dedication to excellence continued in the classroom; Rimington was a two-time first team academic All-American, an NCAA Top 5 student athlete and a College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete.


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Yet Rimington was still humbled to be selected as the first football inductee for the Huskers’ new Athletics Hall of Fame.

“It’s awesome,” Rimington told KETV’s Andrew Ozaki.  “For all of the fantastic athletes that have been here, from the football team and every sports team, to be in the inaugural class is quite an honor.”

Click here to watch KETV’s Husker Throwback Thursday feature on #50 Dave Rimington!

When Rimington returned to Memorial Stadium to be honored for his induction, his status in Nebraska was clear.. fans surrounded him on the sidelines to shake his hand, snap a photo, and for a few moments, talk to a Husker legend.

“I remember all the players.  I remember the struggles, the good times and the bad times together,” said Rimington, who also told Ozaki about his favorite moment at Nebraska.  “I think the first time we beat Oklahoma my freshman year.  I actually wasn’t playing, but it’s still my favorite moment because it was the first time Coach Osborne beat Oklahoma.  It was a really big moment.”


Photo courtesy huskermax.com

Rimington had his share of big moments, including seeing his own jersey be retired at Nebraska his senior year, making history winning the Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year as a lineman, and being chosen in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft.  He played in the pros for seven years before accepting a new job.

“A good friend of mine is Boomer Esiason,” said Rimington.  “He has a son with cystic fibrosis and he’s got a foundation.  I’ve been running his foundation in New York City for the last 22 years, so I’ve been pretty busy with that.”

BEF-Seal-hi-res1 Gunnar266

PRETTY BUSY?!?! Rimington told York about the Boomer Esiason Foundation’s most recent accomplishment, donating $10 million dollars to help develop a drug that was approved and appears to have provided a cystic fibrosis CURE for 4-percent of those affected by the disease.


Allow me to sidetrack for a moment.. in April of 2013 I profiled an Omaha family, including two sisters who battle cystic fibrosis daily.  I will NEVER forget watching Alexa, then 7, and Presley, then 17-months, stopping their game of cards to strap on corded life jacket-like devices which literally SHOOK the mucus from their lungs and digestive tracts.  Alexa told me about how much she coughs.  Their parents told me about their fears, seeing the side effects of this disease take a toll on their girls, and reading stats about treatments and life expectancy.  CLICK HERE TO SEE THE HALL’S STORY.

It is wonderful to advocate for a cause.  It is inspiring to host events and give of your time and energy to help others.  But Dave Rimington and BEF may be on the CUSP OF A CURE for people, for CHILDREN just like Alexa and Presley Hall.  That is absolutely incredible.

Kind of makes football seem like an insignificant afterthought.. but in case you’re curious, Rimington backs his Huskers, losing season or not.

“We’ve just got to have some patience,” said Rimington.  “We’ve got a new staff in place.  We’ve just go to give them time to produce.”

To wrap up our interview, Andrew asked for advice for today’s Huskers.  When you read what Dave Rimington said, I hope you take it to heart as much as I did, football player or not.

‘Just work hard,” said Rimington.  “Every day, you’ve just got to try to get better.”

That’s what I’ll think of now when I hear RIMINGTON.  To work hard, and every day, try to be better.  Two little girls in Omaha may not know much about football or Outland Trophies, but someday to them, RIMINGTON may also mean a long, healthy life.


Click here to read more about #50 Dave Rimington via his biography with Nebraska Athletics.

Click here to ready Randy York’s recent profile of Rimington: “Why Dave Rimington Was The Inaugural HOF Choice”

Click here to visit the Boomer Esiason Foundation website; click here to visit the BEF Facebook page.

The 2015 Rimington Trophy presentation, honoring the nation’s top collegiate center, will take place at Lincoln’s Rococo Theater on January 16th.  Click here for more information.


PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 2003, Curt Tomasevicz!

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 2012, Rex Burkhead!

Going For Gold

Every week, as I write and visualize my next Throwback Thursday Husker feature, I inevitably bother three people EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Photojournalist Tyler White… because he’s not busy enough shooting and piecing together daily news stories, or shooting Nebraska football games on the sidelines every weekend.. he’s also a GENIUS when it comes to editing these Throwback stories.  He KNOWS the game; he KNOWS Nebraska Football; he KNOWS where every, single shot is in our archives.  He now RUNS from me when I start walking his way on Wednesday or Thursday.. but I will CHASE him because he’s just that darn good.

Producer/Editor/Photographer Josh Gear… because, simply put, THE GUY IS A GENIUS.  If you have a technical question about ANYTHING, from YouTube conversions to graphics to format, Josh is THE MAN to help you.  And he does it with a smile and positive attitude 24/7… even though he may be cursing on the inside because I bother him so much.

Sports Anchor/Reporter Matt Lothrop… because he is A VAULT of Nebraska football information.  A VAULT.  The dude knows every stat, every inside story, every little-known tidbit of info about the program.  He can also find EVERYTHING I need when it comes to highlights and archive video.  Yesterday, I asked for two clips from games in 2003 and 2001.. Matt brought them to my desk within 10 minutes.  Folks, we just moved buildings–the fact he even knew where these tapes were is INSANE to me!

When Matt came over to my desk, knowing I needed the material for a Throwback story, he asked who I was featuring.


#35 Curt Tomasevicz, Fullback/Linebacker, 1999-2003 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

When I told him it was Curt Tomasevicz, Matt said, “I really hope that guy never gets into broadcasting.  He’s good at everything he does!”

PROOF: 3-time Olympic Bobsledder, winning gold for the USA in 2010.  Holds a Master’s in Engineering and is working on his PhD WHILE teaching students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Plays guitar with his own band, and was even invited up on stage to play with legendary front man Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam.



Click here to watch KETV’s Throwback Thursday feature on #35 Curt Tomasevicz!

I first heard about Curt YEARS ago through one of my friends, Mike Tomasevicz.  Every time I’d see him, he’d tell me about his cousin, Curt, and the incredible things he was doing with the US National Bobsled team.. that they were winning events left and right and might make it to the Olympics.  In 2006, THEY DID, representing America at the Turin games.


Maybe it’s like eating one Lays potato chip.. you can’t just have ONE, you want MORE.

Tomasevicz and Team Night Train continued to compete, winning the World Championship in 4-man bobsled in 2009.  Together, they traveled north to Vancouver to vie for Olympic Gold.


(Photo courtesy http://www.tomaseviczbobsled.com/)

February of 2010, Tomasevicz and the USA 4-man team ended a 62-year gold medal drought, winning Olympic Gold in the Vancouver Games.  They’d return to the Olympics four years later, winning Bronze at the 2014 games in Sochi.  By the time Tomasevicz retired from bobsledding in 2014, he’d earned a total of 11 world medals, including 9 World Championships in addition to his Olympic hardware.  (And in case you are wondering, that gold medal IS HEAVY.. Tomasevicz says, weighing about 19 ounces!)


Click here to watch KETV’s story from Dec 2013: Small Town Shows Huge Support For Olympian

Click here to watch KETV’s story from Jan 2014: Curt Tomasevicz Heads to Olympic Games in Sochi

Click here to watch KETV’s story from Feb 2014: Olympian Returns To Nebraska With Bronze Medal

An incredible feat, no doubt.  What is also impressive to me is the way ‘Nebraska’s Olympian’ has handled his success… humble, gracious and down-to-earth.  From the get-go, as KETV followed Tomasevicz’s success, he has responded to every text, every phone call, every email.  He’s never ‘too busy’, or ‘too big’ for his home state.  He’s a Shelby, Nebraska native who has never forgotten his roots, even if a few Husker fans may have forgotten that before he hit the bobsled track, he was a walk-on at Nebraska hitting the field at Memorial Stadium.

“I think the walk-ons that go through this program have an enhanced sense of pride when they come here,” Tomasevicz recently told KETV’s Andrew Ozaki.  “A lot come from central Nebraska, small farm town communities, and they grew up watching this team.”


Tomasevicz started at fullback, then moved to linebacker his junior year, playing in five games.  He had a huge moment his senior year against Colorado in the opening drive of the game.

“That was definitely a highlight because when I hit Jeremy Bloom, at the time we were both football players, later on we were both Olympians,” said Tomasevicz.  “He’s a downhill skier I met, and reminded him of that moment at the 2006 Opening Ceremonies.  He went on to play in the NFL, so he had the last laugh.”

Tomasevicz’s favorite moment came two years earlier before Nebraska’s game even began.  The Huskers’ game with Rice was moved to a week night, just days after the attacks on America on September 11, 2001.

“I think we were one of the first sporting events that took place, they moved our game up,” said Tomasevicz.  “When we played at Memorial Stadium, we didn’t do the Tunnel Walk.  We silently walked out onto the field and we had members of the armed services, as well as firefighters and police officers, they did our Tunnel Walk.  That was a pretty incredible moment, being a part of that.  I think that moment, at that time, made me realize there are things that are a lot more important than sports.”

Click here to see the 9/11 Tribute Tunnel Walk via HuskersNSide Production on YouTube.

Off the field, Tomasevicz earned Bachelors & Masters degrees in Engineering, making the Academic Honor roll all eight semesters of his college career.  He was also named to he 2003 Brook Berringer Citizenship Team for his work in the community, especially with kids.  Those volunteer efforts continued long after his time at Nebraska ended.


Photo courtesy Sammy’s Superheroes & Amanda Polacek

Click here to read KETV’s story from Feb 2014: Olympian Posts Message For Little Boy With Cancer

Tomasevicz has been a longtime supporter of causes like Sammy’s Superheroes, raising money for children with cancer and their families.  He not only sends them personal messages, he takes part in their events and fundraisers.  He also speaks to schools across the state, sharing his story and advice with any class that invites him.  (Click here to learn more through his website.)

Recently, Tomasevicz also took on a new role: professor.  He’s teaching several engineering courses at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while working on a PhD in biological systems engineering.  In the classroom, Tomasevicz doesn’t want to be known as the Olympian or the former Husker; he just wants his students to see him as their instructor.

“I just hope they think I have enough experience that I know what I’m talking about,” said Tomasevicz, who used much of his engineering education, including aerodynamics and biomechanics, during his bobsledding career.  “A lot of [what I do] is introducing engineering topics and concepts and kind of disguising it in an exciting way through sports.  If you can find a way to use real life, real world situations, it usually gets them a little more excited.”

As for today’s Huskers, there’s no scientific formula to fix the problems that have plagued Nebraska this season. (“That’s a sophomore level class, I’m sure,” joked Tomasevicz.)  Still, this Husker, turned Olympian, turned professor, reflects back once again the experiences, often stemming from sports, that have helped shaped him.

“We had some highs and lows, too.  You just have to wait out those lows,” said Tomasevicz.  “Being patient is a big thing.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Time will tell.  It puts into perspective Nebraska is not that guaranteed victory they used to be.  Nebraska will have to work hard for those wins.  Eventually they will come.”

Tomasevicz, a season ticket holder and self-described huge Husker fan, will keep on cheering for his team either from the sidelines or from wherever he is performing Saturdays.

Yes, performing.. he’s ALSO a guitar player, and his band, Blinker Fluid, plays at weddings and events across the state.


Click here to watch Blinker Fluid playing at a recent event in Lincoln!

From science, to sports, to music, to LIFE.. here’s a guy who does what makes him happy, works hard at every challenge before him, and has found remarkable success on several fronts.  He’s not just an All-American guy, he’s All-Nebraskan, and proud of it.


I think Matt Lothrop was on to something… Curt, next time I bump into you at a Pearl Jam concert, I may try to convince you to join our team here at KETV.  You’d fit right in with Tyler, Josh and Matt.  Husker, Olympian, Teacher, Throwback Thursday expert?  I’m no scientist, but the idea is clearly GOLD.


Click here to read more about #35 Curt Tomasevicz via his bio with Nebraska Athletics!

Click here for more information about Curt Tomasevicz on his official website, on his official Facebook page, and on Twitter.


PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 1990, Lt. Gregg Barrios!

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 1982, Dave Rimington!

Supporting Red & Blue

Some weeks.. I just need a giant PAUSE button.  Those times when my to-do list just gets longer and longer.  Those nights when I’m lying awake, thinking of everything I need to get done the next day.

We have had one of the most exciting adventures of our careers in the last month here at KETV, moving into our new home at 7 Burlington Station.  Along with planning, boxing up desks, and rehearsals in our new space, we were also keeping up (or trying to) with day-to-day news operations.  YOWSA–I think I speak for all of us when I say we were READY to move in and get back to normal!!

I tell you all of this… because I did not give this week’s Throwback Thursday Husker his much-deserved blog post in association with his story.  However, HE is so busy, I’m guessing he’s got more important things he’s focused on.. like keeping Omaha safe, and recruiting a new generation of heroes to do the same.

barrios smiling

#44 Gregg Barrios, Nebraska Kicker, 1987-1990

Lieutenant Gregg Barrios is one of the highest ranking officers to serve with the Omaha Police Department.  He’s active in his church and community, and he’s the father of eight children.  Barrios is also known for the four years he played football for the Huskers.

“Some people, when they get my name, they’ll recognize it, or ‘are you related to that guy who used to kick for Nebraska?’  I get that once in a while,” Barrios told me recently.  “Probably the most avid Nebraska fans, they can remember that far back.”



Barrios is a Nebraska guy, born and raised.  The Creighton Prep remembers listening to the Huskers as a kid, a boy with big dreams early on.

“Playing football in the backyard, listening to Lyell Bremser and all that, wishing that someday I could play for Nebraska,” said Barrios.  He still remembers his first game, one he got to suit up for, a privilege allowed to a few, select freshmen.

barrios 3

“I’m nervous, some hot shot California upperclassmen is like, ‘what are you nervous for? You’re not even gonna play.’  Some Nebraska guy’s like, ‘you don’t get it,'” said Barrios.  “I remember running on the field, it was a night game against Florida State.  And at the end of the game, I ended up getting to play.”

barrios 1

Barrios’ favorite game came the following year, when #2 Nebraska played #10 Texas A&M to kick off the 1988 college season.

“I found out the night before I’d be starting.  I was like ‘oh my gosh!'” said Barrios.  “I’m put into the game, had a really good game.  I kicked three field goals and there were three records for the Kickoff Classic, including longest field gal in a game.  Then, we won, of course.”

barrios 4

Off the field, Barrios’ was interested in law enforcement, a curiosity sparked by having a dad in the military and by a professor specializing in criminal justice.  He joined the Omaha Police Department in 1996.

“I started uniform patrol like everybody else did,” said Barrios.  “I also worked in the warrants unit, working in training, worked in investigations, and now in backgrounds and recruiting.  This department is one of the best in the Midwest, by far.  We have a lot to offer for candidates.”

Barrios says there are many parallels between being a Husker football player and being a police officer (or firefighter, as his friend across the street, Asst Fire Chief John McCormick told me last year! Click here to read more!)  We are living in post-Ferguson times when police officers nationwide are facing increased scrutiny; similarly, today’s 3-6 Huskers are criticized, insulted and coached from couches across Nebraska.

“There’s the whole expectation that we are role models in society and we need to live up to a certain standard,” said Barrios.  But the Lieutenant is also quick to point out moments like Officer Kerrie Orozco’s funeral procession, when thousands of people in the Omaha metro area lined streets in the rain to pay their respects to Orozco and law enforcement officials everywhere.  People have brought food to local precincts, have posted messages showing their support and have held countless fundraisers for not just Officer Orozco and her family, but for other officers when they need it.

“That’s what makes the job a really fulfilling job and rewarding,” said Barrios.  “For the right person, it’s that service mentality.  We get to go out, do a job and we get a lot in return for it.”

And no matter what Nebraska’s record is, Barrios wants today’s players to know fans will be on their side.  He’s one of them.

“I will stick with them no matter what,” said Barrios.  “No matter who the coach was the last few years, I try to be a fan the best I can.”


Photo courtesy CoachTomOsborne.com

Barrios remembers seeing Coach Tom Osborne’s reaction when other programs around the country rolled through coaches and administration every few years.

“He was frustrated by that because he saw it’s difficult to build a program, to build up your recruits and instill your game plan and everything you’re going to do with a program,” said Barrios.  “I think over time, Nebraska will be back.  It’s just going to take the right fit, the right recruits, to put it all together.”

Barrios’ advice for the 2015 Huskers is the same he gave his son, ALSO a collegiate kicker. (Russell Barrios graduated from Omaha Gross and is currently playing football for the Colorado School of Mines.)


“I always talked to him about something that kickers do, keep your head down, follow through,” said Barrios.  “That’s something about life.  Keep your head down, stay humble, keep focused on what you’re doing and follow through.  You make a commitment, you stick with it.”

Editor’s note… this advice works for working mommas as well as football players.  Deep breath.  Shut out the noise.  Head down and focus.  Follow through.


CLICK HERE for more information about becoming an officer with the Omaha Police Department!


LAST WEEK.. Class of 2008, Zach Potter!

THIS WEEK.. Class of 2003, Curt Tomasevicz!

Zach Potter and the Sea of Red

I’m going to let you in on a little secret..

the four main anchors at KETV are Harry Potter nerds.

Ok.. I’m probably the only NERD of the group.  But both Bill and Andy know the stories after years of reading with their children, Rob is making his way through the JK Rowling stories right now.. and I’ve read them more times than I can count.  I LOVE escaping into Rowling’s incredible world of magic, mayhem and muggles.  Rowling lays out a scenario in the first book, symbolizing so much of what readers see in their hero throughout the series: Harry, the youngest seeker in a century, snags the coveted Golden Snitch in the opening Quidditch match of the season, winning the game for his team.


Stick with me, folks! I’m heading somewhere with this!! Meet Nebraska’s Potter, who also made quite the name for himself as a young man on the field at Memorial Stadium.


#98 Zach Potter, Defensive End 2005-2008 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

“Growing up in Nebraska, it helps you understand it, but at the same time, until you actually experience it, you walk out on that field and see 90,000 people every Saturday; it’s pretty special,” Potter recently told KETV photojournalist Tyler White.  “The further you get from it, the further you are from playing, it’s that much more special to look back on those memories.”

Potter’s football memories have local roots; he is a Hall of Fame Creighton Prep graduate (inducted in 2014), where he where he helped the Junior Jays win a state football title, and vie for a state basketball title.  The Lincoln Journal Star named Potter the co-Boys High School Athlete of the Year, and B’Nai B’rith’s Bert Rend Award as the state’s top male athlete.

Still, even the best of high school players don’t often make a name for themselves as true freshman in division one sports. Potter did.


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

2005, Zach Potter played in all 12 games, arguably saving two of those games for the Huskers.  Against Pittsburgh, Potter blocked an attempted filed goal and secured Nebraska’s 7-6 victory.  Less than two months later, Potter blocked a Kansas State PAT, and Nebraska won 27-25.  Potter grabbed the Golden Snitch for the Huskers, twice, in his first season on the field.

“My favorite playing memory,” said Potter.  “Pretty fun to do, pretty exciting, big moments of the game.”

CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s Throwback Thursday feature on #98 Zach Potter!  http://m.ketv.com/huskers/tbt-zach-potter/36144822

It was the start of an exciting four years for Potter, who also volunteered his time at local schools and facilities focused on kids, and excelled in the classroom. Potter was an Academic All-American and on the Honor Roll all four years.


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

After graduation, he did what many athletes dream of, joining the National Football League in 2009.

“I enjoyed a nice 6-year career in the NFL, playing tight end for the Jets, the Jaguars, the Rams and the Texans,” said Potter.


Photo courtesy zimbio.com

And now, Potter has come full circle returning to where it all started, working as an Audio/Visual Integrator with CCS Presentation Systems in Omaha, Nebraska.  Big Red Recipes recently reached out to Potter, asking him to contribute a favorite recipe for their cookbook collection from former Huskers.  Each player that takes part gets to choose which charity will benefit.  Just as he did in college, Potter once again thought of children he could help.

“My Dad’s been involved a lot [with the Ronald McDonald House], so I’ve taken part in some of the golf tournaments, kind of involved secondhand,” said Potter.  “This was really my first chance to get into it and do it myself.  It’s a great charity.  They give back to many families who have children who need help here and gives a spot for their families to come to, to relax after a long day at the hospital.”

Thursday, October 15th, Zach Potter revealed another talent; cooking.  Potter and a few assistants (including his beautiful wife and little girl!) made sweet potato casserole, meat balls, and bruschetta for the out-of-town families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, while their children receive medical treatment here in Omaha.

“Hopefully the guests here will enjoy it, and hopefully we don’t mess it up too much!” joked Potter.  (Editor’s note: I didn’t get to try the feast.. but boy, it looked FANTASTIC.)  “Myself, being here in Omaha, I wanted to be part of this and give back to a great fan base that obviously supported me through four years down in Lincoln.”


A quick history lesson.. not all of Potter’s years at Nebraska were ‘fun’.  As I heard from his quarterback, Joe Ganz, these were also the seasons that saw an outcry from Husker nation after some rough losses and the firing of Head Coach Bill Callahan.  Social media was also coming into play, allowing hundreds, if not thousands of fans, to connect directly with the players.

“I think the biggest thing now about social media is you get to see how crazy the fans are about Nebraska football,” said Potter.  “You’ve got X number of followers on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  You post one thing and people are just going nuts, asking questions, whether it’s good or bad.  Advice for the players would be to not pay attention to the media.  Put your head down, work hard.  The results are going to come if you work hard.”

Potter told us despite the team not being where anyone wants them to be right now, he think Coach Riley and his staff will do a great job.  He’s watching his former team, and hoping for the best.

You face hard times, you press on and you eventually come out of it.  You look back on an adventure in your life, and the good stands out, not the bad.

“My favorite memory is still always going to be the friendships I created with the guys down there,” said Potter.  “Obviously, we always wanted to win every, single game, but looking back now it’s those friendships you still have today you created back then.”

To end this, I’ll do what I do and tie it all together.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore tells Harry “it is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  Here’s a guy who had the physical makeup, had a gift for the game, and had opportunity.  Zach Potter worked hard on and off the field, delivered under pressure, and even today, is trying to give back to the community who helped shape him.  He’s also beginning a new phase of life as a daddy, welcoming his second child and first son the day our story aired on KETV.


Who knows.. we could be looking at another legendary Potter.  Baby Beckett weighed in at 9 pounds, 9 ounces.  No sign of any lightning bolts on his forehead, but word is, his black shirt is already on standby.


Photo courtesy zimbio.com

Click here to read Zach Potter’s full bio at Huskers.com!

Click here for more information on Big Red Recipes!

Click here for more information on Omaha’s Ronald McDonald House!


LAST WEEK.. Class of 1990, Lt. Gregg Barrios!

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 2003, Curt Tomasevicz!

Doctor’s Orders

It’s human nature.  When something’s wrong, you instinctively want to fix it.

Nebraska Football is 2-4 for the first time since Eisenhower was President. (My thanks to hilarious columnist Brad Dickson for that bit of trivia..)  Saturday night, I was in the audience at the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant and my friend Grady nudged me, showed me the score and whispered ‘WHY CAN’T WE FINISH A GAME?!?!’

When we lost over the final play against BYU, it was heartbreaking.  When we lost in OT against Miami, it was bad dejavu.  When we lost in the final moments against Illinois, it was annoying.  HOW DID IT HAPPEN AGAIN against Wisconsin?

If I’m frustrated as a fan, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE how guys like Tommy Armstrong and Coach Riley feel.  Maybe that’s why at least one former player isn’t judging, isn’t making assumptions.. he’s just giving his full support.


#4 Judd Davies, Nebraska Fullback 1999-2003

“A lot of things go into having a new staff, I’m definitely sympathetic to that,” Davies told KETV in a recent interview. “It’s easy to become frustrated and upset once you start having difficult games, but they’ve played extremely well, they’ve played close games, they’ve only lost by a number of points total between wins and losses.”

A glass half-full statement from a guy who’s been a longtime model of composure and maturity.  In the early 2000’s, Judd Davies was the hometown guy who delivered in Lincoln on and off the field.  He headed to Nebraska along with several other Millard North Mustangs (including Pat Ricketts and Eric Crouch), and took the Huskers to the 2001 national championship game.



As I wrote about last season (click here to read Brothers in Blue) I first met Davies through my longtime friend Jeff Nathan back when we were in college.  (Part of the same group, I should mention, so excited about Judd’s Rose Bowl touchdown they fell on an elderly woman seated in front of them in the stadium.)  I also had Davies in a speech class at UNL, where he presented an informative speech on how to run the option, and I found out that even at 245+ pounds of sheer muscle he was terrified of the movie Candyman. (Quoting Judd, “don’t even joke about that.”)

Back in those days, Judd Davies was a studious guy in the classroom, focused on his job as a student and his faith.  (Quick story, when KETV photojournalist Tyler White arrived for our interview, Davies still remembered him as a fellow member of Omaha’s Christ Community Church many years ago.)  Family and his close circle friends has also been priority for Davies, who married his longtime girlfriend, Tracy, the summer before his senior year at Nebraska.  It was a busy time for the Nebraska Team Captain, an Academic All-American who also earned the 2002 Brook Berringer Citizenship Award for the time he spent volunteering in his community and across the state.

special olympics

Davies taking part in a Special Olympics event, photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics.

12 years out, most of the stats, touchdowns and awards are a blur to Davies

“It’s really the relationships you remember as you get a little further out from it,” said Davies.  “You remember the coaches, the guys you played the same position with because you were with those guys every single day.”

And Davies remembers his awareness that someday, his football days would come to an end.  He was focused on his next step, medicine.

“I love it.  I always wanted to do something with surgery that I thought I would be able to treat conditions, to cure conditions,” said Davies.

After graduating from Nebraska, Davies studied at Vanderbilt before returning to Omaha to open his own private practice and work with Nebraska Medicine.  Dr. Judson Davies is now a respected urologist and surgeon across the Omaha area and beyond.


“Sometimes I sit down, people will look at me, look at my name on my jacket, then they’ll look back up and me and say ‘I swear, I remember you from somewhere,” said Davies.  But he’s quick to say that football connection doesn’t give him any special insight into today’s team or coaches.  When we first talked several weeks ago, hopes for the season were high with a new program, unknown to most Nebraska fans. When we circled back to Davies just last week, his opinions about the team were the same, even with a losing record.

“It’s about the process.  Don’t worry about where they’re at now.  You want to see improvement and the season is still very early,” said Davies.  “There’s a lot of room for them to grow and improve and hopefully they will.”

And Davies is excited about the guy playing his old spot, Andy Janovich, another Nebraska native just like Davies (Janovich is from Gretna.)


Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

“I think he’s doing a great job!” said Davies.  “If he would’ve played in a different era, in my era, he probably would’ve started ahead of me.  So I’m glad he wasn’t there when I was there or I might not have ever played!”

To players EVERYWHERE, Huskers, Mustangs and everyone else, this doctor has some solid advice.

“GO TO CLASS!” said Davies, looking right into the camera before laughing.  “But in all honesty, I’d say GO TO CLASS, GET A DEGREE.”

As for the 2015 Huskers, there may not be any universal fix.  Dr. Davies suggested treatment and prescription for success.. to learn from the experience itself.

“Those lessons you learn day in and day out, how to handle adversity, how to deal with poor performance and improvement and critical feedback, those are extremely valuable,” said Davies.  “You’re going to have lots of ups and downs in your career, business, personal and otherwise, but having the discipline to go through what they’ve gone through, you can’t duplicate that or replicate that anywhere else.”


Click here to read more about #4 Judd Davies via his bio from Nebraska Athletics.

Click here to visit Dr. Judson Davies’ website to learn more about his work with The Urology Center, PC.


Note from the author:

THANK YOU to Dr. Davies, his staff, and Nebraska Medicine (especially Jenny Nowatzke) for facilitating TWO interviews due to technical difficulties on our end. Your patience and time are MUCH appreciated!




Father Knows Best

It’s no small thing to be a collegiate athlete.  It takes hard work, focus, and to a certain extent, some degree of innate physical ability and talent.  One of my favorite quotes from my Superstar Co-Anchor Rob McCartney: ‘You can’t coach tall!’

(Side note.. Rob is a HUGE basketball fan and actually tried out for the Nebraska Cornhuskers as a walk-on ‘back in the day’.  Additional side note.. I missed the part of his story where he said he didn’t make the team and for awhile, just told people Rob played basketball for Nebraska.  Small mistake.)

A La Vista dad recognized early on in two of his children that his boys were gifted.  He knows what athleticism looks like.. because he saw it in his own reflection in the locker room at Memorial Stadium.


Curtis Cotton, now a father and Papillion Police officer, is also a proud member of the Class of 1991 with the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.

“I get that a lot,” Cotton said, when I asked him recently about being recognized as a Husker.  “‘I remember you!’ That’s the first thing they say as soon as I tell them, ‘hi, I’m Officer Cotton.'”


1991 huskers

It’s hard to see in this blurry image, but when Nebraska played Oklahoma in 1991, it was downright MISERABLE.  Fans throughout the stadium wore ponchos and rain gear, rain pooled all over the turf and every players’ breath was visible in the cold, fall air.  Still, THIS, was Cotton’s favorite game as a Husker.

“[It was] my senior year when we won a share of the Big Eight title,” said Cotton.  “It was at home against Oklahoma.  It was so cold and wet that day, but I don’t remember it after we sealed that win.  It was a great time.”

Check out this video of the game thanks to ArenaTeam on YouTube.  Players lifted Coach Tom Osborne onto their shoulders and carried him into the sea of fans rushing the field.  ABC broadcasters kept the final score graphic up over a shot of Husker fans climbing and shaking the goal posts, trying to bring it down.

1991 huskers FINAL

What a cool thing to watch, even via a grainy YouTube video.  Kick up the volume, and it’s enough to give any Husker fan chills.

While those days are no doubt special to Cotton, his adrenaline rushes these days stem from a different vantage point.

“I think I get more nervous when I’m about to watch my kids perform,” said Cotton.  “I get the butterflies in my stomach, my heart rate rises!”

Kenzo Cotton and KJ Cotton have both become something of high school legends in the Papillion-La Vista area.  Kenzo became an 8-time state track and field champion, claiming the 200M title all four years he competed.


He chose the University of Arkansas, and just months ago, earned a national championship as part of the 4X100M relay team.  Kenzo’s ultimate goal is to make the US Olympic team.  (Click here to follow Kenzo Cotton’s athletic career on Twitter!)

Click here to watch Andy Kendeigh’s story with Kenzo and Curtis Cotton in May 2012!


Photo courtesy JPC Photography

Kurtis ‘KJ’ Cotton is now a junior at Papillion-La Vista High School, also competing in track and field and playing on the varsity football team.  #9 (yes, wearing his dad’s number), has already made several highlight reels for the Monarchs this season with his speed and athleticism.  No word yet where he’s looking at for college, or if he intends to play college football like his dad.

Click here to watch KJ Cotton’s touchdown run during Papio-LV’s FIRST game of the season!

Kenzo told us back in 2012 he wanted to be just like his dad.  Curtis shared his parenting advice with us back then.

“I told him to try to stay humble,” he told KETV’s Andy Kendeigh.  “Big dreams, that is what being young is all about.  I remember those times when I dreamt the same way.  Hopefully they can come true for him.”

Three years later, Curtis Cotton is not only thinking of the sons following in his footsteps, but of today’s Huskers in the midst of a 2-3 season.

“Keep fighting,” Cotton said.  “[They] are going through a system change.  They’re all trying to perform for their new coaches, if they are new coaches.  They’re all trying to show they are worthy of being on the field.  It’s difficult to watch when you know that they’re struggling and they’re giving the best that they can give out there on the field, but at the same time, you want to see them keep fighting through it.  Man up, fight through it, get through it and don’t give up.”

Advice for anyone facing challenges, on or off the field.  I guess what they say is true; father does know best.

family picture