The University of Nebraska's 2018 commencement ceremony filled up Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Photo by University Communications

Farmer, Firestone Share Views of Amazing Journey

By Randy York

Nebraska's 62 2018 May Student-Athlete Graduates

Nebraska Athletics administrators share a unique influence in deciding which student-athletes can inspire their respective teammates who became part of the largest graduating class in University of Nebraska history two weekends ago.

Nebraska Athletics’ 62 May 2018 graduates came to Lincoln from 21 states across America, including 19 who are native Nebraskans.

That record group became part of the largest graduating class in University of Nebraska history, made up of more than 3,250 graduate and undergraduate students from 46 states and 61 countries from around the world.

Nebraska continues to feature one of the highest graduation rates in the country, and Husker student-athletes play a significant role while leading the nation in the number of CoSIDA Academic All-Americans (330) and the NCAA’s Top 10 Award winners with 17 across all sports.

With that heritage and background, Nebraska selected its traditional student-athlete graduation luncheon immediately following the 2018 commencement inside a packed Pinnacle Bank Arena

Tanner Farmer, a 6’4” football offensive lineman from Highland, Ill., represented Nebraska’s men student-athlete graduates at a luncheon inside Memorial Stadium. Sarah Firestone, a throws student-athlete from Mercerburg, Pa., represented Husker women graduates at the same luncheon.

Both Huskers were exceptional speakers. Farmer delivered his thoughts with honesty and brevity. Firestone went deeper in explaining how much she learned while hanging on to her dream and the grueling goals that go with peak performance.

Nebraska athletics views education as transformational because student-athletes are driven to maximize their skill sets. Major goals make the path brighter and the overall journey equally compatitble with academics and life skills at the same time they compete at the highest collegiate level. Check out these two Husker letterwinners and you'll understand what that means.  

Tanner Farmer (above) on His College Football Journey

"Coming to UNL was one of the greatest decisions of my life. The people that work here and the people I have had the pleasure to meet at this great university have helped me along the way.

"Each of us has experienced our own dreams, our own principles and the support of our families and the wonderful support staff at the University of Nebraska. We had great coaches and each other. We not only survived. We thrived.

"Early on in my collegiate experience at Nebraska, I put myself in a position where I had a choice. Because of the poor choices I made, I put myself in a poor position where I had to make a choice.

"I could give up and learn from my mistakes or I could take responsibilities for my actions. I could become the best student, the best athlete and the best man I can be. Because all these people who supported me, I was ready to take on this task.

"I played a sport that was my first love. They were the best friends in my whole life, and I have grown as a student, a person and a player.

"Here at Nebraska we all try to be the best we can be as a student and an athlete. I am honored to be here and talk to a room full of people who have achieved this.

"Thanks everyone and congratulations. I wish you all the best of luck in the next step of this amazing journey that we call life."

Sarah Firestone (above) on her Track and Field Journey

"Wow! Five years and we’re finally done. Or for most of you it was 4, 4 and a half, 3, 3 and a half, and of you were done in 3 you had your life together a lot better than I did!

"And I say we because yes, as a graduate we made it through college ourselves. Exams, finals, studying, all nighters. But I don’t know about you guys but when I say we, I mean me and Mike. I’ve spent countless hours in his office because without him and his support staff - Dennis, Sherri, Caleb - and everyone else, I honestly probably would not be here.

"I remember I had asked Mike to print me off a diploma, I think 2 and a half years in. I just asked if he could print it off, I could just be done, but it didn’t happen. He definitely would not let that happen.

"But when I look around I feel very honored to have been asked to speak, to talk about this graduating class because I know that going through college with all of you has been an absolutely delight. I mean, if you look at everybody in here...we’ve got a National Champion from the volleyball team. We’ve got NCAA champions, we’ve got runner ups. We’ve got the women’s basketball team who went to the tournament this year. I mean all of us have our own stories, and a lot of you probably have better ones than I do.

 "However, when I think of my time at Nebraska, I think of two words: opportunity and adversity. Nebraska offers many academic opportunities for us to pursue our future interests. I started off as a Psychology major and a Criminal Justice minor, and graduated today with a Broadcast and Ad PR double major. Totally flip-flopped.

"I probably gave teachers and mentors a lot of gray hairs and headaches. But I was fortunate enough to have a great support staff to push and motivate me toward success just like the rest of the support staff the athletic department offers. They are looking out for our best interests. There are also many opportunities, like the Life Skills department, that gives us the chance to grow and to be positive role models in our community. We need to seek out opportunities in our new communities, and continue to make a difference.

"As many of you have, we’ve experienced our share of adversity here. We can work hard, have the strongest plan, work the plan, and the results are still not what we anticipated. As frustrating as it may be in the moment, this is life and it will not stop here at Nebraska. I personally ended up having shoulder surgery about two years ago, and that was definitely not in the plan. 

"My career, my athletics, and my academics don’t stop here. We need to realize that life will be throwing us many curves, but we need to stay positive and continue pursuing our goals, dreams, and aspirations. As I’ve heard countless times from my mother, 'with every problem, there is a solution.' And as many times as I don’t want to say this, she is right.

"A news commentator recently spoke about our graduating class and calling us snowflakes. We’ve been safe in our environment here, and are entering the world softly, he said. Expecting everything to just fall into place. I would challenge you today to join me in the mindset and determination in proving this prediction of us totally wrong.

"We hold high standards for ourselves, and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. Let’s get out there and take advantage of all our opportunities that we are offered. Making a difference in our work place, and in communities. Let’s face adversity head on, and be the positive change that our community so desperately needs right now. We are not 'snowflakes' stepping into the world, but thunder that is about to make a positive impact wherever we go.

"Again, a huge thank you to anyone and everyone who has ever helped us on our journey for anyone in this graduating class, to help us walk across that platform today. We are truly thankful and grateful. I know I am for all that you do and sacrifice for us. Congrats to all graduates who now have a diploma and the opportunity to make it count for the rest of our lives."

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