Tag Archive | andy kendeigh

Hello

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“Hey, are you the news lady?”

“I USED to be the news lady.  Now I work for you!”

Hello.  My name is Brandi.  Welcome to my life on the other side.

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Photo courtesy Mitch Francis

This job at Westside has allowed me to continue to share stories as I had for years at KETV, while shifting the spotlight to the students, teachers and programs making a difference in District 66. I have absolutely loved working with the aspiring journalists like the two you see above who are learning in the Westside High journalism department.  I LOVE seeing the excitement in our teachers and coaches when their students, teams and ideas get attention from one of our local stations.  And I have been so inspired to see the pride in this District as more and more, all of these wonderful things are shared with people throughout our city and beyond.

I get asked quite a bit.. do I miss KETV?  For sure.. I miss the people.  Many of my former colleagues were also my extended family.  I miss Kristyna making me laugh so hard I cried.  I miss Andy and Rob trying to make me crack up during commercial breaks.  I won’t be there when Fry brings in that beautiful, perfect baby boy.  I miss my people.

I also miss storytelling.  I think there’s a perception that everyone on TV does it to be on camera.. FALSE.  I DON’T miss that.  You’ll often catch me in my office at Westside with my hair in a pony tail, no lipstick, and if I’m lucky, taking advantage of a casual Friday in jeans and a Warriors pullover.  I would argue that most journalists entered the field to WRITE.  To share powerful stories.  To channel a creative fire in our hearts into this crazy thing called journalism.

With that… HELLO! And welcome back to Anchor’s Away, the blog I created to share stories that pique my interest, inspire me, and that I hope inspire you to make our world a better place.  My hopes to continue Throwback Thursday this football season came to a screeching halt as I focused on my responsibilities at Westside and my #1 priority as momma and wife at home.  Now approaching 6 months in to my new reality, I welcome you to my Grand ReOpening of sorts.. with my 4th year of There She Is profiles leading up to this year’s Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant and a new feature, Nebraska, showcasing some truly phenomenal people across our state. My good friend and photojournalist Dave Hynek and I have spent the last several weeks producing 9 profiles, focusing on Northeast Nebraska, and it has been a project that truly, left me speechless.

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One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Do more of what makes you happy.’  Happiness is my children laughing. Happiness is a big glass of wine with Grey’s Anatomy and Project Runway queued up on the DVR.  Happiness is a spring baseball game with my husband at my side.  Happiness is uncontrollable laughter with my girlfriends.  And Happiness is sitting in the quiet of night, after my boys are asleep, and WRITING.

Last year, this blog reached 128,000 views and 86,000 readers.  THAT BLOWS MY MIND.  Thank you, and thanks for coming back to Anchor’s Away.

Let’s Dance

First off, a HUGE congratulations to Omaha teen Tharein Potuhera, the 14-year old who is one of only 45 students in America to make it to the finals of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee.  This guy is AWESOME, not only representing our city and his school, St. Wenceslaus, but drawing smiles and thumbs-up nationwide with his signature ‘dab’ on stage.

Learn more about Tharein and his awesome moves here!

When we saw this last night.. my co-anchor Rob knew what Tharein was doing.  So did sports superstar Andy Kendeigh.  Our chief meteorologist Bill Randby even had the moves down.

Really.. Rob and Andy are crazy awesome–just watch!

Thanks to KETV viewer Paloma Power for tweeting that… and reminding me I HAVE NO MOVES.  NONE.  Really.. what happened that in my formative years that led to my body just crumbling in on itself whenever I try to move with grace and style?

I digress.. GREAT JOB, Tharein!!! We are SO very impressed by your intelligence AND personality.. and I personally am once again in awe of anyone with ‘the moves’, teens like Gering’s Sheridan Blanco, who will be showcasing her talent in front of hundreds of people in just a few short weeks.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Sheridan is a sophomore dance team member at Gering High School, and she’s also Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2016.

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From the Miss Alliance/Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Oustanding Teen Pageant Facebook Page on November 29,2015: We are so proud to introduce our new titleholder-Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen, Sheridan Blanco!’

Within days, Sheridan was taking part in community events, braving the elements for the Alliance Christmas Parade with her fellow titleholder, Cherokee Purviance, Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen.

Just weeks later, Sheridan and Cherokee were volunteering again, judging a cupcake contest for an Alliance Girl Scouts group.

Winning a local title almost meant Sheridan was eligible to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, which includes fitness, interview, evening gown and talent.

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From the Miss Alliance/Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Oustanding Teen Pageant Facebook Page on April 2, 2016: ‘Great day prepping for #MNOTeen!’

 The talent portion is no problem for Sheridan.. in addition to her dance background, she’s also a member of the POMS team, choir and band at Gering High.

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The Bulldogs dance squad not only performs; they also volunteer in the community, an effort going hand-in-hand with Sheridan’s new role as Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s OT.  No doubt they’ll be cheering her on as she heads to North Platte to compete in June, along with her THREE beautiful sisters!

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One nicknamed her ‘Baby Sista’ in a Facebook post.. her friends call her ‘Sher-Bear’.  Sheridan Blanco hopes you get to know her as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.. and whenever her name is called, she’s got some GREAT moves to celebrate the moment!

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For more information about the Miss Alliance’s OT/Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s OT/Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Melinda Cullan by phone at 308-710-5593, or by email at maot.alliance@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Brianna Little!

NEXT.. SPECIAL FEATURE: Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

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.

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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.

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#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.

Jack-Hoffman

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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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(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

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

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.

#NerdAlert.

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.

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#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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 2003, Curt Tomasevicz!

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.

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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.'”

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY HUSKER FEATURE ON #9 CURTIS COTTON!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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WEEK FIVE.. CLASS OF 1970 JERRY MURTAUGH!

NEXT WEEK.. CLASS OF 2003 DR. JUDD DAVIES!

The (Shocking) Season 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 in our final 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.  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.

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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

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.

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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 nine 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 ten 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 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 were not perfect but 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 currently 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 this season’s 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, Brenden 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, even hugging a woman working in the athletic department.  11 years out from his retirement from coaching and he’s still beloved in Husker Nation.

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Something has been verified for me time and time again 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 in Nebraska.  It’s 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 this blog post and on the 2014 season, we are pursuing another developing story.  Tomorrow, Husker Nation will welcome in new Head Football coach Mike Riley.

A new era of Nebraska Football is about to begin.

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-hour 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 9-3 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.”

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

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 is 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!