Tag Archive | throwback thursday

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.

Building A Legacy

“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

I LOVE this quote.  I first heard it from the movie The Sandlot (which is a MUST SEE if you haven’t..) and I’ve always held onto it, even naming my fledgling college video production company ‘Legend Productions’.  To me, it always meant to push harder, to do a little more, to build a legacy that will be extend long past your physical life.

This weekend on KETV Chronicle, our Rob McCartney interviewed coach, Congressman, athletic director and mentor Dr. Tom Osborne.  He is a Hall of Fame college football coach, one of the most respected in the history of the game.  He won his congressional district with an astounding 83-percent of the vote.  He stepped in to the Nebraska Athletics’ office at a time of fan unrest and turmoil and ‘righted the ship’ according to many sports experts.

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But when Rob asked  ‘T.O.’ how he would define a successful life, Osborne said he hoped to be defined by the relationships created through the Teammates mentoring program he founded, not just by what was accomplished on the football field.

” That ripple effect on down through history is your legacy,” Osborne told Rob. “Trophies tarnish, rings get thrown in the trash can and records, if you think about it, who was a great coach 90-years ago?  You hear a few names but you don’t remember those guys anymore, and that’ll be the same thing with me and other people.  But that ripple effect, the influence you had on people, that will continue on down through many generations.”

CLICK HERE to watch Rob McCartney’s exclusive interview with Dr. Tom Osborne on KETV Chronicle.

Rob has interviewed Osborne numerous times throughout the years, developing mutual respect and friendship through that relationship, and this answer stood out for Rob and many of us who watched Chronicle.  Of everything Dr. Tom Osborne has accomplished, MENTORING is one of the things he’s proudest of.

She may separated by distance, time and experience from Osborne.. but that desire to make an impact on people is mutual for 16-year old Grace Heggem.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Spending time with a child even just once a week and getting to know them can really inspire them to set and achieve goals of their own,” Grace told me recently.  She’s promoting mentoring across Scottsbluff as Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, after an experience with a classmate two years ago.

“One of the girls in my class had confessed to us that she had been depressed lately and the previous weekend had suicidal thoughts,” said Grace.  “She said that that week I had come up and talked to her and that simple act had made her feel like someone cared and was one of the reasons she was still here.  I immediately broke down and later realized the impact simple acts can have.  Sometimes all people need is to know that someone cares.”

And it was a mentor who led Grace to the path she is currently on to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Her childhood babysitter was Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan, who encouraged her to try a pageant when Grace was 13.

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“I loved it!” said Grace.  “The entire process is a great confidence booster and the interview/people skills can really be beneficial in the future.  These pageants bring about personal development.  I have seen for myself the positive changes they bring about for young women.  I’ts not always about the end result, it’s about who you become in the process.”

 Grace is quick to note she’s not just a ‘pageant queen’.  She is president of the sophomore class at Scottsbluff High School, vice president of Key Club (focusing on community service), a member of National Honor Society, she plays varsity volleyball, she’s involved in her school’s upcoming musical, she’s a dancer and she plays piano.

Grace credits her work ethic, the ‘5am-6pm way of life’ as she calls it, to her parents, a quality she says would make her a great state representative.

“I am diverse and involved in a wide variety of activities which makes me personable and able to reach a greater amount of people in my state,” said Grace.  “My grandpa is a rancher so I understand and can definitely appreciate that major element of what makes Nebraska.  As my dad is the owner of a construction business, I understand the value of hard work.”

That family unit is also Grace’s top priority.

“My mom is my number one supporter no matter what, my best friend, and the person I laugh with the most,” said Grace.  “My dad has always supported me in everything I did and always encourages me.  My brothers are my best buds whether we’re watching football, laughing, or even arguing.  Growing up with three brothers, I never played with barbies or dolls because we were too busy playing with Nerf guns or wrestling. (I totally won by the way.)”

Neither pageants nor any other outside influence is likely to change those core values for Grace, who notes her biggest role model is Duck Dynasty star and devout Christian Sadie Robertson.

“I really respect her because she’s in a business where her values aren’t necessarily prevalent but she still stays true to them,” said Grace.  “She is different but she embraces it and by doing this inspires others to not be afraid to be themselves either.  That is something I definitely admire and try to do myself.”

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And whether Grace Heggem is signing autographs or volunteering for the Children’s Miracle Network, she hopes to inspire her fellow pageant contestants (the girls she now calls her friends), to join her in the mission SHE embraces.

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“If I were to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen I would like to create a mentoring program using our Nebraska titleholders!” said Grace.  “Pageant queens absolutely have the potential to be mentors in their communities.  It’s crazy to me how a little girl’s eyes light up when they see and talk to a ‘princess’ with a crown on her head.’

And while Grace Heggem has a lot to be proud of.. being featured in her local paper, playing piano for crowds of hundreds, being elected a leader by her fellow students and peers.. that impact through mentoring is the legacy she wants to leave behind.

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Tom Osborne’s players have gone on to do amazing things (CLICK HERE to read a few in my Throwback Thursday Husker series!).  Those young men, and the people Osborne mentored have passed on those life lessons to their children, and kids THEY’VE mentored.  If the little girl smiling above with Grace goes on to mentor someone, and SHE goes on to mentor someone, that cycle of positive influence will continue long beyond what two people remember; it becomes a legacy.  That is Grace Heggem’s goal on her way to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.. the sparkly crown is just a bonus.

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Grace Heggem

on FACEBOOK, and on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT GRACE?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * Amazing Grace

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

For more information about the Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kyla Ansley at 308-631-0938 or by email at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.  You can also email thirtyone.hayes@yahoo.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’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold!

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County 2016 Savannah Rave!

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!

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.

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#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.

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Seriously?!?

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.

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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.

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(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!)

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

NEXT WEEK.. Class of 1982, Dave Rimington!

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!

Time For Kickoff

We are now just DAYS AWAY from a new Husker Football season.

2015 is no ordinary year.. we have a new head coach, a new mentality, a new style.  We lost powerhouse players like Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, but will see new faces like true freshman Dedrick Young, awarded his blackshirt just this week.

A new chapter will be written in the storied history that is Nebraska Football.  Every Thursday, I get to flip back a few pages (or more) and check in with the ‘legends’ of seasons past.

IT’S TIME FOR THROWBACK THURSDAY.

Like last year, I’m hoping to dabble in as many eras of Husker football as possible.  We’ll talk to guys hoping to continue playing in the NFL, guys who pursued other talents after graduation, and guys who built the foundation for decades of moments to come at Memorial Stadium.  This has been one of my FAVORITE series to put together in my career here at KETV, and I can’t wait for another season!  (To see who we featured in the 2014 season, CLICK HERE, or click the Throwback Thursday index tab at the top of the page!)

Who better to kick off 2015 then arguably THE BEST kicker in NCAA history?!?!

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#90 ALEX HENERY

Photo courtesy Huskers.com

Alex Henery, Nebraska’s place kicker/punter who played for the team from 2006-2010, set records not only at Nebraska, but in the college football history books.  He only missed EIGHT FIELD GOALS HIS ENTIRE CAREER.

Think about that for a second… HIS ENTIRE CAREER.

The Omaha Burke grad with the golden foot finished college with an accuracy rate of 89.5%, topping the previous NCAA record of 87.8%.  One kick in particular is STILL in Nebraska record books for longest field goal, a moment that set the college football world on FIRE.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON ALEX HENERY!

Nebraska was playing rival Colorado to close out the 2008 regular season.  The Buffaloes had just scored a touchdown, putting them up 31-30.  With less than 2 minutes on the clock and a looming 4th down, Coach Bo Pelini called in Henery.

My husband was on the sidelines shooting the game, so I was watching alone at home.  I remember I was putting away laundry, and heard the announcer say Henery was coming in… that his field goal attempt would be from 57 yards out.

WHAT?!?! 57 YARDS?!?!

I put down the laundry basket, and clung to our dog, Mack, watching to see what would happen.

“The big thing I remember is standing out on mid-field,” Henery told me recently.  “There was a commercial break, Jake Wesch looked at me and said, ‘you’re gonna be famous after this.’ I said, ‘right..'”

Do you remember?!? Click here to watch it all over again, thanks to HuskerAddict!

#37 knew what he was talking about.  The kick went in.  The announcers, 85,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and football fans all over the COUNTRY were in awe.  Nebraska won the game.

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Photo courtesy Spokeo.com

“Everyone I talk to, that’s the main thing they talk about,” said Henery.  “They know where they were, who they were high-fiving, and it’s fun to hear people’s stories.”

That one moment was a preview of the consistency and reliability Alex Henery provided for Nebraska. Husker fans reached a point that we knew if Henery was in, the Huskers would put up another 3 points, no questions asked.

That is part of what fuels Henery’s message to this year’s kickers and special teams players at Nebraska.

“Come through in the clutch; that’s all that matters,” said Henery.  “I think the coaches coming in, sounds like they’re great and the guys are buying in.”

He’ll be watching from his hometown of Omaha this season… maybe. After three years playing for the Eagles and Lions, Henery is now an NFL free agent, meaning his phone could ring (and has) at anytime, sending him to tryouts across the country.  In fact, Henery and I had to reschedule our initial interview because he was in Pittsburgh trying out with the Steelers.  Henery was at a charity golf tournament in Omaha when he got the call.

“Had to stop golfing and catch a flight out of town to make the tryouts,” Henery said.  Unfortunately this time around, Henery didn’t get the job.  We talked a little about the differences between college and the pros.. Henery credits great holders and snappers at Nebraska, and notes the business culture of professional football versus the fan adoration and fun many players have in college.

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His biggest fans are always waiting for him back in Omaha, his beautiful wife, Johna, and sweet little Landen, who just turned one year old.  How cool will it be for that kid to try on the jerseys hanging in the closet (the Burke High jersey right next to Nebraska and Philadelphia), to look at all of his dad’s plaques and awards from his years as a Husker, and to read all of the cards and newspaper clippings his dad kept as keepsakes?

“College was good to me and I have many good moments to look back on,” said Henery.

#90 Alex Henery courtesy Huskers.com and Nebraska Athletics

Photo courtesy Huskers.com

For more on #90 Alex Henery, CLICK HERE to read his official bio from Nebraska Athletics.

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NEXT WEEK… CLASS OF 2008 JOE GANZ!

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.

me and bo

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

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

COACH TENOPIR

From 1974 to 2003, Offensive Line Coach Milt Tenopir sure knew a lot.

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

ZERO PENALTIES. ALL SEASON.

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

pipeline

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

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

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

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

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

“Coach Osborne was in our locker room before you could even get your clothes off to shower, he was not a happy camper,” remembers Tenopir.  “He wanted change, and he got change.  We ended up winning 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.

091507-USCNeb-MemorialStadium

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.

Hail To The Chief

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

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

john mccormick

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

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

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

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

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

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

87 nu ok

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

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

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

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

January 20, 2014 was no exception.

international nutrition collapse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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