Huskers off the Field

Story and Video by Jordan Nelson, NewsNetNebraska

Some of the biggest celebrities in Nebraska are University of Nebraska-Lincoln student-athletes. They may be well known for what they do on the field, in the gym, or on the court, but what isn’t always noticed in the news as much is how they work to make an impact in the community. That’s because of a program called Husker Life Skills.

Husker hospital visits

For an example of what UNL student-athletes do with the program, consider this year’s Thanksgiving break. The Husker football team took time off from meetings, practice and workouts to visit five different hospitals in Lincoln.

For 23 years the whole Husker football team, which consists of about 140 players, goes out on Thanksgiving break hospitals visits spending about two hours with the patients and staff members.

Being in the hospital on the holidays can be depressing and stressful so the team tries to change that and lift their spirits. The Huskers split up into groups of about 30 people and visited five different hospitals which were; Nebraska Heart Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Regional Medical Center, Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and Bryan LGH East Hospital.

During each week of the fall and spring semesters there are many opportunities for student athletes to make visits to hospitals, schools or other events. Brandon Riley, senior wide receiver, and Harrison Jordan, junior fullback, both say they felt this is an important event.

Words from the players

“What we get out of this visit is just as special to us as those patients.” Riley said, “Making someone else day special gives us a warm feeling and there is noting better than giving back to the community. Riley said that each life skills event he has done always puts into perspective of what he has and cares about.

“I just really appreciate being where I am and giving a few hours out of my day is worth it every single time,” Riley said.

Jordan is the football representative for the student athlete advisory committee. Jordan said that this event is really important to him because of the time of year.

“We get time off from school but are away from our families due to football practices and meetings, but we get to be around others who aren’t with their family so it builds a bond between us all.”

Husker Life Skills twitter page: https://twitter.com/NULifeSkills/status/801479237349867529

The impact

The team brought with them cards to sign and also wrist bands to hand out to the patient and their family members. J Hoffman is the Provider and Community Relations manager at Nebraska Heart Institute and Heart Hospital. He said their staff really enjoy the visits from Husker athletes. Hoffman has worked at the Heart Hospital and coordinated UNL student-athlete hospital visits for 8 years. Hoffman said they always generate excitement.

Life skills info

Keith Zimmer, UNL senior associate athletic director, encourages all UNL student-athletes to get involved not only to make a positive impact in the community but to gain perspective and a greater appreciation for how fortunate they have it as a student-athlete for Nebraska. Zimmer and his staff work with many UNL student-athletes on a daily basis helping them prepare for their life after college by assisting them in finding internships and job opportunities.

Husker Life Skills began in 1987 to help both student-athletes make an impact on the community in many various volunteer work and preparing them for life after college. From visiting the ill in hospitals, reading to elementary children in class or giving motivation speeches at high schools, each has its own and special impact on the athletes and the ones they are visiting.

Community Service/Outreach

In 2015-2016 collectively, Nebraska student-athletes and staff volunteered for more than 400 service projects impacting 25,000 people throughout the state of Nebraska and beyond. Here are a few examples:

  • Hospital visits throughout Lincoln were made by numerous Husker teams including the Husker Football team who for the 22nd consecutive year made pre-Thanksgiving visits providing cheer and encouragement.
  • For the 25th consecutive year, Nebraska student-athletes volunteered for both School is Cool and American Education week impacting 5,000 youth and emphasizing the importance of education and responsible choices.
  • A record number 347 Nebraska student-athletes completed at least six service projects or more during the 2015-16 academic year earning them a spot on the annual Tom Osborne Citizenship Team.
  • A record 65 Husker Football players were named to the annual Brook Berringer Citizenship team in recognition of their outstanding leadership and service.
  • Nearly 6,000 middle school students from across Nebraska attended the fourth annual Life Skills Sportsmanship Pep Rally held at the Devaney Center on November 6th, hearing inspirational messages from Husker student-athletes and coaches about education and life skills.
  • Eighty Husker student-athletes volunteered in weekly mentoring programs connecting with Lincoln Public Schools students as well as the elderly at various retirement communities throughout Lincoln.
  • Approximately 200 Lincoln Public Schools youth and their parents attended the Link N Leaders program featuring student-athlete facilitators from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Inner Circle who reinforced the core values of the Nebraska Athletics Department.
  • Approximately 300 guests, made up of Wish kids and their families, joined 40 student-athlete volunteers for the annual Make-A-Wish Family Party at Memorial Stadium to celebrate the gift of life.

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