View from The Red Zone: Michigan

After an exciting one-point win over the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, it was no surprise that students were lined up outside of Pinnacle Bank Arena before doors opened to watch the Husker men’s basketball team take on Michigan.

The excitement surrounding this game came from more than just a four game winning streak, though, as this game was the annual Avery Strong game. Fans sport their bright gold #AveryStrong shirts in support of Avery Harriman and pediatric cancer research and are encouraged to get swabbed to see if they could potentially be a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant.

The Red Zone gets stocked up with #AveryStrong t-shirts.

As one of Big Ten Network’s on-campus marketing interns, I was ready for the flood of students to pour into PBA as doors opened an hour and a half before the game. “Flood” might not be the right word, considering each student has to get scanned in one at a time, making it a little anti-climactic… But you get the point.

Being a BTN intern, I stand out in the concourse and get people to take Instagram pictures to enter the #BTNWinningShotContest (come visit me). This time, we borrowed some fatheads from The Red Zone for fans to take pictures with as well. It’s amazing how giddy the older demographic gets when presented with the opportunity to take a picture with the Pope.

Pope Francis is a big fan of Tim Miles. Huge.

Another thing I’ve learned in my time as a marketing intern is how unsubtle people are when they try to avoid someone. As someone who does a large amount of shopping at the Mall of America, I like to consider myself a natural at avoiding kiosk workers and other people trying to get me to come over and buy something or do something. But being on the other side of things, I’ve learned that the avoid-eye-contact-and-walk-a-little-faster isn’t nearly as subtle as some people may think. Time to re-think that strategy, I guess.

After tipoff, I was able to trade in my BTN shirt for an #AveryStrong shirt and join my friends in The Red Zone. Much like football, I forget about any dignity I have left as I yell at the opposing team and dance around like an idiot. The main difference? They can actually hear me.

You’d think with how often I harass the cameras (if you’re new, check out this recap) I’d be used to being thrown up on the big screen at the most embarrassing moment.


As the camera jumped from fan to fan during the Emoji Cam, my roommate and I turned a bright shade of red as the two of our faces graced the screen for everyone to see. Later, fans got the chance to check out some pretty sweet dance moves from me on the screen (not really). You’re welcome, Lincoln.

Avery Harriman on the big screen at halftime. You can learn more about become a potential bone marrow donor here.

The Red Zone was able to get quite a bit of use out of our many fatheads for free throw distractions, considering how whistle-happy the refs seemed to be in Michigan’s favor. Everything from Donald Trump to crying Michael Jordan to the poop emoji were waved around by students in attempts to distract the Wolverines. The Red Zone might have to look into some more distractions, considering the Wolverines made 10 straight free throws in the final minutes of the game.

RefsThe refs debate over what foul to call next on the Huskers.

The amount of calls from the refs were frustrating some fans so much that a group of us in the front row looked up the names of each of the refs so we could personally thank them for the wonderful job they were doing.

As fans filed out with the clock ticking down at the end of the game, a chorus of booing echoed through the arena as Michigan forward Duncan Robinson sank a three-pointer as the Wolverines were already up by 10 points.

The Huskers fell to the Wolverines 81-68. While fans may be disappointed in the loss, I’m sure there will still be some students lined up waiting to watch their Huskers take on the Maryland Terrapins next Wednesday, February 3rd. Personally, I have some unfinished business heckling Melo Trimble, so you’ll know where to find me.

Hayley Archer is a senior Broadcasting major at UNL. Follow her on Twitter at @Harchinator.

Share Button

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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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


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.”


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.’


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


Share Button

A Husker Fan Walks into the Rose Bowl…

Call me slow in the uptake but it only took 15 years of living in Los Angeles to realize that I could go to the Rose Bowl anytime. Among the Rose Bowl committee’s labyrinth of rules, there is no stipulation that says one must be a fan of either team playing.

Plus, it helped that my lovely wife let it slip a little too early in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve that our plans for the next day were going to include painting our guest bathroom. I needed an excuse to get out of the house quick and Iowa playing in the Rose Bowl fit the bill quite nicely.

There was just one problem.

Paying actual money to see Iowa play football was not my idea of a good time, even if the alternative was painting a bathroom.

Lucky for me, I had yet to make my annual pilgrimage to Coinstar.  If I only spent a year’s worth of loose change on a ticket, I wouldn’t technically be spending real money per se.

In short order, I established some ground rules for this potential field trip.

1. No antagonizing Iowa fans. As a representative of Husker Nation, I shall conduct myself in a classy manner (unless heckled first). Consider this my version of Top Gun’s big rule of engagement: Do not fire unless fired upon.

2. The maximum amount I could spend on a ticket is whatever loot I get from the Coinstar gods + a $16 buffer. ($16 was the amount I declined to spend to see Mötley Crüe’s penultimate show on Wednesday night. Even at less than $20, it just wasn’t worth it to put on pants to see a pudgy Vince Neil.)

Off to Coinstar I went…

C’mon, big bucks. No whammies.

COIN STAR TICKETBoom! $93.66 + 16 = $109.66 with which to score a ticket.

Cut to the next morning and my wife kicked me out of the car at a nearby subway station and I was off to Pasadena.

LA RED LINEDid you know that Los Angeles has had a subway system since 1993?

And it is always packed.

IOWA FAN RIDES THE SUBWAYAn Iowa fan totes all 12 of his Rose Bowl essentials.

Within approximately two minutes of stepping foot into Old Town Pasadena, I crossed paths with a scalper holding a handful of tickets high above his head. Contrary to what Dirk and “professional scalper” Joey from Kansas City might think, it is always possible to get into any event on the cheap.

My chat with the scalper went like this…

Me: Got any singles?
Scalpler: A few. What are you looking for?
Me: Don’t care at all. Whatever gets me in for $60.
Scalper: Sorry. Can’t help you.

And then right on cue…

Iowa Fan: Excuse me? Are you just looking for just one ticket? We have an extra right on the 40-yard-line.
Me: That sounds great but I’m only spending $80 today. You could probably get more for it.
(Iowa fan confers with her friends)
Iowa Fan: That’s OK. We just want to get rid of it. It’s all yours. Oh my God, you’re a Husker fan!?!
Me: Yep. And while I won’t be cheering for y’all, I won’t be rooting against y’all either. Just want to put that out there.
Iowa Fan: Oh, it’s OK. Us Big Ten teams gotta stick together.

Me and my new Hawkeye friends. My only regret about the transaction was not asking the scalper to take the photo.

Rose Bowl Ticket
A close up of my ticket. 56% off face value isn’t too shabby.

For the record this wackadoo wasn’t an Iowa fan. This group’s signs are always black and yellow.

Upon entering the Rose Bowl grounds, one thing immediately struck me. You could never tell that the Rose Bowl was Iowa’s consolation game. Everyone in black and/or yellow was thrilled to be there and it was an amazing display of spirit for their team. With the way Hawkeye fans were running around and soaking up the January sunshine, they made a great case for the entire state of Iowa to be the Whoville of college football. Nobody seemed to care about missing the playoffs.


Hawkeye fans as far as the eye could see. Sanford fans remained pretty well sequestered among themselves before the game.

This dude ruled.

This is a look an Iowa fan makes when he realizes there is a Husker fan walking among them. We ended up having a very cordial chat.

Obligatory I’m-at-the-Rose Bowl photo. I like to think the camo hat gave me Milhouse levels of invisibility while walking among Iowa fans.

As the world saw, things didn’t exactly go Iowa’s way starting with the very first play of the game. Christian McCaffrey (aka football’s Frankenstein’s monster built from a blend of Ameer and Rex) took a short pass 75 yards for a touchdown. It was all downhill for the Hawkeyes but this guy never gave up hope.

Best Iowa Fan Ever 1

He simply got a fresh tall boy of Coors.

Best Iowa Fan Ever
Being down 35-0 was not a problem for Iowa’s biggest fan. This guy was awesome.

At halftime Hawkeye Nation was treated to a special Farmer’s Only themed serenade from the Leland Standford Junior University Marching Band. As a not-easily-offended and (mostly) impartial observer, it was a hilarious shit show that made me feel like I was whisked back to that magical time when Andy Kaufman was wrestling women. I’ve never heard such glorious booing in my life.

Of all the ways the LSJUMB insulted Iowa, having a “Wisconsin dairy cow” (as one Iowa fan kept shouting) traipsing across the Rose Bowl turf may have been their biggest offense. Perhaps it was a mistake but knowing those scamps, it was probably intentional that the wrong breed of cow was used.

Either way, it was genius and a nice flashback to 1996 when I got to enjoy a game at Stanford sitting with the band. A dear friend was one of its directors back then and was the devious mastermind behind their infamous potato famine themed show that still sends Notre Dame fans into a fighting mood.

Be sure to enable sound so you can hear the LSJUMB getting booed off the field.

Tom Arnold Rose Bowl
Until Iowa got on the board with field goal to make it 38-3 in the third quarter, proud Iowan Tom Arnold held the distinction of receiving the Hawkeye faithful’s biggest cheers of the day. Apparently all 14 members of Slipknot were busy.

Stanford mercifully took their foot off the gas in the second half and Iowa was able to mount a small rally much to the delight of their fans who refused to leave early. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was kinda, sorta hoping for a Hawkeye beat down but seeing it happen in the most brutal way possible gave me that feeling of remorse you get when the yokel part of your brain momentarily gets excited about seeing a car crash until you remember there are people trapped inside the twisted wreckage and that they will have to deal with their One Sure Insurance company.

I spent most of the fourth quarter trying to console the Iowa fans around me but they all seemed to be in mostly good spirits. By the final whistle, I came away with a new and healthy respect for the Huskers’ rival to the east. Hawkeye fans really aren’t that bad and dare I say pretty good people. There really might be more to Iowa than the Shelbyville vibe of Council Bluffs.

Weird Ticket CollectorThe guy in the Lane Kiffin visor gets the award for being the biggest kook of the night. He’s a ticket collector and was hounding anyone and everyone for their stubs. Even after getting blown out, Iowa fans weren’t too keen on giving him their tickets.

In fact, you might even say Iowa fans were ready to keep the party going. After all, bumping RATT in the frosty air of the Rose Bowl parking lot is way better than having to go back home to Iowa.

Stay gold, Hawkeye Nation. We’ll see you again in November.

Share Button