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Two senior walk-on football players headed to postgraduate study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha received something besides lunch at the Lincoln Country Club Thursday afternoon. Jake Long, an Elkhorn (Neb.) native who has been accepted to Medical School, and Brandon Chapek, a Wahoo (Neb.) native who has been accepted to Dental School, each received a $15,000 check as the 2014 winners of the Solich Award. The scholarship, originated in 2001, is presented in honor of former NU fullback Frank Solich, the only Husker who has been inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
Solich became Nebraska’s head coach for six years after serving 19 years as an assistant coach under Tom Osborne. Counting his four years as a Husker player, Solich was a key cog in Nebraska football for 29 years. In 1999, he guided the Huskers to a 12-1 record, Big 12 Championship and No. 2 final ranking in the coaches’ poll. In 2001, he led Nebraska to an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game against Miami in the Rose Bowl. Neither Long nor Chapek knew in advance that the Solich Award included major financial support. “I was truly honored to receive such a generous scholarship,” Long said. “This scholarship represents all the things that I think our football program represents – hard work, dedication, and accountability.” In fact, those very skills helped Long earn an athletic scholarship near the end of his Husker career. “I know Coach Solich held all of those things in high regard,” he said. “Hearing the names of the former athletes who received the same award really put into perspective the elite company Brandon and I are joining. This scholarship is going to help me out tremendously as I move forward into medical school, which has become quite expensive over the years. I can’t say enough how honored and humbled I am to receive this scholarship and will do my best to honor it with my career.”
Chapek and Long received blazers with a Nebraska seal and a block N.
Chapek’s Perseverance Paid Off in Final Season
A five-year contributor in the offensive line, Chapek received the Cletus Fischer Scholarship at last weekend’s Spring Game. He also won the 2014 Husker Heart Award in a vote of Nebraska coaches and staff and added a Husker Hero Award from Life Skills earlier this week. Even though he did not see action until his senior season, Chapek was on the field when Nebraska defeated Penn State, 23-20, in overtime last November in State College, Pa.
“What an amazing honor it is to be recognized as a recipient of an award that is modeled after an individual like Frank Solich,” Chapek said. “He poured his everything into any task he performed. He work his way through the ranks as a player without receiving much notoriety. He developed himself as an individual and dedicated himself to athletics and involvement. He displayed his passion for football on the field, and he emptied himself into being an amazing coach. I strive to exhibit the same characteristics in my own daily life. I never achieved the level of accomplishment that I desired so badly, but I poured myself into my academics, community involvement and personal development. This, in turn, allowed me to reach never-before-seen levels of success as an individual, even if they were not in my originally sought-after realm.”
From left: Jake Long, Bob Sawdon, Shawn Eichorst, Tom Smith, Brandon Chapek.
Chapek, Long Paid Their Dues, Worthy Recipients
Keith Zimmer, Nebraska’s longtime Associate Athletic Director for Life Skills and Director of the N-Club, called Chapek and Long “two outstanding scholar-athletes who have paid their dues and will thrive in their chosen graduate programs.” The Solich Award honors Husker student-athletes who exemplify the work ethic and organizational skills of Solich. “The generosity of this committee recognizes Frank for his tireless contributions,” Zimmer said. “It’s impressive to say the least.”
Frank Solich is the only Nebraska Football Hall-of-Famer as a player and a coach.
Chapek’s Dad Played Under Solich as ‘81 Freshman
Chapek was particularly taken aback because his father, Larry Chapek, had the privilege of playing for Coach Solich when he was a member of the 1981 Nebraska freshman team. “I have never heard a negative word about Mr. Solich come out of my father’s mouth, and I personally know that he holds a great deal of respect for him,” Chapek said. “Knowing how morally solid my father is, I can honestly say that I also have a great amount of respect for Mr. Solich, based solely on that fact.”
Brandon Chapek feels “extremely blessed” to be able to apply the scholarship money towards his postgraduate education in Dental School at UNMC. Coming into the football program as a walk-on meant that Chapek had to endure the struggles and challenges of putting himself through school financially. “Having this award helps lessen the load that I need to carry in my continued academic pursuit,” Chapek said. “I truly think that it is even more satisfying, knowing that I have scratched and clawed my way to this point and can enjoy the fruits of my labor a bit. It is an amazing thing what this fund is doing.”
Frank Solich set a single-game NU rushing record with 204 yards against Air Force.
Solich Award Helps Student-Athletes Succeed in Life
Because the Solich Award is providing an amazing opportunity for dedicated student-athletes to further their education, it is a major motivational influence for Nebraska student-athletes in pursuit of success in life. “I’m extremely honored to receive this prestigious award and I’m excited to use it fully to enjoy the opportunities that it provides,” Chapek said. “I was truly speechless at first and remain truly humbled.” The parents of both walk-ons – Larry and Nancy Chapek and Doug and Ann Long – attended Thursday’s luncheon, along with Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst and scholarship committee members Bob Sawdon and Tom Smith.
The Solich Scholarship Committee prioritizes football consideration, but has named one non-football postgraduate recipient, Brett Grieb from Nebraska cross country and track & field in 2013. Former Nebraska football walk-on and three-time Olympic bobsledder Curtis Tomasevicz is the only two-time winner of the Solich Award, earning the honor in 2004 and 2005. Other football recipients include: Monte Christo, 2001; Jake McKee, 2003; Will Dabbert, 2004; Aaron Terpening, 2004; Tyler Toline, 2006; Dusty Keiser, 2006; Garth Glissman, 2007; Matt Senske, 2008; and Conor McDermott, 2013.
The Frank Solich Award display is in the same hallway as Nebraska's Tunnel Walk
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