LINCOLN — Pregame festivities for the spring game had a patriotic theme. A giant U.S. flag that stretched from sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line was a stirring visual for the 78,312 fans.
There also was a flyover by four airplanes during the conclusion of the national anthem. But the biggest surprise — and a moment that produced some of the loudest cheers — came during the coin flip.
Players from both the Red and White teams gathered at midfield. The Red team won the toss, but the biggest winners were members of the Hawke family.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Hawke surprised his wife, Nicole, and their six children when he took off his football helmet. Hawke was part of the coin flip, dressed in full uniform as a member of the White squad.
Once his children saw that Dad was home from Afghanistan, where Hawke had been serving with G Company 2-104th GSAG, also known as Task Force Nightmare, the tears began to flow and there were plenty of hugs for everybody.
We’re No. 37!
Throughout the season the Huskers will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Nebraska being granted statehood as part of a yearlong celebration of the state’s sesquicentennial.
There is one correction that will need to be made for future announcements about this milestone in Nebraska history.
Information read over the public address system after a video presentation about former NU football player George Flippin said that Nebraska was the 38th state to join the union.
Nebraska was the 37th state to join the union, officially becoming a state on March 1, 1867. Colorado was No. 38, and it wasn’t granted statehood until 1876.
Silence please …
Another video tribute was displayed during a moment of silence for those associated with the Nebraska football program who had passed away since January 2016.
Among those were Joe Blahak, Sam Foltz, Anthony Steels and Milt Tenopir. Players had the SF27 decals on the backs of their helmets in memory of Foltz, who passed away last July in a car accident in Wisconsin.
A flag with the SF27 symbol that was brought onto the field with the team throughout the 2016 season also came out of the tunnel along with the U.S. flag. Senior placekicker Drew Brown, one of Foltz’s closest friends, also wore a shirt under his jersey with SF27 on the sleeve.
Lots of fans for Keyshawn Sr.
Many of the players who completed their careers last season were on the sidelines for at least part of the day Saturday.
Among the more popular of those players for autograph seekers was former quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Former linebacker Josh Banderas also was on hand.
Also spotted on the sideline was Keyshawn Johnson, father of NU wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. The younger Johnson was making his first appearance in uniform as a Husker; his famous father, who played for NU coach Mike Riley when he was at Southern California, shook a lot of hands and posed for plenty of pictures.