Husker Dad Walks The Line Between Father and Fan

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By Michael Rose Sr. on December 23, 2013

I remember when I first became a Husker fan. It was January 2nd, 1984. The Nebraska Cornhuskers were playing in the Orange Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes.  My family and I were visiting my grandparents in a small town about 30 miles outside of Shreveport named Vivian, Louisiana for the New Years holiday all the way from Kansas City, MO. I can’t honestly say I knew much about the Huskers up to this point in my life. Heck, I don’t recall being that much into the game of football then either. After all, I was only 7 years old.

What I did know was I saw a team with an African-American quarterback — something that was extremely rare during those days. My dad had made a big deal of this and that then head coach Tom Osborne was one of the best coaches in college football. The Huskers were the team from the north, where I was from, going against a team from the south, where we currently were. I remember several of my family members making comments about how the Hurricanes were gonna whip up on the boys from the north and my dad defending the Huskers against the pressures of his in-laws. My dad was cheering for the Huskers to win.  Therefore, I wanted the Huskers to win.

I don’t recall all of the details of the game, but I do remember the Huskers had to come from behind to have an opportunity to win or tie the game. After scoring a late touchdown in the 4th quarter, a decision had to be made — go for the extra point and end the game in a tie, claiming a piece of the National Championship or attempt a 2-point conversion and claim the championship all alone.

Of course, we all know what happened then. What I remember most about that moment is how I felt. I felt proud! Even though the Huskers lost, I felt a connection with them from that point on. Why? Maybe it had something to do with them having a quarterback that looked like me. Maybe it was because they were a team from the north, like me, playing a team from the south, where I was. Maybe it was the respect my father had for Tom Osborne.  Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever it was, I was a Husker fan from then on.

As every Husker fan did, I thoroughly enjoyed the 90’s. The Huskers had such a impact on me, particularly the BLACKSHIRTS, that I modeled the way I played the game of football to be like them. I wanted to be dominant. I wanted to be fast. I wanted to be confident! I knew Husker Power was the engine behind the Big Red Machine, so I even lifted weights and trained like I was under the tutelage of Boyd Epley himself. I even got a hold of the pyramid of success that shaped the concepts of being a Nebraska Cornhusker. Using the Big Red as my motivation, I became one of the best high school football players in the state of Missouri. The 1995 football season, my senior year at Hickman Mills High School, I was named 1st team to every city and statewide ranking as an undersized defensive tackle (5’10” 210lbs.) that tallied 150 tackles, 19 1/2 sacks and added nearly 500 yards and 8 TDs on offense as a situational fullback and running back. All of this was achieved because I wanted to be a Cornhusker.

Fast forwarding to where I am today, still a Husker fan, but I have a more unique perspective than most Husker fans. My son is now a football player on the team. I couldn’t be any prouder of him than I am today. Coming out of high school, unlike myself, Michael had PLENTY of opportunities to play D1 football, receiving scholarship offers from schools in the SEC, Big 12, PAC 12 and of course, the Big 10.

Today’s Nebraska Cornhuskers find themselves 12 seasons removed from last appearing in the national title game and 16 seasons from last winning a national title. Although they’ve appeared in two conference championships in the last 6 years, it has been far too long since they’ve won a conference championship outright. Add these facts to the current three-game bowl losing streak and it doesn’t take much more to see Nebraska is far from their glory years. Husker Nation has grown restless, myself included. I’m just as passionate, just as much desiring for the Huskers to be the Huskers I grew up watching — loving and modeling the way I played football, just as the next fan did. However, since I’m now much closer to the program, having established varying levels of personal relationships with the current Husker staff and players, it’s probably a little easier for me to contain my level of frustration or disappointment.

And herein lies the conflict within me: the duality of being a fan and a father.

There’s a unique transition that takes place within me during a Huskers football game. When I wake up in the morning of a game day, all I can think of is Michael. I’m hoping he’s mentally focused, confident in knowing his assignments and most importantly that he stays healthy. I send him the same text message: “Play fast. Play violent. Be a playmaker. You were built for this!!! I love you and I’m proud of you.”

I tell myself it’s important for him to see or hear me before the games, so while other parents are wrapping up their tailgating, I usually arrive at Memorial Stadium about an hour or so before kickoff. I gotta see how he warms up. I gotta lay eyes in him. I pray for his safety and success. Once the opening kick off gets on its way, I turn into the most rabbid, opinionated, passionate fan you may ever meet. Nobody is off limits from my thoughts and opinions about their performance during the game — NOBODY — including Michael. Admittedly, I’m probably harder on him than anybody else. I transition from father to fan.

Just as there’s a transition at the beginning of the game, there’s another transition that takes place afterwards. From fan to father. It’s interesting. The same mistakes that I saw during the game aren’t so bad afterward. The fumbles, interceptions, penalties, questionable play calling, special teams play…doesn’t matter. What calms me down, bringing me back to a level of relative sanity is my relationships. I know these individuals beyond face recognition, jersey numbers or stats from the game. I’ve had players and coaches at my house. On top of that, I see the disappointment on their faces after a loss. I see them beaten up with ice packs on various parts of their bodies. I see them pushing aside their emotions to sign autographs for kids and adults — all the while their families wait patiently for every autograph request be fulfilled.

In other words, I see that they’re kids playing a game. They hurt. They feel disappointment. They know what it means to Husker Nation for them to play well, and when the final score doesn’t have the good guys on top, they feel the weight of it all.

And then I see my son, who I haven’t gotten to spend much time with since the beginning of fall camp. Every moment I spend with him, football is the least of my concerns. I want to just be with ” The Boy.”

But, my pride for his accomplishments and playing for Nebraska is hard to hide. I give him either words of encouragement about the game or let him know how good he played depending on the situation. Never does the fan in me come out in his presence or the presence of the coaching staff or other players. Every once in awhile, during the three and a half hour drive back to my home in Kansas City, I’ll talk to my wife about the game. Afterward, the fan in me is dormant…until the next game.

Then the transition starts all over again.

Follow Michael Rose Sr. on Twitter!

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About J.P. Scott

Owner and editor of Know It All Football, contributor to AthlonSports.com and GridirionExperts.com. Member of the Football Writers Association of America.

45 thoughts on “Husker Dad Walks The Line Between Father and Fan

  1. ashalon
    December 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. GBR!

    1. December 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Thank you kindly!

  2. Matt
    December 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    On a Christmas Eve, this puts what we all feel as fans into perspective. Thanks so much for writing this, and have a wonderful Holiday Season.

    1. December 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      You’re welcome and I hope you and your family had a GREAT Christmas and wishing you a Happy New Year!

  3. Travis
    December 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Mr. Rose, thanks for an outstanding article, and thanks for allowing your son to play for the Huskers. You clearly did a great job raising Michael, and he’s a fantastic example of a Husker football player. Husker Nation supports great effort from the players/coaches, and we look forward to Michael taking care of business in the Gator Bowl, and the remainder of his playing career. Go Big Red.

    1. December 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. I can’t take very much credit for the way Michael turned out. He’s a much better kid than I am a father, and I mean that with all sincerity. His mother, step-mother (my wife) and grand parents all had a part in raising him. It definitely takes a village….and that’s what he had as a support system.

      GBR!

  4. Mark Moore
    December 24, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Thank you for a great blog post. You have an interesting introspective on the experience being both fan and father. I am just a life long fan but I keep in mind that these are simply young men with a long life ahead of them and this is just a game. If some of them make the pro’s then so be it but the rest of them should just play for the joy of it while they still can.

    As a dedicated fan and someone who understands I always watch every game to the very end, even if it is a disappointing outcome. If the boys have to stay and play to the finish then I’ll watch just to honor their effort.

    Oh and I call my son “The boy” as a term of endearment as well, that part made me smile.

    1. December 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Thank you kindly. My wife was the one who started calling Michael, “The Boy”. It started as a term used when he would do something silly or when he was in trouble. From there, he’s just become known as, “The Boy”.

      But he’s becoming a great young man! His family is very proud of him!

  5. Bryan H
    December 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    That was a fun and well written article. It was a very interesting perspective to read. As a life time Husker fan(who became a fan at the age of 8, and from South Florida no less) I wish Michael ALL the BEST in his Husker and Pro careers. Let’s hope he and his current teammates bring home that Sears Trophy in the next couple of years. Also, I believe that the Huskers have played in 3 Conference Title games, two in the Big 12 and one in the B1G. GO BIG RED!!!!!! Let’s Beat Georgia this year!!!!!!!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks for your well wishes for Michael. I hope he helps lead the Blackshirts back to prominence by kickin’ some Georgia Bulldog tail in the Gator Bowl. GBR!

  6. Tad
    December 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Awesome read…like you, I graduated from high school in the mid-nineties. I love the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I envy your position, and can almost feel the transition you make every gameday. I am getting restless…wondering if this team will ever be great again…the team has a ton of great people…and some decent players. They are people worth rooting for. I hope they can get championship level football figured out quickly. The legend of Nebraska football no longer lives in anyone less than 25 years old. Best of luck to your boy and GO BIG RED.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      I enjoyed watching the Huskers in the 90’s., especially defensively. I didn’t want to play offense because I wanted to be a Blackshirt. My high school team even had black practice jerseys for our defense.

      Greatness for this team is right around the corner. I honestly believe it.

  7. Jeff_Georgia
    December 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Outstanding, Mr. Rose. Just outstanding. I’m from the North too (Illinois) but I now live in the South (Atlanta area). I’ve been a Husker fan since 1978 (but I’m a bit older than you – 21 years older).

    Husker Nation is proud of your son as well. From the day he became a Husker, I could see something in the young man – a enthusiastic leadership quality that you just can’t teach.

    My best to you, your family and especially your son Michael this Christmas season.

    Go Big Red!
    (Mixed feelings here as my oldest son is a Georgia grad… 🙂 )

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you Jeff_Georgia. I hope he continues to make Husker Nation proud! GBR!

  8. December 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    thanks for sharing your heart and your family’s love. we fans love hearing. and feeling it.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      You’re welcome. Thanks for your kind words. GBR!!!

  9. December 25, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Reading through this very nicely written article by Michael Sr, It becomes apparent how important integrity and character is in the any aspect of life. Reviewing the history of Tom Osborne and how he had to persevere through many seasons (I believe 7) before he outright won his first conference championship. Then it was some 10 or 11 years before he had that super team of Gill, Fryer, and Rosier. Then it was another 10 or 11 years before he had the super teams of the 90s.

    We have the right coach for Nebraska now. He has had to endure changes that have been hard. For example, recruiting players to come to Nebraska to match up with Big 12 offenses, then changing conferences and having to recruit for another different style of offense. During all this transition, our teams have still won at least 9 games and a division championship. Also, his push for education, team discipline, and his adherence to the NCAA rules is nothing short of remarkable.

    Nebraska, under this current coaching staff, will produce a conference champion within the next 2 -3 years, as well as a top 5 (hopefully top 4) program.

    Yes, I understand that Coach Pelini is more transparent with his insecurities than Coach Osborne. He will learn and he has learned. Sideline beratements were a weekly exhibition, now it is limited to 1 or 2 episodes in a season.

    Consequently, we will continue to get the type of athlete that is like Michael Rose.
    Also, Nebraska’s educational infrastructure has developed a reputation of getting athletes their education/degree. I do believe that is why we are attracting the top CC athlete…because they realize they need a program to keep them focused on their studies.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      I agree with you 100%!!!

  10. Timothy Harrington
    December 25, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Thanks Michael Rose Sr! Great read for Xmas morning.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      You’re welcome Timothy. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year! GBR

  11. December 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Thanks for the great article and insights. I can see why Michael #15 is so well spoken. He has fast become my favorite player. GBR!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      You’re welcome. He’s been practicing giving interviews since he was a little kid. I’m just glad he doesn’t sound like a “dumb jock”, lol!!!

  12. December 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Nice article. Really glad to have Michael on the team and dad, and family, as part of the Husker family. Go Big Red!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you. We’re excited to be a part of this experience. We are all proud of him! GBR

  13. Gary Person
    December 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Thank you Michael Sr for sharing your special moving Husker story. Merry Christmas to you and your family.. You just made mine a little more special. Love your passion and I will think about it every Michael Rose Jr tackle from this point forward.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      You’re welcome! GBR

  14. December 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Nicely done Mr. Rose, and Merry Christmas!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Thank you, and I hope you and your family had a Merry Christmas.

  15. L F
    December 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Mr. Rose, thank you so very much for this perspective. It is important for the rest of us fans to see this, and I appreciate that you took the time to write it. I love seeing your boy play and I feel he has a special future ahead at Nebraska. I truly feel that he will be part of the reason for a resurgence that will surprise and please everyone from players, coaches, to fans. Thanks so much, and please give our love to your son. GBR!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you for respecting my perspective. I’m not sure why my opinion matters because there are some really good father-son relationships represented on this Husker team (Banderas, C-Jax, Santos and their fathers to name a few).

      We all want our sons to be successful and we want Nebraska to be what we know they can be!

  16. Dan Wordekemper
    December 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Mr. Rose
    I have followed your sons p;progress since the recruiting process started. Last winter my youngest son, who was 11 yrs old at the time, wanted to go to a Chadron St basketball game. The reason was because a group of Husker football players, who were with the Fellowship of Christen Athletes, were giving a talk after the game. He went, listened to the presentation, and afterwards got pictures with, and autographs of Michael and Amani Cross. It made a big impact on him. We got the pictures blowen up, and framed. He is very proud of them. Every game we watch Michael, and cheer for him, just a little more than the rest of our beloved Huskers, and have been very proud of his progress this past year. I am writing this to compliment you and your family for raising such a fine young man, I hope I can do the same with my boys.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Dan,

      I really appreciate you sharing this with me. THIS is what makes me the most proud of Michael. Giving back is a part of our Christian duty. It is more important to me as a man of faith, that all of my children become Godly men and women, using their gifts as a platform for God. I’m sure if Imani’s parents were asked about him, they’d feel the same. It’s easier to cheer for kids like them, and there are a lot of kids on the team who fit the same mold as Michel and Imani!

      I hope your youngest son reaches all of his goals and ambitions! GBR!

  17. Steve scannell
    December 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Mr. Rose: loved your comments. God bless you and your son. GBR!

  18. Steve B
    December 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    I’ve been a fan for 54 years, now live in the Kansas City area, and had a cousin that played for Nebraska. So its great to hear your labor of love and passion for the player and his school. I think more fans should hear what parents(as fans) go thru in the winning and losing. I know these coaches are not perfect, but I for one am tired of dehumanizing of the jobs they do. I do believe Palini really cares for these players as he also learns some life lessons at Nebraska. GO BIG RED

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      I wish Husker Nation saw the Coach Bo I’ve had the priviledge of knowing for the last 4 years. He’s definitely not perfect, but who is. He really does care for his players, on and off the field, and especially in the class room.

  19. Richard Murray
    December 25, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Great perspective from a dad and fan. All of us who are or have been parents of athletes playing team sports can relate. Even as a dad of a high school football player, you want your son’s team to win and you want him to make himself proud with his play, but in the end you want him to be safe and enjoy the experience for himself. And should the team lose, you want to be there to encourage him. I’m sure some parents live their lives vicariously through their kids, but I’d bet the vast majority do not.

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks Richard. There’s not much in this world that brings me as much joy as watching my kids play or perform, from my middle schooler to my college children. Sounds like you can relate.

  20. K. R.
    December 26, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Mr. Rose you had to remind me of all those times as you wait until after the interviews, the signing of autographs and taking pictures for fans with your child until your one of the last ones in the parking lot. You exchange pleasantries, talk about the game, give some cash with a hug knowing its time to go because you can see that his girlfriend & friends are waiting. You chuckle to yourself because the players don’t get to park next to the stadium on game day and you seen your son make that long walk over the bridge back to his car before just like every other fan. I always dreaded the walk back to the my car and that drive back to Kansas City.. but it was well worth it. Go Big Red!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      K.R.

      YOU HIT THE NAIL SQUARE ON THE HEAD!!!! WOW!!!

      And it is definitely worth it! GBR!!!

  21. December 26, 2013 at 11:24 am

    What a great dad you are. The passion for football well and fairly played, and still keeping it secondary to the concerns of family and community, are so clearly conveyed in this wonderful article. And that is why I – a New Englander by birth – am so proud to be an adoptive part of the Husker Nation!

    1. Michael Rose
      December 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Thank you Tara! Husker Nation is awesome! Greatest fans in college football!!! GBR

  22. Ben Eicher
    December 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Mr. Rose:

    Not only do you write very well, but your passion and love bleed through wonderfully. Your son is very lucky to have such a great dad. I’m a Husker alum (UNL law School, 1985—with an undergrad degree from Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska where my late mentor in Criminal Justice, George Watson, was married to the sister of Tom O’s wife). My late father (a Lutheran pastor) also was a great fan of Tom Osborne and the way he coached our team. He loved to point out how Coach O built men and great players. I’m also with you on the status of our program—players like your son are quality people—that makes the Huskers winners even when the W’s and the L’s are not as high as we’d like. I will be especially cheering on Michael Rose, Jr. as he goes through his career at beloved N.U.

  23. Bookman
    December 26, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Mr. Rose,

    Thank you for the enlightening article. I, like most Husker fans, have done a good deal of squawking the last few years about where the team is headed. After reading your piece, I realize that this whole organization is a family from the personnel on the field to the coaches on the sideline to the parents in the stands. Despite the fact that I NEVER direct any vitriol at the players, I realize now that these kids and the staff are all parts of the same machine. I’ll try to tone down my grousing from now on and be more supportive in these trying times.

    It’s nice to gain a little perspective from an insider such as yourself. I appreciate the fact that you and many more fathers like you have raised some incredibly focused and dedicated young men. Keep up the good work and please keep contributing articles. You’re a great writer.

    Bookman

  24. N Tingelhoff
    December 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Great article Michael.

    Its so hard to explain the type of boys that Bo recruits, but it truly makes me proud to be a Husker. I follow you on Twitter, and how involved you are with this program, the kids, fans and your son, is quite amazing. I have followed your son, as well as many other kids during the recruiting process, and when conversations come up about LBer play, your son’s name is one of tops to be mentioned. Despite his hiccup on his first start, he has done exceptionally well. This world could use more people like you. I love the fact that you know that fine line between a father first, fan second. You should definitely write some more articles though, this was exciting to read. GO BIG RED and tell your boy to make sure he goes in hungry, because there will be some Bulldogs to eat up 🙂 This could be the game that turns this program around, and go into the off season with a great mental attitude. #9wins.

    I hope you and your family had a great Christmas, and hope you all have a Happy Holidays.

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