I had no intention of talking about Nebraska's Spring Game. In fact, I had started my day on Saturday with delusional thoughts of building a second garden box in my backyard, and watch the Spring Game on BTN later in the day. Unfortunately, I did not remember how much I hated building my first garden box and I was unaware of a cold rain coming through that would thwart my process so I decided to turn on the television and watch the game live.
Early on, you could tell that this was going to be one of the more laid back affairs in the Bo Pelini era. First off, he agreed to be mic'd up, which was kind of amazing considering all the world knows about Bo Pelini is "RAWRPISSFIGHTRAWRANGRY!!!" What most of us in Nebraska have been saying forever, though, is that he is a pretty neat guy by all accounts and the times he exploded here more a direct correlation to his passion as anything. Nonetheless, we saw him joking around early and often and he mentioned to the press that there would be surprises.
Of course, none of these surprises had to do with schemes or players playing, coaching strategies, or even really anything directly to do with the game. No, these things had to do with showing his teams work hard and have fun - a recruiting strategy if I had ever seen one. There was an Oklahoma Drill early on, and the coach in Bo came out, "What part of no holding do you not undertand?" was heard loud and clear, but these guys were pumped and having fun and the 60,000 or so fans who came out to take in a little football were loving it. A little later, Bo starts talking about how he needs to make sure his linemen need to learn to catch the ball in crazy situations. So, the punter starts launching punts to the linemen and again the crowd, and most of us at home, start cheering and twitter approved mightily.
Still, none of this would really have gotten me to write much because unless you were a Nebraska fan, none of it really matters. Sure, it is always fun to see the backup Quarterback run for a Touchdown, the walk-on kids who won't ever play in front of a filled up Memorial get cheered for, and the starters sitting on the sideline laughing. It is always interesting to watch the interaction of coaches and players, and it was definitely as beautiful day as one could ask for. However, that is the same for most everyone. Spring Games are a celebration of the football product. They are self-aware products of salesmenship and that is the end of it. So why even give these things any press?
Because on this specific Saturday, something different happened. Watch:
As many of you know, Jack Hoffman is the 7 year old who Rex Burkhead befriended over his time at Nebraska, and the whole Nebraska team has kind of adopted him as part of the whole. In a surprise move to Jack, Pelini and Nebraska Fullback C.J. Zimmerer got the idea to incorporate Jack into the game so that he could hear the crowd and have his day in the sun. And that he did. I know a lot has been said about this already, but I honestly was taken aback as I watched both Nebraska benches cleared, picked little Jack up, and let him revel in the crowd going wild.
Sports are filled with a lot of terrible things these days. We talk about corruption, cheating, poor sportsmanship, abuse, neglect, and a whole manner of other things that makes you wonder if there are ever upsides to this whole world. On one Saturday in April, Bo Pelini helped remind us all that sports can be an inspiration. Little Jack has dealt with more in his seven years than the majority of us deals with in a lifetime, but for one day he was on top of the world, and I'll be honest, I am not sure if there will ever be a more memorable run than his. So kudos to the Huskers. Carnival or not, this Spring Game was one for the ages, and at least for today I can proudly say there is no place like Nebraska.
If any of you are interested in learning about how you can help Team Jack and their fight for a cure to end pediatric brain cancer, go to their facebook page here.