The Suhrs now and 61 years ago when they left their own reception early.
By Randy York
Here’s an interesting question: Which two Nebraska season ticketholders root for Emily Cady and Hannah Tvrdy every bit as faithfully as they root for Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead or Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel? Meet Don and Barb Suhr, both 79 and longtime NU season ticketholders for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. The Seward, Neb., couple loves watching Cady play for Connie Yori’s Huskers and can’t wait to see Tvrdy get the same opportunity a year from now. Both are, after all, products of a Seward prep program that has won 101 consecutive games and four straight state championships.
The Suhrs always get to their Devaney Center seats well ahead of tip-off, and Wednesday night’s Top 25 Big Ten/ACC Challenge battle between No. 21 Nebraska and No. 11 Maryland will be no exception. But if you really want an interesting twist on two of the most loyal Nebraska fans you’ll find anywhere, rewind to two weekends ago when the Suhrs celebrated anniversary No. 61 with 85,000 Big Red fans.
The Suhrs were in their West Club Level seats when they watched 29 Husker seniors and a legendary Hall-of-Fame coach take their final Tunnel Walk together. The Suhrs and countless Big Red fans just like them have helped Nebraska set an ongoing NCAA record of 325 consecutive home-game sellouts. We bring the Suhrs, however, to center stage for an important reason – to prove that Nebraska football was the biggest show in town long before Bob Devaney arrived in 1962.
Turn the calendar back to Nov. 17, 1951 – the day the Suhrs were married at 9:30 a.m. at Seward’s St. Vincent’s Catholic Church. A reception attended by 150 wedding guests followed, and the first two people to leave that reception were none other than Barb and Don, the 18-year-old bride and the 18-year-old groom.
Bye-Bye: We Have a Kickoff to Catch
“We advised our parents beforehand to entertain the guests because we had Nebraska football tickets,” Don recalled. “Kickoff was 1:30, and we knew we needed to get on the road, so we bid farewell to everyone, left the reception and headed straight to Lincoln.”
Wedding or not, the Suhrs wanted to make sure they got to the game on time because they didn’t want to miss one play that might involve Bobby Reynolds, Nebraska’s 1950 First-Team All-American running back from Grand Island, Neb. Unfortunately, “Touchdown” Bobby Reynolds got lime in his eyes from the field striping that day and didn’t play much in Nebraska’s 36-14 loss to Colorado before more than 31,000 disappointed fans.
Mark Suhr, one of Don and Barb’s six children, wishes his parents could have been recognized last Saturday. “I think Senior Day and Tom Osborne’s milestone were more important than our wedding anniversary,” quipped Don, who has access to 10 Nebraska season football tickets, eight men’s basketball season tickets and four women’s basketball season tickets. “And we love going to all of them,” he said.
Husker Season Ticketholders Since 1955
Don, his wife and the youngest two of their six children own and manage an insurance agency in Seward. The elder Suhrs insist that following the Huskers keeps them young at heart. “We couldn’t afford season tickets in 1951, but through the right connections, we’ve had season football tickets since 1955,” Don said, acknowledging that one of his all-time favorite memories was paying exorbitant prices for four tickets to watch Nebraska beat Notre Dame, 27-24, in overtime in South Bend 12 years ago. “(Eric) Crouch started the scoring with a big (62-yard) run in the first quarter and ended the game with a (7-yard) touchdown in overtime,” Don recalled. “When you see more than half the stadium wearing red, it was worth the investment.”
Wife Barb loves watching the band perform. “I’ve enjoyed it ever since I was part of Band Day,” she said. “We have a nephew who was a drummer in the band, and we liked the band being part of Coach Osborne’s celebration. We’ve seen a lot of card sections from way back, but we don’t remember seeing any that went the whole length of the field like the ‘Thanks Tom’ salute Saturday.”
The Suhrs have seen Nebraska football come full circle. Don can remember when men would wear coats, ties and hats to games, and Barb can remember when women wore heels, hose and fur coats. “People used to dress up like they were going to church instead of a football game,” she quipped.
Experience Dates Back to Knothole Section
Don spent 26 years refereeing high school and small college football and basketball games. Barb, who’s still the bookkeeper for the family business, remembers when her husband sat in the Nebraska knothole section and when they both thought a $3.50 ticket to a Nebraska game was expensive after Devaney arrived in the mid-1960s.
“We love Nebraska football,” Don said. “We even went to all the freshman games and thought those were a lot of fun to watch.”
They were fun because two loyal fans always wanted a sneak preview of the stars of tomorrow, including one Johnny Rodgers, who played exclusively on the freshman team before becoming Nebraska’s first Heisman Trophy winner.
By next March, Don and Barb Suhr will both be 80, but vow that Nebraska Athletics will keep them young. Their longevity, it seems, goes hand-in-hand with their devotion.
That, and, perhaps, not having to dress up the last 50 years to see a football game.
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