By Randy York
Lincoln’s Amanda Wekesser can still tear up when she thinks about her favorite hero and trusted role model. Her emotions are especially sensitive this week with the Big Ten Network premiere of Unbeaten: The Life of Brook Berringer.The film’s debut on BTN immediately following Saturday night’s Nebraska-Northwestern national telecast is a godsend for college football fans, not just Husker faithful. The only issue for Amanda and, perhaps, tens of thousands of Nebraska’s most loyal fans, is their inability to watch the premiere on the same night it will mean so much to so many.
Most Big Red fans have digital video recorders, so they’re assured of seeing the film whenever it will be convenient for them to watch. Amanda doesn’t have a DVR, so she worries about missing this powerful one-hour original documentary. It is, in essence, more a character story than a sports story. I learned of Amanda’s predicament when she sent me an email, fearing that she will miss a major opportunity. She was relieved to learn that she will have two other near-term opportunities to view the feature-length film (next Monday, October 20, at 8 p.m. CT and next Wednesday, October 22, at approximately 9 p.m. CT after BTN’s Nebraska vs. Minnesota volleyball telecast).
I asked Amanda what the root of her apprehension was in missing the film on BTN and her answer triggered an intriguing aspect of what could be Brook’s greatest legacy – creating a ripple effect that’s so strong throughout the state of Nebraska, it will now make a dramatic sweep across the country, thanks to BTN’s vision, ingenuity, and artistry. If one young girl who was so devastated by Brook Berringer’s death is now a young woman who still draws inspiration from him, how many more stories like Amanda’s are out there? And how many new hearts can Brook touch when others watch something Nebraskans already know?
Amanda Was 7 When Her Mom Told Her the News
Amanda was 7-years-old when Berringer died in a crash of the plane he was piloting two days before the 1995 NFL Draft. “My family watched the Huskers play every Saturday when I was growing up. I was an impressionable kid and Brook became my favorite player over Tommie Frazier and countless others,” Amanda told me. “He was a Husker quarterback, a good player, and gave it his all, even when he was hurt. He was a major factor in our ‘94 National Championship run, and I was disappointed when Brook lost the starting job for the ‘95 season. Never once did anyone hear him complain, even though it had to have been tough on him. To this day, no one ever seems to have a bad thing to say about Brook.”
Amanda Wekesser will never forget her mom telling her about Brook’s accident. “I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that my favorite Husker player was gone,” she told me, adding that even at her tender young age he was “a person I looked up to and was suddenly gone and I’d never see him again.”
In the years that followed, Amanda cried whenever she was at a Husker home game honoring the Brook Berringer Memorial Scholarship winner. “Every year that award is presented reminds me of Brook,” she said while acknowledging that several years after his death, Amanda read the book One Final Pass: The Brook Berringer Story. “I was surprised at how many similarities Brook and I shared – from work ethic in our respective sports to volunteering and even our knack for pranks,” Amanda told me.
Growing Up, She Asked: What Would Brook Do?
“To this day, if I’m going through a tough situation, faced with a tough decision, or am hurt by someone or injured, I often find myself asking ‘What would Brook do in my situation?’” Amanda said, explaining that she often makes decisions based on what she thinks he would have done in a similar circumstance.
It isn’t a tactic she always employs, but that question helped her get through a number of challenges and hardships. Before earning her UNL Bachelor’s degree in meteorology, a math-rich field, “there were late nights when I would be up studying and think ‘this isn’t worth it anymore. I think I’m going to quit. Math is not my strong suit.’” Then, in a matter of minutes, Amanda would tell herself that Brook Berringer never quit when it got hard for him, so she kept going full-speed ahead.
“I was very young when Brook was alive, but he left a deep, lasting impression on me,” Amanda said. “He’s been a hero and a role model to me for many years, and to this day, I wear a number 18 football jersey most Saturdays.”
Brook Provides a Compass for Navigating Life
Amanda Wekesser, a para educator and swimming coach for Lincoln-based Nebraska Aquatics, believes strongly that “the world would be a different place if we had more role models like Brook,” she said, before adding how difficult it is to put into words the full impact that Berringer has made on her life. She even says she hopes she’s given me at least a glimpse of what Brook meant to her and what his legacy means to so many others.
A glimpse? I put Amanda’s thoughts in that exceptional category where someone you never meet can have a profound impact on how you look at life and navigate your way through it. Something tells me there are countless other Husker fans who see Brook’s life, leadership, legend and legacy as one comprehensive compass for their own lives.
“Everyone has a role model at one time or another,” Amanda said. “Jack Hoffman has his role model in Rex Burkhead, his friend. I grew up with Brook Berringer as my role model. I just never got to meet him as a friend.” Not in this life anyway. “We share the same beliefs,” Amanda said, “and I believe that one day I will get to meet Brook in Heaven.”
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