A Nebraska band member led students to wave their towels against Wisconsin.
By Randy York
Another historic Nebraska sellout crowd Saturday night at Memorial Stadium will be well equipped to celebrate the first conference contest in college football history between two teams that have won at least 850 all-time games.
More than 100 Husker student-athletes and volunteers will give Husker fans rally towels when they walk inside the stadium. It’s a personal “thank you” from the Athletic Department for helping Nebraska become the first NCAA school to celebrate 50 Years of Consecutive Sellouts.
About 9,000 black rally towels were distributed to UNL student season ticket holders for the Wisconsin game earlier this month, and they were such a hit that Nebraska season ticket holders will get the same opportunity.
Students Love Waving Their Black Towels
UNL students loved waving their black towels throughout the Huskers’ second-half rally against the Badgers. Down by 17 in the third quarter, a national television audience saw students rally Nebraska to the second biggest comeback in school history.
Throw in last year’s largest comeback win in school history over Ohio State and last weekend’s largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history at Northwestern (tied with two others), and it becomes apparent why rally towels are appropriate to thank Nebraska fans for the role they play in tight games.
Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini went out of his way to thank nearly 30,000 Big Red fans that traveled to Evanston over the weekend. Husker fans were so loud at the game’s end, they forced the home team to go to a rare silent count in its own stadium. “I appreciated the fans’ effort and what they did,” Pelini said. “They were in this (game), and there was hope at the end.”
Rally Towel Makes Brenden True Believer
You might say the Huskers pulled one out in Evanston without the benefit of a rally towel. But the truth is, you would be wrong. “Remember Jerry Tarkanian (the UNLV basketball coach who chewed on his towel all game long)?” asked Brenden Stai, a first-team All-America offensive guard on Tom Osborne’s first national championship team in 1994. “Well, now I know why he chewed on that towel.”
Saturday’s situation was so tense that Stai, an offensive intern on Pelini’s staff, grabbed a towel before the fourth quarter and chewed through it so aggressively that his mouth started to bleed. Somehow, for someone with 196 career pancake blocks as a Husker, life’s harder without pads than with them.
Superstitious or not, Stai wasn’t about to cut that towel loose from his mouth. Every time he bit on it, something good happened. It must have reminded him of his five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a stint that included a start in the Super Bowl.
Stai’s Steelers Have Most Famous Towel
For the uninitiated, Steeler fans claim the most famous rally towel in all of sports. The Terrible Towel has been part of Steeler folklore since 1975 and is credited with being the first “rally towel” – one that has been broadly copied. So much history is tied to the towel that one showed up at the International Space Station, not to mention the peak of Mt. Everest. No wonder Steeler fans believe their rally towels symbolize not only the team, but the city itself.
When Husker players raved about their black helmets, black numbers and black names on their red alternative uniforms for the Wisconsin game, Nebraska knew black rally towels would be popular. Once UNL students gave their towels a ringing endorsement, regular ticket holders wanted their own
So Marketing went to work and found a way to tie the next wave of towels into the 50 Years of Sellouts celebration. The newer towels have a 1962-2012 on top of the celebration logo and a Big Red “N” in between the logo and the words Memorial Stadium. The towel also says: Thank You, Husker Fans!
Nebraska Athletics teamed up with the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety to purchase the towels, which also communicate an important message: You Drink, You Drive, You Lose.
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