K-State Cats, or Husker Nation… either way you lean, they both have a power beyond the gridiron.

A dad shared his story with me this week about Jack, his 5 year old son’s diagnosis with brain cancer and how Husker Rex Burkhead helped his son get through surgery.  This made me think of the power of the teams we root for from the stands or in front of the television.

Born in Kansas, then living in Nebraska for the last 13 years… you could say I’ve been on both sides of the fence, but I can say I’m proud of where I’m from and where I live now.

When I was in third grade, my brother left for college.  In my eyes, my brother was the coolest person in the world.  He was a great football player and ended up going to K-State.  So, it was a no-brainer for me to LOVE the Wildcats, becoming a fan wasn’t even a question.  I even had K-State earrings.  It just made sense in my young mind back then.  Of course this was the days pre-Coach Bill Snider, so despite how many losses there were, I didn’t care.  My brother was there, and that is all that mattered.

I'm with my brother, when he played for the Norton Bluejays.

I'm with my brother, when he played for the Norton Bluejays. He is number 77. My cousin is number 72.

I moved to Nebraska, and of course there were the stereotypes that I thought I was moving into:  the super-obsessed fans, I thought no one would like me because I was from Kansas… etc.  But I quickly learned it was not at all what I thought.

Sure, Husker football is a way of life for many Nebraskans.  I mean, the evidence is everywhere on game day.  No matter where you are… there’s a chance you will see red at every corner, and the streets will have less traffic because nearly everyone is watching the game.  At first, I thought it was just crazy.  But then… something happened.

Long story short, I was involved in a horrible breakup in college.  A lady at the time known as The Gray Center Mom, invited me to use her Jacuzzi, relax, and try to nurse my broken heart.  I walked into her bathroom and was overwhelmed.  Not only was the Jacuzzi Husker Red, but the whole room was covered in Husker memorabilia.  After the most relaxing experience ever, she offered to take me to my first Husker game.  I didn’t think I was up to it, but she insisted.

At Memorial Stadium for the first time with "The Gray Center Mom. "

Memorial Stadium was overwhelming!  It’s not just the facility, but it was the fans.  Among the Nebraska fans, I felt welcome, like I just belonged there and no one judged me.  The Sea of Red was a brilliant sight, each person connected with the same love of the game.  After the game, I joined in as the fans I was with formed a line for the opposite team, and I heard positive comments, “great game, good job guys…”  I was shocked.  I saw Nebraska fans in a new light.  Most of them, no matter how passionate they are to have their team win, went out of their way to help the other team leave with their heads held high, even in defeat.   I noticed, I wasn’t crying anymore, and as I left in the caravan of Husker fans on Interstate,  I realized I wasn’t defeated.  I will move on from this emotional setback.

Ever since then, I have  a huge respect for Husker Nation.  That respect came to the surface once again learning that Rex Burkhead is a finalist for an award by Uplifting Athletes for the Rare Disease Champion Award.  He helped a young man smile and move forward when it was probably easier to cry and give up.  (see the story at www.nebraska.tv Click on Good Morning Nebraska)  I interviewed Jack’s dad, Andy Hoffman.

After this interview, I realized red or purple, it doesn’t matter.  These teams have the power of awareness.  Athletes like Rex, can make a huge difference in people’s lives.  No matter what team you support, there is a bigger power at work.  Win or lose, teams can make a difference.  We can make a difference, if we just reach out to one another with words of encouragement.  That is what Nebraska fans did, that is what Rex did, and that is what I plan to do from now on.

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