Editor's Note: While First National Bank and Pinnacle Sports Productions are sponsoring the 2004 Husker Nation Tour, one group that each of the traveling groups would like to thank are the volunteers at each stop. They have put in their time and hard work to help make all 26 stops today a success, and without their efforts, this Husker Nation Tour would not be possible.
Omaha (7:30 a.m.) - The Husker Nation tour kicked off Friday morning with a stop at Omaha's First National Bank Tower Plaza. The early morning fog cleared the way for a sun-splashed morning session. Athletic Director Steve Pederson, Football Coach Bill Callahan and Ben Zajicek talked with the crowd of about 730 people in Omaha during the half-hour event, one of the first stops for the 26-city tour. The group is already en route to Norfolk for a 9:30 a.m. event at the YMCA.
David City (7:30 a.m.) -- Tour No. 2 left Lincoln at approximately 6 a.m. for the first of their six stops Friday morning. The 14-member group, which includes Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, Tight Ends Coach Scott Downing and men's Basketball Coach Barry Collier talked to the crowd of between 250-300 people at the First National Bank in David City. The traveling party was met by an enthusiastic crowd ranging from children under five to a gentleman who was 101 years old on a morning that was perfectly suited for football, according to one of the members of the traveling party. The group is on its way to the second stop of the morning in Seward. Peggy Polanacki took home the tickets to see the 2004 season opener against Western Illinois.
McCook (7:30 a.m.) - Touring group No. 3 began their trek with a 6:15 a.m. flight from Lincoln to McCook to begin their four-stop leg of the tour. Friday's first event took place at the Coppermill Restaurant, which provided an intimate and informal setting for the nearly 100 people who came out for the event. The group took questions from the crowd, which included the transition to Lincoln for Offensive Coordinator Jay Norvell, while Volleyball Coach John Cook was asked about his incoming recruiting class, which is considered by many to be the top class in the country this fall. The group also did some interviews with a pair of radio stations that came out for the event before departing for an 11 a.m. stop in North Platte.
Syracuse (7 a.m.) and Nebraska City (8 a.m.) - Touring group No. 5 has been busy with a pair of stops this morning. The group officially kicked off the Husker Nation Tour at 7 a.m. with a short stop in Syracuse in front of nearly 150 people. The program included remarks from Receivers Coach Turner Gill, first-year graduate assistant Aaron Stamn and Women's basketball Coach Connie Yori along with Willie Amos and Steve Kriewald. The Nebraska City stop, which was held at the Historic Morton Barn at the Arbor Day Farm, provided a picturesque setting for the 75-80 people who joined the tour for the second stop of the day. The Nebraska City event was highlighted by a proclamation by Mayor Mary Gerdes, who officially proclaimed Friday as "Husker Nation Tour Day." The group is now on its way to Auburn for a 10 a.m. stop, the third of six on the day.
Fremont: (8 a.m.) - Group four, which includes Associate A.D./Football Tim Cassidy, Outside linebackers Coach Bill Busch, and football players Dusty Keiser and Jay Moore began its four-city trek this morning at Fremont's Memorial Field. The 300 fans that came out for the event enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes and juice, which was provided by McDonald's and HyVee. After the coaches and players made remarks and answered questions from the crowd, one of the highlights of the event was an extreme fan contest. The participants were divided into three groups, ranging from little kids to adults. The winners of the youngest division was Brennan and Austin Callahan (left), who came to the event fully dressed in their Husker uniforms to the delight of the people in attendance. Emcee John Bishop hosted a trivia game for Husker CDs, while Tracy Hoesing won the tickets to see the season opener against Western Illinois.
Norfolk (9:30 a.m.): The YMCA in Norfolk was the second stop for group 1, as the stop drew a crowd of 625 people Friday morning. The Husker fans that came out enjoyed hot dogs and beverages in the picnic-style atmosphere, as the coaches and players talked with fans and signed autographs following a short presentation. One of the best remarks of the event came from one of the children in attendance on why he wore red when watching the Huskers. "The one time I didn't wear red, they lost." The group is now traveling across the state and on its way to Valentine for the first of three stops in Western Nebraska. Jeff Thompson was the winner of the Western Illinois tickets at this stop.
Auburn (9:30 a.m.) - Group five made a visit to Auburn's Legion Park for the third trip of the morning. A red-clad crowd of approximately 400 people welcomed the touring Husker coaches and players, who were greeted by the Auburn High School band playing "There is No Place Like Nebraska." The ceremony included a presentation and remarks from the Husker coaches before they signed autographs for the crowd.
Seward (9:30 a.m.) -- Group two continued its morning journey to Seward, which is most known as the Fourth of July city. A festive crowd of nearly 500 people welcomed the Husker coaches and players into town, as the event was held at the Seward Band Shell area in downtown. The town pep band performed for the group, while two of the largest ovations were reserved for a pair of Husker athletes from Seward, football player Andy Kadavy and track athlete Andy Pearson, who joined the group for the event. One of the more interesting answers to why fans wear red came from a 13-year-old who was brought on stage for the group. The boy told linebacker Chad Sievers that he wears black, instead of red, when he watches Husker games because he cheers for the Blackshirts.
North Platte (11 a.m.) - Group three continued their swing through central Nebraska during the late morning where nearly 500 people attended the First National Bank Tailgate Party in North Platte. The fans who came out not only got to listen to remarks by Husker coaches and student athletes, but also dined on burgers, hot dogs and Pepsi products. In addition to the fans who came out, the event was also carried live on the Pinnacle Sports Network affiliate. The one announcement that brought the biggest ovation came from Volleyball Coach John Cook, who announced that the Husker volleyball team will return to North Platte to take on Creighton on Oct. 10. Joan Young won the drawing for the Husker football tickets, while the local organizing committee, led by Peggy Oltmans and Mike Swanton, also held drawings for an authentic Husker football jersey and a leather jacket.
Valentine (11:30 a.m.) – After flying from Norfolk this morning, group one landed in Valentine in time for a luncheon reception at the Peppermill Restaurant. A total of 680 people packed the Peppermill to hear from Athletic Director Steve Pederson and Football Coach Bill Callahan and enjoyed the tasty hamburgers the restaurant served. In all, Husker fans from eight states (Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, South Dakota, California, Arizona and Wisconsin) came out to hear about the West Coast Offense and learn more about the new Husker football coach. Donnie Munderf took home the grand prize from this stop, winning the pair of tickets to the season opener. The most intriguing question of the day for Coach Callahan came from a child who asked him if he could walk on water without scaring any fish. Callahan responded that his sons and daughters wouldn't think so, bringing a collective laughter from the crowd. According to Callahan, the reception he has received throughout the day exceeded his expectations. "This has been an exciting and energetic day," Callahan said following the third of five stops on the tour. "I have been overwhelmed by the pride, passion and support that the people of Nebraska have for their teams."
Falls City (Noon) - An enthusiastic crowd of 275 people joined group five when the caravan rolled into Falls City's Prichard Auditorium Friday afternoon. The lunchtime crowd enjoyed hot dogs and Pepsi products and listened to remarks from Turner Gill, Connie Yori and Mike Christianson, who is one of the newer members of Coach Bill Callahan's football staff. One of the commonly-asked questions throughout the tour is if the Huskers will pass the ball more this season, and to that end, Coach Gill responded to one young fan's question with the following: "Whatever it takes to move the ball down the field and score lots of points, that is what we are going to do, and we going to do it a ton this year." One person who will see the Huskers' new offense is Shelby Stice, who won the free tickets to the Western Illinois game on Sept. 4.
York (Noon): Group two of the Husker Nation Tour rolled into York's East Hill Park around lunch time on the third leg of the tour. The 500 fans in attendance enjoyed hot dogs, chips and drinks in a picnic-style lunch. One of the people the Husker coaches and players met in York was a gentleman named Carl Ermer, who has been a life-long Husker fan"for 100 years. Elmer turns 101 this December and the group was fortunate to meet a person who has seen the changes in Husker athletics over the last century. One unscheduled event of the York stop came when Tommie Frazier was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to an American Legion game between Schuyler and Central City. Frazier showed off the arm that made him a Unitas Award winner in 1995, throwing a strike. Kelly Holthus served as coordinator of this event, as media from the area also attended the festivities. Special thanks goes out to Pinnacle affiliate KAWL-AM for their assistance in making this event so successful.
Wayne (Noon): The Husker Nation Tour traveled to Northeast Nebraska during the afternoon, as group four met with approximately 425 fans during the lunch hour at the First National Service Center. The picture perfect setting and program allowed the fans in attendance to chat with Husker coaches and players at the event. Outside linebackers Coach Bill Busch was the most popular member of this group in Wayne, as he grew up in Pender and many of his family and friends made the short drive. While tight end Dusty Kaiser has been traveling via plane throughout the region, his parents, Don and Sheila, have been equally as busy following the Husker Nation Tour. They began the day at the Norfolk event earlier today listening to Coach Callahan and will make their third stop of the day in Columbus at the Elks Country Club.
Ogallala (1:30 p.m.) - A crowd of 450 fans came out to the West Winds Golf Course to meet group three Friday afternoon on the third of four stops on the day. The group gathered for a tailgate party with burgers for lunch, but the fans received a special surprise when Quarterback Coach Jay Norvell joined Husker lineman Jeff McBride in a touch football game at the course. Norvell showed a little bit of the West Coast Offense, as he was the quarterback for both squads. Larry Schlem won the pair of tickets in the drawing, while four other pairs were raffled off, including one by a Husker fan in town from Denver. Another Husker follower from the Rocky Mountain State was at the event, as he was making stops at three Husker Nation Tour events this afternoon. The group will conclude the day in Kearney from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tri-City Arena.
Chadron (2 p.m.) - Group one continued its trek across the state, as Steve Pederson, Bill Callahan and Ben Zajicek will travel 1,117 miles today. The group stopped in Chadron, where they were met by a sellout crowd of 450 at the First National Bank-North Platte. One of the people the group met in Chadron was Hal Moyer, who has been a fan since 1926 when he was living in Illinois. He graduated from Nebraska in 1940 and has been a life-long Husker fan. Moyer's enthusiastic support of Nebraska is one of the many examples seen throughout the day, as fans have turned out in droves across the state. "I don't know how Nebraska fans can continue to astound us all, but they do," Pederson said. "The reception today has been typical, unbelievable big red support. We thank all of the Nebraska fans for making Coach Callahan and his staff so welcome."
Tecumseh (3 p.m.) – Group five continues their tour through Southeastern Nebraska Friday afternoon with a stop in Tecumseh. The group met up with nearly 200 people downtown at the Band Shell in the Johnson Country Square. This particular event was geared toward children, as it featured a basketball contest, a football toss, and a dunking booth and over 100 kids came out to enjoy a picture-perfect summer day. While many Husker fans know Tecumseh as the home of former wide receiver Matt Davison, and his "Miracle in Missouri" in 1997, it is also the home of former Husker great Tony Davis, who played in the NFL in the 1970s and 1980s. Davis, whose son Josh is making a bid to join the New York Jets, drew the winning ticket for the raffle for Husker tickets that went to nine-year-old Machaela Poke. The group will complete their six-stop tour in Beatrice this evening from 6-8 p.m.
Blair (2:30 p.m.) - The YMCA in Blair was the fourth stop for group four. Approximately 150 Big Red fans welcomed the touring Husker coaches and players and were treated to free popcorn and pop. The fans also saw a skit that featured a comedic "feud" between Nebraska and the Big 12. Miss Nebraska also appeared at the event as did some family members of current Husker Jay Moore.
Aurora (3 p.m.) - Group two stopped at the Downtown Square Courthouse in Aurora for their fourth trip of the day. They were greeted by approximately 300 members of Husker Nation enjoying the town's Au Roarin' days. Randy Lee, the voice of Nebraska men's basketball, was the emcee at the event and Renee Enderle won a pair of tickets to NU's home opener against Western Illinois on Sept. 4.
Scottsbluff (3 p.m.): Scottbluff saw the largest turnout of Huskers to date, as 1,500 fans came out to Bearcat Stadium for the fourth leg of tour one. The coaches and players dined on grilled Fairbury hot dogs and Nebraska shaped burgers, while listening to the Gering and Mitchell bands perform throughout the event. One of the people the group met was Mary Aden, who may be one of the most dedicated Husker fans in the state. Her brother played for the Huskers in the 1941 Rose Bowl – the first bowl appearance in school history – and she has not missed a home game since 1950. Mary always drives a red car that she does not wash until the season is over. Jerry Frankhouser took home the big prize for the event, a pair of tickets to the 2004 opener on Sept. 4.
Hastings (4:30 p.m.): The home of Hall of Fame Head Coach Tom Osborne was the fifth stop for group two on Friday, as a crowd of approximately 300 fans went to the Holiday Inn Convention Center. The event includes remarks by the Husker players and coaches in attendance, while one of the highpoints was when one fan "Threw the Bones" to Chad Sievers as a tribute to the Husker Blackshirts. If the drawings for this tour group are any indication then Coach Callahan's Football 101 for Women on July 29th will be quite a popular event, as Kathleen Flower won the tickets for the season opener – making a perfect 5-of-5 sweep for women on this particular leg. Check back on Huskers.com and Coachcallahan.com in the coming days for more information on the Football 101 Class in Lincoln.
Grand Island (6 p.m.) – The Central Nebraska Regional Airport was the scene for the final leg of group two's tour around the state as nearly 600 people came out to see the Husker players and coaches. The Army Air National Guard had helicopters on display throughout the day as fans began to gather for the evening's festivities. One of the highlights for the group was that a mother of a marine came to the event and had some memorabilia signed by the Husker coaches and player for her son's troop oversees. Orv Qualsett and John Hoggatt made sure the event ran smoothly and helped the group navigate the group back to I-80 on the journey back to the capital city. In all, the event wrapped up a busy day that saw them visit a group-high four cities.
Kearney: (6 p.m.): Tour No. 3 ended the day in Kearney at approximately 8 p.m., the final of four stops of the day. The six-person group, which visited McCook, North Platte and Ogallala before entertaining fans in Kearney, was met by an enthusiastic crowd of 450-500 fans at the Tri-City Arena. The group of Husker coaches, players and administrators met with the public for nearly an hour around the main program, and several door prizes were awarded before a group picture with event organizers capped the day's activities. Brandon Koch saw many familiar faces in the final stop, as several members of his family made the drive to Kearney, while emcee Matt Davison's highlight was seeing one of the kids in the stands wearing No. 3 - his number during his football career.
Lincoln (7 p.m.): The final stop on the Husker Nation Tour turned SouthPointe Pavilions into a Sea of Red, as nearly 5,000 Husker fans came out to see the Husker players and coaches. Prior to the festivities, the Slyde Brothers Band got the place rocking with their musical set. In addition to the traveling group, Husker coaches and student athletes from many of Nebraska's 23 sports were introduced to the crowd to a rousing ovation. Prior to Steve Pederson and Coach Callahan's arrival, Patrick Combs introduced many of the Husker football players in attendance, including Titus Adams, Josh and Daniel Bullocks, Joe Dailey, Matt Herian, Richie Incognito, Cory Ross Barrett Ruud and Fabian Washington to name just a few. Both Ruud and Incognito thank the fans for their support and talked about the upcoming season. Both Pederson and Callahan spoke to the overflow crowd in attendance and received stirring ovations while they also honored a gentleman who had served in the Air Force and always wore his Husker Red on game days. SouthPointe also served as the host of Sports Nightly with Gary Sharp, as the show originated from the pavilions while the other touring groups called in updates from around the state. Following the remarks on stage, Pederson and Callahan joined Sharp on the air (right), as the Slyde Brothers finished the night with "There is No Place Like Nebraska" – a fitting end to a day that saw Husker coaches and players meet fans in 26 different cities.