Tag Archives: Nebraska football

A Home for Husker Healing

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nebraska football fans’ nationally recognized devotion to their team—the “Sea of Red” spilling from Memorial Stadium throughout downtown Lincoln on game days, and the subsisting pride of the `90s glory days—is epitomized by Tait Rief of Seward, Nebraska.

FanCave7Rief was a kid in the `90s, a kid captivated by the era’s Huskers heroes. His bedroom and basement are a testament to Nebraska football pride. Huskers décor fills the rooms: National Championship mugs, vintage Cornhusker Beverage soda bottles, rugs, pillows, pins, and team pennants—which, as a kid, Rief ordered each week by conference standings, always placing Nebraska first. In his bedroom, a bookcase displays three encased autographed footballs—signed by Joel Makovicka (fullback, 1994-1998), Grant Wistrom  (rush end, 1994-1997), and Sam Koch (punter, 2001-2005)—and a copy of the book Hero of the Underground signed by author Jason Peter (defensive tackle, 1993-1997).

Rief’s most cherished pieces of his collection—and his first autographs—are signed 1997 offense and defense posters. During a tour of Memorial Stadium when he was nine, Rief had his picture taken in then-head-coach Tom Osborne’s office and by the championship trophies, and then stood outside the weight room with his posters as the players came out. They signed his posters, and Scott Frost—all sweaty—patted his shoulder. “I was just in awe for the next week or two and never wanted to wash my shoulder again.” Rief hung up the posters with tacky in his room, circling Tom Osborne’s autograph in excitement.

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The `97 posters now hang framed in the basement, where Rief’s expansive collection continues. On the same wall is a Husker quilt, each block signed by members of the 2001 football team, a hutch displaying a miniature Nebraska helmet signed by Tommie Frazier (quarterback 1992-1995), a Memorial Stadium poster signed by head coach Mike Riley (his collection’s most recent addition), and a framed note signed by Ahman Green (I-back, 1995-1997) that reads, “Keep it going!!” On the opposite wall sits another hutch with more autographed footballs, including the signatures of Zach Wiegert (offensive tackle, 1992-1994), head coaches Osborne, Bo Pelini (2007-2014), and Frank Solich (1998-2003), and most of the 2001 team starters; a square of `90s Memorial Stadium turf; and ball caps signed by Osborne and Heisman winners Johnny Rodgers (wingback, 1970-1973), Mike Rozier (I-back, 1981-1983), and Eric Crouch (quarterback, 1998-2001).

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.As a freshman in 2001, Rief was involved in a Seward High School bus accident that left him with partial paralysis and short-term memory loss. In his bedroom and the basement are two identical small black-framed collages. Each collage depicts black-and-white photographs of Husker players including Rodgers, Wayne Meylan (middle guard, 1965-1967), and “Thunder” Thornton (fullback and lineback, 1960-1962), foregrounded with a color photograph of Jeff Kinney (halfback, 1969-1971) in the 1971 Game of the Century. “DETERMINATION” is printed in bold red lettering across the bottom of the image, followed by the quote, “The Harder You Work, The Harder It Is To Surrender.” Rief says that he values these words, as they “always inspired me to keep focused . . . during recovery.”

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His dad, Tom, recalls, “Tait’s always been a Husker fan. He always told me that he was going to be on the football field at Memorial Stadium one way or another—either as a player, because he was a pretty good football player himself before his accident, or (Tait) said, ‘If I have to, I’ll play in the band or be a male cheerleader.’”

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Much of Tait’s memorabilia was acquired after the accident. His collection is both meaningful and joyful. As for expanding it, he says, “I’d like to add a picture of me shaking Mike Riley’s hand.”

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So, Coach Riley, if you’re reading this, there is a fan in Seward who would like to
say hello. 

Visit huskerhounds.com for more information. OmahaHome

*Correction: The September/October 2016 print edition misspelled Tait Rief’s last name.

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Cool Runnings

December 15, 2015 by
Photography by Scott Drickey

Most people hear the name “Curtis Tomasevicz” and think of a former Nebraska football player. Some know him as an Olympic gold medalist. Still others as a professor of engineering.

To say that he dabbles in a bit of everything is clearly an understatement. Growing up in the hamlet of Shelby, Nebraska (pop. 714), Tomasevicz would go on to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His overachieving attitude was first evidenced in being an uninvited walk-on who stuck with the Huskers. He spent his first two seasons as a running back before moving to linebacker.

Tomasevicz graduated holding a bachelor and master’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in astronomy. He’s currently completing his Ph.D. while teaching an introduction to engineering course as well as another on energy science.

“I enjoy being a student and learning,” he says with a shrug. “This provides me the resources to do that.”

More than anything, he wants his students to come away from his class having learned something, whether that something is a lesson in physics, sports, or life in general.

“On paper, it’s the perfect job,” he adds. “It’s teaching. It’s engineering. It’s physics. It’s sports. I don’t know if I could find a better combination of everything I like.”

Academia may be his turf today, but it hasn’t always been that way.

In the summer of 2004 a friend convinced Tomasevicz to train for bobsledding. Within two short years he was on his way to Italy and the 2006 Olympics.

“I learned a new sport when I had just turned 24 years old,” he says of his most unlikely introduction to ice and gravity. “It was pretty humbling. How do I run on ice?”

Any Husker football player is an instant hometown hero, but Shelby rallied with gusto behind Tomasevicz’s dream when 690 people came together to raise $25,000 for his training.

His dedication paid off in gold in the four-man bobsled at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He retired from the sport just last year.

Just like in football, Tomasevicz explains that, “Bobsledding can be a violent sport. You get hit in the head a lot. But that adrenaline rush…that fear…that danger…is kind of what makes it cool, too.”

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A little more than 10 years later, his time as a bobsledder is over, but Tomasevicz continues to share his experience and inspiration. In just the first year after winning his gold medal, he delivered 110
motivational speeches.

The sport has even found a way into his lesson plan. Tomasevicz has hosted Bob Cuneo, bobsled engineer for Team USA, in a Skype-based lecture that delved into the science behind bobsled design.

Tomasevicz still hits the speaking circuit, spreading his story and motivating his audiences by relating how a guy from small-town Nebraska ended up as an Olympic gold medalist in bobsledding. The experience was foreign, daunting, humbling, and more than anything else, life-changing. Tomasevicz has demonstrated that fear—in sports, the classroom, and in life—cannot rule your emotions.

“That’s how you go through life,” he explains, “taking on fear and never letting those empty holes fill
your life.”