Tag Archives: University of Nebraska

Saying Goodbye to Lawrence Phillips

“In life, either you did or you didn’t.” – Lawrence Phillips

Lawrence Phillips Funeral Program

The program for Phillips’ service. You can see it in full here

The decision to attend the funeral service for Lawrence Phillips was an easy one, based in a sense of belief and obligation.

Belief in that I sincerely feel there’s a higher power at work behind the curtain those dozen or so Saturdays a year when the Huskers take the field and a million people around the world wear red and soar or languish with every snap. As someone who is not openly spiritual or religious, going to church has been relegated to weddings, funerals, and baptisms. If you know where to look, the solace, guidance, and inspiration sought within the walls of a church can be found all around you.

And the obligation was to those who wanted to attend but couldn’t. I felt it was my turn to help be the glue that sticks Husker fans together in all kinds of weather.

Honestly, the most difficult part of deciding to go was hunting down the right tie to wear. There’s no question that it had to be red but finding one in the proper shade and style turned out to be a quandary in itself. Part of Friday night was spent at Macy’s carefully examining every single red hued tie on display. In the end, a deep red one that wasn’t quite into Oklahoma territory won out over a tie in the proper shade of scarlet but had silver stripes that were definitive enough to make an impartial college football fan think Ohio State.

Thanks to the unpredictable nature of LA traffic, I allotted an hour and a half to make the 37 mile drive to the service in San Dimas, an eastern suburb just a few miles from the football field at Baldwin Park High that was the launching pad to send Phillips’ life on a much different trajectory than what anyone would ever have predicted if they had to guess his future when he was 12-years-old and living alone on the streets of South LA.

I arrived in under an hour and didn’t know what to expect. By local standards, it was a dreary winter day. The San Gabriel Mountains that would normally serve as an impressive backdrop for Christ’s Church of the Valley were muted by a cold grey sky. Snow covered peaks slicing through the low clouds were a stark contrast to the palm trees dotting the immediate landscape.

After signing the guest book, I entered the nave and found a crowd of a few dozen of his friends, family, and teammates grouped around the casket that was front and center. Those of us who didn’t fit into any of those categories gravitated towards seats a respectful distance away.

Many of the former Huskers I spotted looked like they could still challenge for the top of the depth chart today. Others had become regular guys who’d blend in with the dads at a neighborhood barbecue, their imposing statures becoming more approachable over the years but their stories would always remain more impressive than yours.

As the service drew closer to starting, the crowd steadily swelled to well over 150. At one moment the silence was broken by a small burst of hushed chatter and turning heads when Tom Osborne and George Darlington entered.

That was as grand as their arrival would get. There was no fanfare or elaborate introduction for two legendary coaches who flew in that morning to pay their final respects to one of the best players they ever coached. They selected seats directly across the aisle from me far from where any VIP section would be. One of the most significant figures in Nebraska’s entire history was now sitting less than three yards and a cloud of dust away from a rank and file member of Husker Nation.

I instantly sat up even straighter.

(And I couldn’t help but notice the silver stripes that crossed Darlington’s tie, settling that protocol question.)

Tom Osborne can have that kind of effect on a person. It’s a measure of respect on an entirely different plane than being a starstuck, adoring fan.

The last time I was in the same room as Coach was when he announced his retirement on December 10, 1997. He still looked the same. Just a little older like we all do. Even if I didn’t have a beard that was bracketed in swaths of grey, I doubt he’d recognize me as the budding sports reporter from KRNU who’d be posted up at the back of the room grazing over the spread that was a staple at his weekly press conferences.

Like the players he coached, I have always found him to be a great role model in the way he quietly persevered and carried himself in his conviction for doing what he thought was the right thing. I learned a lot from him just by covering his press conferences as a student. He will never get enough credit for his wit or his ability to effortlessly work a room.

The service was a two hour celebration and remembrance of the life that Lawrence lived as wide range of speakers took to the lectern to share their favorite memories. He packed a lot into his 40 years.

While those who are avid readers of scandalous headlines might try to argue that Lawrence failed, there is absolutely no question that he was someone who lived his life as someone who did.

A person just don’t go from being a homeless middle school dropout to earning a college scholarship en route to becoming a top ten pick in the NFL draft without overcoming very long odds.

The legacy Lawrence Phillips leaves behind will always be conflicted and complicated but if there’s one thing everyone can rally behind, it’s the idea of staying true to your friends and doing all you can to give real help to those who need it most. When others are giving up, it’s time to dig in.

Not long after the service ended, I headed back home. The familiar voice of Kent Pavelka kept me company for the ninety minute drive drive west as he called the action of a Husker basketball game. Even during this very low moment, the pulse of Husker Nation continued to beat strong.

It was such a comfort that I listened all the way through the post-game interviews.

__________________________

Many of those closest to Lawrence Phillips spoke at his service and shared their favorite memories and stories. What follows are fresh insights into his life and quotes from those who spoke.

HE SCARRED OPPOSING COACHES FOR LIFE.

Pastor Dane Johnson, service officiant: Johnson is also a football coach and during Phillips’ time at Baldwin Park High, he was the head coach at a rival school and reminisced about the first time he coached against Phillips.

“He ran down our sidelines and one of our players got a pretty good lick on him and he ended up down at my feet. As I reached down to pick him up I said ‘Welcome to the Sierra League.’ He started laughing and smiled and chuckled his way all the way back to the huddle and another 180 yards.”

HIS REASON FOR CHOOSING NEBRASKA WAS SIMPLE BUT LOGICAL.

Ty Pagone, Baldwin Park High assistant principal:  Pagone was closely involved with the Baldwin Park High football program and helped Phillips through the college recruiting process, hosting visits for his top three schools (USC, Arizona State, and Nebraska) at his home.

“The quietest one was Coach Osborne. He sat there with his arms folded and Lawrence asked one question. ‘Who wears number one?’ and Coach Osborne said, ‘You will.’

Not long after meeting with Osborne, Phillips made his decision to play for Nebraska.

“I asked Lawrence, ‘What made you choose Nebraska?’

“They had the right answer. I was going to wear number one, their linemen were gigantic, I’ve never seen anything like it, and the community was certainly dedicated to football in Lincoln, Nebraska. Plus, Tom Osborne said I didn’t have to go in to beat the man which was sensible. Coach Osborne says you’ll be fighting for second team. And our second team guys usually rush for 700 yards or so if they’re any good.”

HE WAS A RELENTLESS WORKER AND GREAT FRIEND TO OTHERS AT HIS GROUP HOME.

Thomas Penegar, Phillips’ best friend at the Tina Mac Group Home and a teammate at Baldwin Park High: “Lawrence was a person who’d get up early in the morning while everyone was asleep and head to the elementary school right down the street from the group home. He would do 100 yard sprints and pull ups before going to school. ‘That’s how you get good, Tom.’  I didn’t believe that was what he was doing. I just knew he was going to a girl’s house. One morning I waited for him to leave and I went to see if he was working out. And he was. Hard.”

“For myself being raised in Watts I didn’t attend school because of hunger, clothes, and shoes. I was pretty much illiterate when I arrived at the home. I remember, I asked Lawrence why he had a ‘P’ and not an ‘F’ in his last name. ‘He said p-h makes the f sound.‘ Not once did he laugh or make fun of me.”

HE NEVER BLAMED ANYONE FOR HIS ACTIONS.

Clinton Childs, fellow Nebraska running back: “Lawrence and I had a bond that will never be broken. I always had his back one hundred percent. The common denominator is misunderstood. He was misunderstood. Lawrence touched a lot of people. ”

“He never pointed the finger. No matter what the media said about him. He took every shot on the chin. He never pointed the finger. He absorbed a lot for 40 years. He absorbed it all. He took it on the chin and he rolled with it.”

HE WAS THE ULTIMATE TEAM PLAYER AND WAS THRILLED FOR THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS.

George Darlington, defensive assistant coach for 30 seasons at Nebraska and the lead recruiter of Phillips: “One of the things that is going to be said all day is the tremendous consistency of Lawrence Phillips. The tremendous team player of Lawrence Phillips. I get so sick and tired of watching television and see these jokers pounding their fists and try to have the focus on them. Well, that’s diametrically opposite of Lawrence Phillips.”

“Lawrence Phillips is as fine of an example as we’ve ever had at the University of Nebraska as a team player. He cared about the team and wasn’t in it for him.”

Darlington closed his speech by telling a story about the 2014 reunion of the 1994 championship team. He regularly corresponded with Phillips and wrote to him asking if there was anything he’d want passed a long to his teammates.

“He wrote in a letter ‘It was so great that Schlesinger got to score those two touchdowns and I kind of got blasted carrying out the fake. Just think how much Cory and the other fullbacks blocked for us.’ He didn’t say blocked for me. He was just a tremendous, unbelievable model of the kind of guy you wanted on your team.”

HE LOVED HIS BIG FAMILY.

Arzelle Dupree, Uncle: “Lawrence was one of those kids who got along with everybody. I am so proud of my nephew.”

HE WAS A SUPPORTIVE AND GENEROUS TEAMMATE

Vershan Jackson, teammate at Nebraska:  “We logged a lot of hours walking as freshman. We logged a lot of hours talking.  And one day Lawrence said ‘Why are you always waking with your head down?’ And I said ‘I don’t know.’ He said ‘There ain’t nothing down but the ground.’ I call him my best friend and there are a lot of guys here who are his best friend too. He breathed confidence in me. He breathed strength in me.”

“LP was the most generous person I know. When he got drafted to go to St. Louis, he said ‘VJ you can have everything in my apartment and my car. You can have it all.’ I look back on my life and I ask myself, do I do that to other people? Would I do it? Can I do it?”

“When we get an opportunity to touch someone’s life, like Lawrence Phillips touched my life when I was an 18-year-old kid, and I’m 40 now, it’s truly amazing. Don’t miss your opportunity.”

EVERYONE COULD SEE THAT HE WAS SPECIAL ON THE FIELD.

Tina McElhannon, Tina Mac Group Home: “I went to one of the games. (My sister Barbara), she put the kids in everything she could put them in. We went to Baldwin Park and Lawrence was playing and I’m one of the people who when they watch I worry that the kids will get hurt. And Barbara said ‘Don’t worry about it. He’s going to be just fine.’ Then this kid goes racing down the field and I said ‘Who is that, Superman?’ and Barbara said ‘No, that’s Lawrence Phillips.’

HIS COACH’S FAVORITE GAME WASN’T ONE THAT WON A CHAMPIONSHIP

Coach Tom Osborne: Coach still has his knack for working a room. He started off with a small quip (as always) that got a nice laugh from those in attendance. He thanked Ty Pagone for calling him an excellent recruiter and added, “I didn’t say anything. I just told Lawrence he could wear number one. Actually, I think I knew it was open that year.”

He went then through of list of those he reached out to to get a remark about Lawrence. The names included Boyd Epley, Frank Solich, Doak Ostergard, Dennis Leblanc, and Jack Stark. They each had something wonderful to say.

In his typical style, Coach was doing everything he could to not make his moment at the podium about him. His only game story about Lawrence didn’t involve any that resulted in a championship or featured anything particularly highlight worthy.

Kansas State. 1994. A downright miserable day in Manhattan, KS, and with Tommie Frazier out and Brook Berringer injured, it was up to Lawrence to shoulder the load.

“Our top two quarterbacks were hurt so we weren’t going to throw the ball much that day and K-State had 11 guys within about five yards of the line of scrimmage. We gave the ball to Lawrence 30 times. And it was tough going. Probably three, four yards at a crack.  And he was playing with a thumb that was so swollen that he couldn’t grip the ball. It was about four or five times the normal size and very painful so he carried the ball with one hand and he kept hitting that line.”

He closed by speaking about the last time he he saw Phillips.

“Paul Koch and I visited Lawrence in prison. Spent about an hour with him and during that time Lawrence smiled for the whole hour.
He was very upbeat. Never did anything negative come out of his mouth. He didn’t put anyone down and blame anybody. I came away from that particular visit thinking maybe I’d lift his spirits and I have to say that, actually, Lawrence lifted my spirits more than I was able to lift his spirits.”

“There were a great number of people who cared about him and stood by him through thick and thin and that love will be endured forever.”

Pastor Daryl Sanders, a volunteer at the Tina Mac Group Home: “I met him when he was 12-years-old and had just come into the home. We were having a competition and I saw muscles come out of Lawrence that I had never seen before the age of 12. I said this man is really a specimen.”

HE WAS A VOLUNTEER FOOTBALL COACH.

Sharon Pritchett, Aunt: Lawrence’s Aunt told a story about how he visited her and her daughter in North Carolina. She didn’t specify the exact place or time but Lawrence spent that fall working as a volunteer coach at the nearby traditionally black college working with the running backs.

“Reach out and touch someone with you can. Make this world a better place.”

HIS STRONG WORK ETHIC CONTINUED TO THE NFL.

Toby Wright, teammate at Nebraska and St. Louis: “Lawrence’s work ethic was unbearable. To see Lawrence work was to to see Lawrence as the person he was today. Everything he did he went 100. He went 100 as a good friend. He went 100 as a football player. He went 100 to everything he loved.”

“I remember we were driving to one of the games He said one thing to me. He turned down the radio and said T-riggity. ‘You know what I found out. In life, either you did or your didn’t. And then he turned up the music back up.”

HE PROTECTED HIS TEAMMATES.

Paul Koch, strength coach at Nebraska from 1987 – 1996: Koch was a frequent correspondent with Phillips and used his time to eulogize his friend by showing how his initials of LP could describe who he was as a person.

An example: “Lasting Protector. A young teammate blew out his knee and was on crutches in the team locker room.  Some older teammates were hazing the freshman where they grab you and throw you in the wet showers and give you a rough time. Well, someone wanted to take the injured youngster’s crutches from him and toss them in the showers but Lawrence quickly stood between them and said no one’s touching him. That was the end of that. He had a soft spot for the weak and defenseless.”

KEEP BACKING HIM UP AND HE’LL STILL FIND A WAY TO SCORE.

Tony Zane, Head Coach at Baldwin Park High: Coach Zane told a story of coaching Lawrence in an all-star game in Hawaii. His next stop was Nebraska and Coach Zane said he’d promised George Darlington that he’d honor his request and not play Lawrence at running back to reduce the chance of injury. (In high school he was also a standout linebacker.) A series of fumbles (and Lawrence’s insistence) caused that promise to be broken by halftime. Midway through the third quarter, Lawrence became to only player Coach Zane ever heard of to make it to the end zone three times in a row on the same drive.

It’s first and 10 at their opponent’s 16 yard line, Lawrence runs left and goes right past a Samoan lineman (who went on to start at BYU) and scores.

But there’s a penalty flag.

They run the same play from the 26 and Lawrence jukes the same lineman before reaching the end zone again.

But there’s another flag.

From the 36 they run the same play for a third time and this time Lawrence runs straight over the lineman, his signature move when he was upset, and sprints to the end zone.

The same ref goes to throw a flag again but wasn’t in his pocket.

“One of my players probably picked it up,” said Coach Zane to big laughs.

 

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I Was the Cheese in a Peter Brothers Sandwich

With a tale as improbable as one that finds yourself trapped between nearly 600 pounds of caged fury known as the Peter Brothers, you just can’t start with “That one time…”

It needs some proper backstory. So let’s set the table.

Twenty years ago today, the Huskers played their home opener against Arizona State. 77,418 fans packed in to Memorial Stadium to witness the carnage as the Huskers piled up 686 yards of total offense en route to a 77-28 victory that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Nebraska went to the locker room at halftime up 63-21.

After starting their season on the road against Oklahoma State and a Nick Saban coached Michigan State, it was a much needed welcome home for the Big Red. Following their 50 – 10 blowout in East Lansing, running back Lawrence Phillips was arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend which turned out to be his first major step on a long and winding road that would end in prison. Nebraska didn’t miss Phillips’ absence in the backfield as Clinton Childs and true freshman Ahman Green each racked up over 100 yards rushing and combined for three touchdowns.

While they didn’t make much of a ripple at the time, players of note that day for the Sun Devils were quarterback Jake Plummer, wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa (you might know him best as the Old Spice Guy), and linebacker Pat Tillman.

Also in attendance that day was this guy. I was working my very first game as a Sports Director for 90.3 KRNU.

If you’ve never caught the signal around Lincoln or listened online (hello, future!), KRNU is the official radio station of UNL that’s run by broadcasting students under the very patient guidance of legendary professor Rick Alloway.

To give students the experience of working at a “real” radio station, KRNU’s programming back then was a little bit of everything and on fall Saturdays it wasn’t uncommon for the station to segue from playing the likes of Mercy Rule and Throwing Muses to becoming the Mighty Sports 90 for a few hours.

Being a Sports Director was one of two prestigious positions at the station. While the Music Directors were plied with free CDs and concert tickets, our perks were rectangles of card stock and an elastic string known as the press pass.

To this day, it boggles me how much access the Athletic Department and Journalism School gives to its students. Even with the Huskers in the midst of the greatest run college football has ever known, us dopey kids were treated the same as the rest of the working media all the way down to having our own booth atop the press box, which back then wasn’t the sleek, shining jewel that you see today.

Our little cube of Memorial Stadium real estate wasn’t much more than a tree house built from plywood and corrugated metal that would be right at home in the Diepsloot area of Johannesburg. Couple the lack of structural integrity with a lack of windows and we’d either swelter or shiver our way through broadcasts.

But we never complained. We got to talk Husker football and watch the best team in history from an incredible vantage point just barely to the right of the 50-yard-line. Lunch (plus dessert at halftime) was a catered affair and if you weren’t on the mic for a game broadcast, you’d watch the finish from the sidelines so you could get a head start on getting set up for recording the post-game press conference as part of our duties for the Huskers Sports Service.

Husker Sports Service… sounds impressive doesn’t it?

To help media from around the country gain access to sound bites, the “Husker Sports Service” would make selected clips available, not for downloading but recording, as in with a tape player. Don’t forget, the internet was still a novelty back then.

After recording a press conference, we’d use state-of-the-art Audio Wizard software to chop up a few choice soundbites from coaches and players that we’d then transfer onto Fidelipacs which would then be plugged into a refrigerator sized machine that was connected to the Husker Hotline, a series of telephone numbers that media could dial-in to and record sound bites to use for their own radio shows.

Basically, it was a lot of work to do what could be handled with an iPhone and a Twitter account today.

A few minutes after the Huskers and Sun Devils left the field, Coach Osborne opened the press conference with a story about Kenny Cheatham blaming his muffed punt return on a nasty case of pink eye that was affecting his vision. He got a lot of laughs and was off and running. One thing TO never gets enough credit for is just how funny he is.

Since we were just there to record the thing, we’d usually hang in the back and let the big dogs in the “real media” like Tom Shatel, Lee Barfknecht, and a young gun named Steve Sipple ask the questions. We knew it was a privilege to be in the same room so we always did our best to not draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.

I found a spot on a couch in the back and soaked up the excitement of being at my first press conference. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice the eclipse until it was too late.

If you’ve ever watched a shark attack survivor tell their tale during Shark Week, many of them will say the only warning was how the  water around them suddenly shifted a split second before a shark clamped down.

So there I was, on that couch minding my own business when my field of vision suddenly went dark. I looked up and saw the silhouette of something massive blocking out a stand up light. It pointed towards me and promptly plopped down on the open space to my right.

Holy shit.

It was Jason Peter. Before I could even process what was happening, his big brother Christian claimed the seat to my left.

They were both still wearing their uniform pants and were completely drenched in sweat and blood in varying states of dryness. Base layers didn’t exist back then so they both wore chopped up grey cotton t-shirts that had soaked to a few shades darker.

They were two of the biggest humans I had ever seen. They didn’t say word. They just snarled, rumbled, and shook as if they were getting ready to play a fifth quarter.

Meanwhile, I just hoped they didn’t notice the wet spot forming in the crotchal region of my brand new Eddie Bauer khakis. My first day on my job was going to be my last because two of the baddest dudes to ever wear Blackshirts were going to eat me.

There was no way I was going to survive this.

I was more terrified than Ripley was when she met the alien in Aliens 3 except I had two beasts breathing down my neck. I just tried my best not to twitch and wondered where I went so wrong in my soon-be-over 19 year-old life that I found myself sitting in the Daisy Duke seat sandwiched between a pair of future NFL players.

The closest thing to social media back in 1995 was the phone book. All you knew about a Husker player was what you saw on the field or after the game. In the case of the Peter Brothers, they murdered the opposition and then they talked about how they carried out those murders. That’s all that the world knew about those guys. There were no Instagram or Twitter accounts to show off their fun loving, “just like us” side off the field. What you saw was all you got.

And I was going to be disemboweled if I didn’t take decisive action. Getting locked in the pen with the bulls after the rodeo was no place to be for a 175 pounder who lettered in tennis.

I summoned all the courage I could and somehow the words fell out of my mouth with a semblance of order and as little fear as possible.

“You guys played a really good game out there. Really kicked some ass.”

I looked at Christian. He didn’t say a word but nodded his approval at my statement. Before I could even glance over at Jason, I heard a growl that sounded a lot like “Thanks, man.”

And that was my window of daylight to make an escape.

I gotta go check my tapes,” I announced to no one as I stood from the couch. Realizing my pants were miraculously still dry, I looked back towards my new friends and said, “You guys can spread out if you want. I don’t think I’ll be coming back.

The didn’t need my permission. The sliver of space I once occupied was already long gone.

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Meet Student Correspondent Hayley Archer

A new feature for Big Red Fury this season is the addition of Hayley Archer, a senior Broadcasting major, as our first-ever student correspondent.

Last spring I put out a call that this humble site was looking to hire a student contributor to write up game recaps based on what they experienced from their spot in the Boneyard. As a marginally responsible adult, I thought it could be a good way to pay forward some of the opportunities I received while a student at UNL and add a little flair to this joint.

I had a solid idea of who I was looking for and received several great applications from some pretty thoroughbred Husker fans. Then Hayley’s submission swooped down from the sky like a Pegasus.

I was hoping to snag a Jammal Lord-like combo of talent and enthusiasm for the Big Red and ended up with an Eric Crouch.

Seriously, she’s gonna be great. Check out our Q & A to get to know the newest member of the Big Red Fury team —

OK, so tell us a little bit about yourself. Kidding. That’s a horrible question. We’ll cut to the chase. You’re from Minnesota but you’re a die hard Husker fan, how did that happen?

Honestly, I get asked this question and I’m still not sure what the answer is. I had fallen in love with the UNL campus in the few times I had been here, so I ended up coming here for school and becoming a Husker fan all just kind of happened.

What’s been the response by your friends and family after the last couple games against Minnesota?

Well, for the first game that I was here for, we won and I didn’t hear anything from anyone except my dad who naturally just played it off like it was no big deal to him. The next year, my phone (that was about 3 years old at that point) ended up freezing from all of the notifications that I got from everyone — both football fans and non-football fans. This past game I didn’t really get the same response from the Gopher fans, mostly because I think they felt bad about what happened with my phone the year before. Minnesotans are too nice.

Hayley Archer
Student contributor Hayely Archer. Look for her reports from the Boneyard for every home game and maybe even a few away games.

Once you took the plunge into becoming a Husker fan, did you do anything to get up to speed on Husker lore such as binge watching classic highlights on YouTube?

Don’t tell my mom, but I actually accidentally missed one of my classes one day from binge watching things on YouTube. Full games, highlights, interviews, everything. I’ve been (a little) more responsible about it, but I still love learning more about the history of the Huskers.

Your first game, who did the Huskers play and what was the experience like?

My first game was quite the experience. It was the first home game my freshman year — Southern Miss in 2012. This was back when they let students get their tickets checked at both gates, and since both my friend and I had no idea where we were going, we ended up getting lost inside the stadium and sitting in the first 10 rows of East Stadium. The entire experience was chaotic trying to figure out what all was happening with the students, but it was still quite the experience. I actually didn’t find out that I was in the wrong spot until the next game when my friends brought me to South Stadium.

Favorite game day ritual?

I have a pair of game day socks that I wear (almost) every game. They’re not lucky or anything, because we’ve still lost when I wear them, but for some reason I still wear them. Except I forgot them for the B1G Championship game…. So I’ll take the blame for that one. Sorry guys.

All-time favorite game moment?

I’ve had so many but I think I’m going to have to go with the two cliches — the Hail Mary and being able to watch Jack get his touchdown at the spring game. Both still give me goosebumps every time I watch them, and I still haven’t been able to watch Jack without at least tearing up.

With the Hail Mary, were you sitting in your usual spot and what was the reaction like around you? Was that the loudest it’s ever been for you at Memorial Stadium?

For the Hail Mary I was in South Stadium since I was only a sophomore at the time. I was somewhere in the front ten rows, which was pretty typical for us. Within a few seconds after the catch, everyone else was magically in the front ten rows as well, since everyone was jumping up and down and falling and whatnot. It was pure chaos and excitement everywhere. I hugged like eight people that I had never met before. But despite the excitement from everyone, I’d still have to say the loudest that I’ve ever seen Memorial Stadium was at the 2012 game against Wisconsin. That was absolutely insane.

You’ve never missed a home game. Have you ever had to do anything crazy to keep your streak alive?

I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in two years, now going on three. Since I have my own apartment now, my parents came down here to celebrate last year, and I’m sure they’ll probably come down this year too.

On that rare occasion when the Huskers lose, what’s your mood like following a loss?

I definitely stand out because I definitely still have my Minnesotan optimism. It’s always the “we’ll get them next time!” or “if we just work on this, we’ll be great!” Unless it’s against Wisconsin, because that one’s personal.

As an “outsider,” what’s a favorite quirk that you’ve noticed among Nebraskans both as people and as Husker fans? (My wife is from Louisiana and she laughs whenever she hears the word ‘pop’ and chanting Go Big Red, three times every time, drives her bananas.)

I haven’t really noticed too much that’s different between Nebraskans and Minnesotans, but being from Minneapolis and being around so many small-town people has been pretty interesting. Overall though, I think I stand out more to Nebraskans, because apparently I have an accent and my love for hockey is “weird.”

If you could share a Runza with any current player who would it be? (And if you say anything bad about the hallowed Runza, this conversation is over.)

Well usually my go-to answer would be Kenny Bell, but he doesn’t count anymore. I’m probably going to have to go with Sam Foltz. He seems pretty cool and we’re both Vikings fans so I’m sure we’d get along great.

If you could share a Taco John’s Six Pack and a Pound with any former player who would it be? (And if you say anything bad about John and his delicious tacos and spicy potatoes this conversation is over.)

I feel like after my last answer I have to go with Kenny Bell. He’s been my favorite player since my first game here. But I also think it’d be pretty interesting to be able to sit down and talk with Suh.

If you could travel back in time (is there still a time machine on the roof of Oldfather Hall?) and witness any moment in Husker history what would it be?

I know it’s kinda lame to choose something that I’ve already experienced, but I would give anything to be able to go back in time and relive the Wisconsin game in 2012. The atmosphere of Memorial Stadium was unreal, and there is literally nothing I love more than seeing the Badgers lose.

So… does your dislike of Wisconsin simply stem from years of Vikings/Packers games?

Growing up in Minnesota I feel like you’re taught to hate all Wisconsin teams before you’re taught to cheer for Minnesota teams. I was never a huge Gopher fan for football when I lived there, but I still loathed the Badgers. I’m just glad Nebraska finally feels the same way.

Awesome. People out here in LA don’t understand that states can have serious beefs with each other.

Especially with border battles haha.

What’s your outlook on the season? Are you expecting instant success or are you OK with a bumpy road?

I have high hopes for this season, but I am more than okay with a bumpy road. It may take a year or two for Mike Riley to really get the team that he’s envisioning, and once he gets a couple of his own recruiting classes in here , I think he’s going to do some pretty great things.

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The Most Bizarre Lawrence Phillips Story You’ve Never Heard

This a here story we’re about to unfold about Lawrence Philips is true.

If we set out to make up a Lawrence Phillips story, there is no conceivable way we’d ever come up with this one. Even today it remains one of the most mind boggling things we have ever heard and it will be forever seared into our brains.

Please note: There will be a term used that is not appropriate in this day and age or ever. Sure, we could omit it but this is a story that, even if given a revisionist sugar coating, would be no less shocking.

December 14th, 1996. It was a Saturday. The Huskers were a week removed from being upset by Texas in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game. The plan to appear in a 4th consecutive national championship game and finally cross Florida State off the list was blown off the rails due to a flu stricken Husker squad and John Mackovic’s cajones to call for a back breaking pass on 4th and inches.

This day was also the birthday of contributor Kubrickian Glee and myself.  As a pair of struggling students at UNL, it was a day we looked forward to because daVinci’s just didn’t give you a free slice of pizza on your birthday, they hooked you up with a full meal on the house. Lucky for us, their 11th and G location couldn’t be any closer to our respective crap holes at 13th and G and 9th and E.

We met for a late lunch around 4:30. Somewhere behind a blanket of grey clouds the sun was setting. It was a perfect gloomy December day.

Once we showed our IDs to the semi-baffled waitress, we were seated for our complimentary birthday feast.

The only other guest was a little old lady who was preparing to leave. Even through our everyone-over-30-is-old eyes, she had to be at least 80 if not a decade older. Her waitress helped her get into a bright red pea coat and tied her doggy bag around the top rail of her silver walker and said her goodbyes. At the speed she was moving, returning next week for an early bird special was far from a given. Before setting off across the restaurant, she put a lavender knit cap on her head. Decades of practice placed it just so on the first try.

As she clomped past our booth, Kubrickian and I both acknowledged her with the courteous, yet forced smile you give your grandma  right before she lays a big fat kiss on your cheek.

That was all the in she needed. She stopped dead in her four pronged tracks and said “I don’t know about you boys but I’m still terribly upset about the game last week.”

“So are we, ma’am. We really thought they were going to win.”

“They would have won if they hadn’t chased that colored running back out of town. He would have been a senior this year. I really think that boy got a raw deal.”

Kubrickian and I both looked at each other. Our jaws were on the precipice of dropping all the way to the table. Was she talking about Lawrence Phillips?

Before we had the chance to ask, she continued.

“I’m still not sure about that white boy who’s playing quarterback now. He just looks so lost out there. The Arizona State game was heartbreaking.”

We nodded in agreement to that one.

“And it’s his fault that colored boy got in all that trouble. He shouldn’t have been catting around with his girlfriend. She was clearly a whore anyway. You know how it was all over the news that he dragged her down the stairs by her hair? Do you know what I would have done?”

Kubrickian and I were speechless by this point.

“I would have dragged her down the stairs by her feet so her head could have bounced on each and every step. That’s what I would have done. You boys have a nice night.”

And with that, she was off into the darkness.

RIP crazy little old lady Husker fan, wherever you may be.

Lawrence PhillipsLawrence Phillips rushed for 206 yards against Michigan State. Then he returned to Lincoln and brutally assaulted his former girlfriend.

Lawrence Phillips Prison
Feel free to drop him a note c/o Kern Valley State Prison sometime.

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