Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Memorial Stadium Popular Spring Destination

By Brian Rosenthal

     A group of fourth-grade students exited the theater-like Heisman Trophy Room at Memorial Stadium, where they had just seen a video presentation featuring Nebraska’s three Heisman Trophy winners – Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier and Eric Crouch.

When the tour guide asked for any questions, one boy raised his hand.

“Are they dead?” he asked.

“No,” the tour guide responded. “They’re very much alive.”

The boy’s eyes widened a bit.

“All three of them?” he exclaimed.

Yes, as a matter of fact, all three.

To be fair, these particular students would have been born some 7 years after Crouch became Nebraska’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner, in 2001. Plus, as anyone can attest, the time reference of a 10-year-old differs greatly from that of an adult.

Even so, such a question would make many a Husker fan laugh, so imagine being a tour guide and showing these youngsters around Memorial Stadium every weekday morning this spring.

“We need to write a book about some of the questions that get asked of us,” said Kent Kuhr, a retired salesman, banker and farmer who’s a member of the Nebraska events staff and has led tours for nearly 8 years.

Yes, ‘tis the season for elementary and middle school field trips across the state, with Lincoln, the Capitol building and Memorial Stadium serving as popular destinations. During springtime months, some 300 visitors, mostly children 14 and younger, get a closer look at the home of the Huskers every day.

Just last week, as members of the football team reconvened for the beginning of summer workouts, more than a dozen kids peered through the windows of the Ndamukong Suh Strength and Conditioning Center, watching players lift weights.

“Where’s Scott Frost?” one boy asked.

“He’s not in there,” the tour guide said.

“But where is he?”

Unsure of that answer, the guide simply explained how coaches weren’t allowed on hand to watch the voluntary summer workouts, part of NCAA rules.

Although autographs of players and coaches are prohibited for visitors on tour, Frost at times during the spring football seasonmade a point to stop and have his picture taken with a group he’d quite literally run into walking back from practice. That, of course, made the day of the kids …and a few parents, too, who looked on as Frost, with his hands on the shoulders of a student on either side, smiled big.

“Kids are enthusiastic – the majority of them, I’d say,” Kuhr said, noting that kids in grades 3-5 usually have the most questions. He’ll find some middle school students a bit more shy, perhaps hesitant to ask something in front of their peers for fear of embarrassment.

Not all questions are from boys, either. A popular question among girls, Kuhr said, is why girls can’t play football here, too. To which Kuhr jokingly responds by pointing to a picture of Suh and then asking, “Would you like him to fall on you?”

Kuhr tries to tailor his presentation to whichever age group he’s taking through the halls of North Stadium – by the weight room and locker room, across the walkway into Hawks Championship Center, and back into the stadium, where Kuhr leads kids through the “Tunnel Walk” and pumps them up before running onto the field with them.

“Are you ready? Are you READY? Are you?! LET’S GO!”

With multiple tours taking place simultaneously, the groups originate and end in different locations, and will cross paths throughout the hour-long visit. Some will congregate at once in the lobby of North Stadium, where Nebraska’s national championship trophies are on display, along with bowl trophies and other historical paraphernalia.

“Are those oranges real?” one student asks while pointing to one of many Orange Bowl trophies.

Kuhr politely suggests they’re not, explaining somebody would otherwise have to change the oranges on a daily basis.

Satisfied, the student nods.

Oh, and exactly how many Super Bowl has Nebraska won, anyway?

Yes, foreign visitors are popular in the summer time, too, at which point Kuhr and other guides must first remind them of the differences of American football.

Summer also brings day camps, families on vacation and other fans just in town visiting. All told, some 30,000 people take a scheduled tour of Memorial Stadium each year. Most of the recent field trips are from almost every school in eastern Nebraska, although some schools in the far west part of the state make the trek, too.

Some school groups will schedule next year’s tour as soon as they are finished with their current visit, making sure next year’s group of fourth graders can get its turn inside the Heisman Trophy room, too.

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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