Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bay Area Huskers E-News 12/28/10

Happy New Year Bay Area Husker Fans!

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year! And its going to be a very special year for the Huskers...moving from the Big 12 to the Big 10 will bring both joy and sorrow (maybe not as much sorrow after the step-child treatment we've received this fall), but I think we're all looking forward to the challenges and benefits of joining a top shelf academic and athletic oriented group of like-minded universities.

The Holiday Bowl is only a couple of sleeps away and it appears the Huskers are motivated and ready for the rematch with the Washington Huskies this Thursday. Unlike the days leading up to the Poinsettia Bowl (when the San Diego stadium was 2.5 feet under water) the weather forecast for our game day (parade, huddles, game etc) is for sunny skies and near 60 degrees for a high. ESPN TV coverage starts at 7 p.m. Pacific Time. All of our watch sites will carry the game so if you want to gather with other Red-Clad Husker fans, get there early for a good seat and cheer on the Huskers in their last Big 12 bowl game.

Not much else to pass other than some practice reports, an article from the San Diego paper about a Husker fan donating tickets for a drawing in San Diego for a military fan who wants to attend the game, and a great Randy York article about the Husker Walk-On Program.

Go Big Red (White and Blue)...see you next year!


Nebraska conducted its last full-scale workout in preparation for the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Tuesday morning, going through a 90-minute workout in helmets and shorts at UC San Diego.

The Huskers now turn their attention to final preparations for Thursday evening's contest against Washington at Qualcomm Stadium. Nebraska will hold a walk-through and take a short visit to the stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Head Coach Bo Pelini said the Huskers appear to be focused and ready to play on Thursday evening. Pelini has been pleased with the work of his team during the three practices in San Diego.

"I think the kids are looking forward to the game," Pelini said. "They are ready to play."

Pelini said that although defensive back DeJon Gomes sat out Tuesday's workout, the senior will be ready to be in the starting lineup on Thursday evening.

Pelini commented on the upcoming move of linebackers coach Mike Ekeler to Indiana as its new defensive coordinator.

"You want your guys to get better opportunities and move on and that is the case. It is time to move on for him and we are happy for him," Pelini said. "He's been with me for seven years now, and he has been a valuable part of this staff. It is rewarding for me to see guys work hard and see them achieve. This is his next step and I think he will do a heckuva job."

Following Tuesday morning's practice, the Huskers took part in the Navy and Marine Corps Luncheon aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. Pelini commented on senior defensive end Tyrone Fahie who spent six years in the military prior to walking on with the Nebraska football team.

"He's been great to have around. He's been a leader and a true team guy," Pelini said. "He really epitomizes the guys we are going to be running into over at the ship. Obviously we have a tremendous amount of respect for him (Tyrone) and really anyone who serves their country."

In addition to final preparations for the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday, Nebraska will also attend the US Bank Kickoff Luncheon at the San Diego Convention Center.


San Diego - The Nebraska football team conducted its first Holiday Bowl practice in San Diego on Sunday, going through a two-hour morning workout at UC San Diego.

The practice was the first of three practices at UCSD for the Huskers, as they continue preparations for their Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl game against Washington on Thursday at Qualcomm Stadium.

Head Coach Bo Pelini said he was pleased with how his team has returned from a short holiday break.

“I think they’re excited. There was a lot of enthusiasm (today),” Pelini said. “They’re having fun, and I think they’re getting ready to play a good football game.”

Nebraska senior receiver Niles Paul did not fully participate in the practice, but did do some running and position drill work. Paul missed Nebraska’s final two games with a foot injury, but is hopeful of a return to action for his final game as a Husker on Thursday night.

“He practiced today,” Pelini said. “He was fine. He was in and out. We’re just kind of bringing him along. He’s ready to go. Today was a big step for him because he did a lot more and felt good about doing it.”

Following practice, many of the Huskers traveled to the World Famous San Diego Zoo for an afternoon of sight-seeing.

“It’s fun, it’s a good experience,” Pelini said of Nebraska’s visit to the zoo. “This is a great city and a good bowl game that’s really run first class. We enjoy it out here, and I’m glad we’re back.”

Nebraska continues its bowl preparation on Monday morning with a practice at UCSD. The Huskers will spend Monday afternoon at SeaWorld.

CONTEST: Win Holiday Bowl Tickets From Good Samaritan

A member of the armed services could win tickets, hotel stay
by Ron Donoho
Posted on Thu, Dec 23rd, 2010

It was Wednesday morning, and after six straight days of gloomy rain storms San Diego had become one giant puddle. Christmas was coming—yippee! (read with feigned excitement)—but the workload doesn’t recede for holidays.

Two steps into the lobby in the morning, our gregarious office manager alerted me to a phone call. With a sigh, I dropped my wet coat and backpack onto my office floor and returned the call.

The tickets arrived overnight.

Photo by Ron Donoho

It was Chet Miller, from Moorhead, Iowa. Never met him before in my life. But he had a story to tell (everybody does). Seems he can’t make it to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl. His traveling partner is ill, and can’t make the trip with him, so he’s going to forego the visit.

The thought of “And I care because…?” flitted into my mind. But while journalism has forged me as a skeptic, I strive to not be a cynic. There was something about the slow, drawled voice of Chet Miller from Moorhead, Iowa.

It turned out he wanted to give away his three tickets to the Holiday Bowl, a college football game on December 30 that pits Nebraska against Washington. And, he’d made a reservation at the Days Inn Chula Vista, and wanted to donate that, too.

“I’d like to give it to a hero, you know?” says Miller. “Somebody in the military, maybe.”

Gulp.. I was hooked.

A quick call to the hotel’s GM confirmed that Miller had a reservation and that it was okay for to run a contest to give that slot away. To a hero. (Actually, the GM made it clear that corporate policy dictated the recipient must be a person in the armed services.)

I confirmed this with Miller. He seemed to be onboard withour sincerity of purpose, and said he was going to drive to Sioux City to overnight the tickets.

The next day—bright and sunny, the way Nature intended San Diego—three tickets arrived. Ducats in hand, we posted the open call for stories from military folks who might need a three-day stay and enjoy a night at a big football game.

In the last conversation I had with Miller, there were a ton of questions I wanted to ask—about who he was, what he did for a living, what was his motive?

I decided, though, that this story didn’t warrant me getting all up in his grill, Mike Wallace-style.

So I just asked him if he’d mind if I used his name, and if he had anything to say about giving away his tickets and his room nights.

“Nope—just find somebody who’s deserving, and who’ll have some fun,” he says.


Randy York's N-Sider

Make no mistake. Joe Broekemeier felt highly honored and deeply humbled earlier this month when he received the Walk-on MVP Award at Nebraska's annual football banquet.

It's difficult, though, for the senior wide receiver from Aurora, Neb. to describe the reward for an unrelenting journey that landed him on the same stage of honor with the likes of Roy Helu Jr., Prince Amukamara, Pierre Allen, Eric Hagg, Lavonte David, Niles Paul and Rex Burkhead.

"Walk-on MVP" has a nice ring to it, but you must understand that Broekemeier was on the Scout Team throughout his junior season, and injuries prevented him from playing in Nebraska's first 11 games his senior season.

Talk about taking an escalator to the awards floor.

"Joe's journey was as much about timing as anything," Nebraska Receivers Coach Ted Gilmore said. "He was healthy about the same time Niles Paul went down with a foot injury. So he went from no time on the field in our first 11 games to our third starting receiver in the 12th and 13th. It was never a question of ability. We knew he could play. It was a question of getting healthy."

Broekemeier, 6-4 and 210, played for the first time as a starter against Colorado on Senior Day and then started again against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference Championship game.

As one of 14 Nebraska seniors playing in the Holiday Bowl as a college graduate, Broekemeier is expected either to start or continue to play a pivotal role against Washington.

Nebraska Baseball's Loss Became Football's Gain

"Because he came to Nebraska to pitch for the baseball team (his first career that was cut short by injuries), we only got two years with Joe in football," Gilmore said. "We would have loved to have had him longer, but he's made the most of this opportunity."

Not surprisingly, Brokemeier never sees himself in any kind of spotlight. In fact, if he could vote for the Walk-on MVP honor, he would have given it to Alex Henery.

"C'mon, Alex is Alex," he said. "He's the greatest place-kicker in NCAA history. He's phenomenal in everything he does - whether it's kicking, punting or engineering school. He's just a great guy all around. He's earned everyone's respect, on and off the field."

Henery, of course, earned enough honors to fill the trunk of his car on his way back to Omaha for the holidays. He became the first place-kicker in Nebraska history to make first-team All-America. At the 2010 team banquet, he was named a captain and the Special Teams MVP.

As much as Broekemeier appreciates his MVP honor, he sees equally valuable walk-on players all around him.

"Look at Mike Caputo, our starting center," he said. "He's a tough old bulldog, that's what he is. He's a fantastic kid as well. I mean, if I'm in a fight, I would definitely want Mike Caputo on my side. He's someone who will do everything possible to win."

Caputo the Cornerstone of Big 12's Rushing Leader

Caputo became the cornerstone in a Nebraska offensive line that leads the Big 12 in rushing and ranks 10th nationally. Caputo also handled all the line calls and was nearly flawless handling the snapping duties in Nebraska's shotgun formation.

Caputo isn't the only walk-on with an ultra-tenacious attitude. "We have others on this team just like him - guys like Jim Ebke, Tyler Legate and Lance Thorell," Broekemeier said. "I mean, we had reminders all around us every day to keep us going and stay motivated no matter what."

Ebke is Broekemeier's roommate. The safety-turned-linebacker and special teams star "is just like us - hard-nosed, hard-working small-town players who give everything we have every practice," Broekemeier said. "We're all fighters. We're never going to give up."

Ebke switched to linebacker midway through this season and is expected to challenge for a Blackshirt as a senior.

"He's one tough cookie - some think the toughest on our entire team," Broekemeier said. "He starts on every special team we have and has shown how important walk-ons can be. He's been fantastic all season long."

Legate, a fullback from Neligh, Neb., is as tough-minded offensively as Ebke is defensively.

"He just has that mindset to take on anybody," Broekemeier said of Legate, whose lead blocking has contributed to three Nebraska backs (Helu Jr., Burkhead and Taylor Martinez) having the chance to reach 1,000 yards rushing in the same season.

Legate Can Knock You Down and Catch a Pass

Known for his physicality as a blocker, Legate is still an offensive threat, and Oklahoma State learned that lesson when he caught a short touchdown pass in Nebraska's 51-41 win in Stillwater this season.

Legate's attitude and team spirit mirror his fellow walk-ons.

"If my part of the game plan is being in there only on goal-line, short-yardage scoring plays designed to win the game, that's fine with me," said Legate, who earned first-team All-Big 12 Academic honors. "If I get five reps or 30 reps, it doesn't matter. The only thing that ever matters to me is getting that "W" in the win column."

Thorell, a defensive back from Loomis, Neb., subscribes to the same team-oriented philosophy. That's why he played in 11 games and started five as a redshirt freshman, played in all 14 games as a sophomore and in all 13 games as a junior. Whenever he does get a chance to spell Amukamara or Alfonzo Dennard, NU Secondary Coach Marvin Sanders says Thorell plays well.

Broekemeier doesn't have to look far across the line of scrimmage to see another amazing walk-on story. Junior safety Austin Cassidy, a walk-on from Lincoln, emerged as a Blackshirt this season and became a key cog in one of the nation's top defenses during the stretch run. He started the last half of the season and helped Nebraska rank fifth nationally in pass efficiency defense and seventh in passing yards allowed. The Blackshirts also rank in the top 10 in scoring and total defense.

Cassidy finished the regular season with 41 tackles, one forced fumble and a touchdown interception that was crucial in Nebraska's overtime win at Iowa State.

"Everywhere you look, there's a walk-on making a difference," Broekemeier said. "We have so many guys out on the practice field busting it hard every day. They're all important."

Cassidy, Stoddard and May Play Key Roles

Graham Stoddard, a sophomore linebacker from Lincoln, and Mathew May, a junior linebacker from Imperial, Neb., both have played in all 13 games, just like Cassidy and others. Two Husker walk-ons have played in 12 games this season - Jay Martin, a junior fullback from Waverly, Neb., and Thomas Grove, a senior linebacker from Arlington, Neb. Grove shared Nebraska's "Character Award" at the football banquet with Burkhead and Hagg.

Two Nebraska walk-ons played in 11 games this season - Justin Blatchford, a sophomore defensive back from Ponca, Neb., and Jase Dean, a sophomore cornerback from Bridgeport, Neb.

The walk-on influence stretches beyond that. Jake Long, a redshirt freshman tight end, from Elkhorn, Neb., joins Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed on the Huskers' Holiday Bowl depth chart. Brett Maher, a sophomore punter/place-kicker from Kearney, Neb., is the backup punter for Henery and top holder for Henery's kicks.

P.J. Mangieri, a sophomore walk-on from Peoria, Ill., is Nebraska's No. 1 long snapper. He's backed up by another walk-on, Sam Meginnis, a sophomore linebacker from Lincoln.

There are so many walk-ons and so many contributors. That's why Broekemeier believes "Walk-on MVP" is a symbolic award that represents all walk-on contributors, not just one player's.

Etching the Broekemeier name in to the Nebraska history book is the result of his having the courage and the confidence to pursue football after a seven-year absence.

Work Ethic: The Mantra of Every Walk-on

Broekemeier sees nothing special about himself, even though fellow receivers Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie knew from the time he participated in seven-on-seven passing drills that he had the speed and rout-running precision to be as steady and electrifying as one of his walk-on heroes, Todd Peterson.

Where they see athleticism, Brokemeier sees work ethic.

"We're not bound to be here. It's our choice to be here," Broekemeier added. "One thing I've learned. If you're a walk-on at Nebraska, you love the program, you love the school, and you love the state. That's why it takes so much passion to make the grade here. You have to want it more than anyone else does."

A team award says Brokemeier was Nebraska's Walk-on MVP for 2010. In typical fashion, he would prefer to share that award with every other walk-on who worked just as hard as he did.

That will not change when the Huskers return to the Holiday Bowl to play Washington.

"Last year's game against Arizona was a big statement game for the entire program," he said. "It was really rewarding for all the players, the coaches and the fans."

Even though he did not play in that game, Broekemeier started dreaming about having a role this year.

It took 11 games to materialize and countless ups and downs, but he never gave up hope.

He relied on the three P's of being a walk-on - persistence, passion and performance.

"Walk-ons have an important role in Nebraska football," Broekemeier said, "and I hope that never, ever changes."
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