Are You Ready for Some Football? Bo Wins Over HAF Crowd
Opening kickoff is still a month away, but Bo Pelini is already 1-and-0 in the eyes of Husker fans lucky enough to be part of Wednesday’s first sold out Huskers Athletic Fund (HAF) Luncheon of the season.
“Bo talked to us just like he talks to his players. He got us all fired up,” said Jim Ray, a Nebraska season ticketholder for 51 years.
“I thought they picked three great speakers to kick off this new luncheon series,” offered Jerry Puls, who owns a pair of season tickets in the West Stadium club section.
“First, Austin Cassidy was great from a player’s perspective, telling us how Nebraska’s a tight-knit family with the best coach in the world,” Puls said. “Second, Paul Meyers painted a clear picture of where we are as an athletic program and where we’re going.”
That set the stage for Nebraska’s head football coach to deliver part 3 of the trifecta – the keynote address.
“What can I say?” Puls said. “Bo came in with his game face on and got us ready for some football. It never hurts to hear how he views accountability and prepares his players for life. If you listen, you understand why he always has his players’ backs and why they have his.”
Bill Ashburn, whose family has had season tickets since the 1920s (his dad and uncle both played for the Huskers) thought Cassidy proved the “I have your back and you have mine” point rather dramatically. “Having a player speak was a really nice touch,” he said. “It was pretty funny when he said it was lot easier to play in front 80,000 people than speak in front of 350 because they can’t see your face with a helmet on.
“It truly was a great luncheon,” Ashburn said. “Bo was great. The video was great, and everybody got pretty excited about Husker Nation, Big Red and the Big Ten. I’m looking forward to the next luncheon.”
For Many in the Room, It Seemed Like Old Times
For many in the sellout crowd of nearly 400, it seemed like old times. Nebraska cheerleaders greeted Husker fans, and Lil’ Red, one of Nebraska’s two mascots, worked the room. Attendees left the event appreciating entertaining videos and informative speeches that explained why Nebraska is investing now for the future.
Meyers told donors and season ticketholders in attendance that the athletic department has a goal to raise $10 million more in the $105 million targeted for facility improvements.
“I had never heard Paul Meyers speak,” said Steve Sorum, a Nebraska season ticketholder for 40 years. “Watching that video on all the facilities we’re upgrading was pretty darn impressive. I knew a little bit about each project, but when you see how they all tie together, you get the big picture. It should put us in the lead in the Big Ten in football and other sports, and I hope we stay there for the next 20 years.”
In the first of nine luncheons scheduled for the 2011-12 season, Meyers showed a video of Nebraska’s Ultimate Athlete Lab, part of a 40,000-square-foot research facility the athletic department will share with the university’s research team.
“No one in America will have what we have,” Meyers said. “We will study the body and biomechanics to the fullest and how they relate to performance.”
Meyers said Nebraska launched strength and conditioning training as we know it at the collegiate and professional level when Tom Osborne and Boyd Epley convinced Bob Devaney of the need. “Think about what we can do,” Meyers said. “We will have a concussion study center and use software to research and determine the right baselines for athletes. It’s something no one else has tried.”
Pelini showed shades of Devaney in his command of the crowd, which gave him six ovations, including two standing: one when he was introduced and the other when he exited the room. In between, Nebraska’s head coach showed enough humor to ignite laughter and enough insight to trigger spontaneous applause.
Laid-Back Golden Retriever Ready to Roll
Bo was on his game, and his humor came early. Admitting he loved seeing the first sellout crowd of the season, he explained how his job is to push his players and get them out of their comfort zone, so they play with great energy.
“That’s something I’ve always done well, and I have a great example of that,” Pelini said. “See the little cut on my nose?”
Bo explained the cut came from his normally mild-mannered male golden retriever. “I was trying to get him riled up, and he jumped up and nipped my nose,” Pelini said. “It’s football season, baby!”
And Nebraska’s head coach – like every other Husker fan out there – wondered if it would ever get here.
“It seems like five years ago that they announced we were going into the Big Ten,” Pelini said. “It’s finally here, and it’s time to step up.”
Fall camp begins Saturday, following Nebraska’s Fan Day from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Friday. Pelini said the decision to move the team’s annual event up to a weekday was based on the best interests of his players. “I didn’t want them to be sitting out in the sun for two hours and then have to practice on Saturday,” he said.
Chemistry and Accountability at All-Time High
Citing his experience as a player and coach in the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12, Pelini said he doesn’t expect to see anything this fall that he hasn’t seen before. “I’ve played against a lot of different styles, and I believe we have all the ingredients to play all the teams and meet the challenges we’ll see,” Pelini said. “Football is football. At the end of the day, you get what you earn. I believe we have the systems in place that can adapt to any style.”
Pelini said his Huskers are poised to compete in their first year in the Big Ten Conference. “Since we’ve been here, our chemistry is at an all-time high, and our accountability is at an all-time high,” he said. “We have a trust level that goes right through our football team and right through our program. I wouldn’t trade any other football team for the one I have to go and take the field with this fall and meet the challenge.
“We’re not playing around here for second place,” Pelini said. “We’re all about championships, and we haven’t done that yet. Expectations should be high here. I wouldn’t want it any other way. That video gets your blood pumping. It’s time to play some football.”
Editor’s note: HuskersNside subscribers can listen to Pelini’s entire 16-minute speech. Space is very limited to sign up for the second luncheon of the series featuring Tom Osborne on Thursday, Sept. 1. Call Huskers Athletic Fund at 402-472-2367.