If I were a Cornhusker

Erik Hoversten

If you think back to fall Friday nights back in high school, you were probably doing the same thing I was doing. I spent a lot of those nights at the high school football games trying not to freeze and thinking up dirty chants that rhymed with the other team’s mascot.

Last Saturday, I was doing the same thing at Jack Trice Stadium, standing in the snow watching my team lose and trying to think of crude things that rhyme with Nebraska.

I started to wonder, though, what it would have been like if my view of those high school games would have been obstructed by the metal grid of a facemask.

Then I thought about having to turn my head over my shoulder to get a good view of the rest of the game trying to stop me from running into the end zone.

What if I were Mr. Stud and spent every Friday night dispensing concussions to those who stood in my way and leaving those who thought they could catch me in the dust?

What if one day I got a call from Nebraska, and they were just begging me to come to Lincoln to play? I would probably think it was pretty terrific to have a chance to play for such a perennial football powerhouse.

But then reason interfered with my daydreaming.

If a program as strong as Nebraska’s was on the phone talking to me, I probably would have just gotten off the phone with Michigan, Notre Dame or Florida, who were equally as eager to have me play there.

In fact, if Nebraska was dying to have me, it’s a safe bet that just about anywhere else would take me too.

So if I were faced with the opportunity of spending the next four years of my life anywhere in the country that I wanted, why would I pick Lincoln, Nebraska?

To answer this question I borrowed the Nebraska “1998 Football Media and Recruiting Guide” from the sports desk. I counted 186 people on the football roster, 108 of which were from Nebraska.

Many of these people didn’t have numbers, so I’m guessing they’re walking on, and their prospects of ever playing are pretty small. If I were from Nebraska I’d be a die-hard fan. Plus, I’d be playing in-state tuition, so I might be able to afford giving it a shot.

The other 78 people on the roster came from 29 states, Canada and Belgium.

I guess these people weren’t quite as loyal to their own state universities, like Jamie Burrow from the peaceful village of Ames.

I even found a guy from Eagan, Minn., on the Nebraska roster. Jason Schwab is a redshirt junior on this year’s Nebraska team.

I never knew the guy since he forked over the bucks to go to Cretin Derham Hall in St. Paul instead of good old EHS, but I do remember football guys who went to junior high with him and their feelings of betrayal.

They had his picture and his life story in the guide. It turns out that he originally walked on at Nebraska.

He redshirted one year, sat out the second, and last year he played in ten games as a back up for All Big-12 selection Erik Anderson and on special teams. This year he has to fight for a starting position.

Seeing as he didn’t have a scholarship, I found it difficult to understand why someone would go to Lincoln for just a chance to play football.

I’m pretty sure that it’s not academics that people shoot for. Nebraska isn’t exactly Harvard of the Midwest, and whenever I see the half-time score for the big Dartmouth-Brown game on T.V. or at the stadium I can’t help but chuckle.

Then there’s always the location. If you play for Nebraska you get to live in Lincoln and travel to places like Manhattan, Kansas, and Columbia, Missouri. On the other hand, if you played in the Pac-10, you’d have to go play in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Tucson.

You’d have a difficult time telling me Ames isn’t a better place than Lincoln, but the Cyclones are 14-77-2 against Nebraska.

Family tradition might be a factor, but I doubt there’s a lot of Nebraska grads in Belgium.

A lot of times athletes will cite the chance to play immediately in their selection of schools.

That’s not really a possibility at Nebraska.

Some athletes may want to be the star. I once heard of a small town athlete who was in the local newspaper 62 weeks in a row. If you’re a hot football prospect in the Twin Cities like Adam Runk from our own Cyclones, you get worshipped by the Star Tribune.

Nebraska fans are a bit fanatical, but great athletes can be the toast of any college town.

Lastly, there is the chance to win. Nebraska is 87-11-1 in the 1990s, has 29 consecutive bowl appearances and has 29 active players in the NFL.

The chance to win National Championships is always there. Perhaps this is what led the 5 guys from New Jersey to go halfway across the country to play for the Cornhuskers.

I guess it’s foolish to accuse a team of gross success given geographic location. Still, there are some loose ends.

Nebraska doesn’t do nearly as well at basketball. How did Nebraska get good in the first place? How come teams that cheat at recruiting for extended periods of time still do worse?

I’m not convinced that mere winning is enough to attract walk-on athletes away from scholarships, but where has suspicion ever gotten anyone?

Erik Hoversten is a senior in math and physics from Eagan, Minn.