By Randy York
For Nebraska football fans who think they have everything, The N-Sider has all kinds of sure-fire tips designed to make your holiday shopping easy. We’ve done all the heavy lifting, so you don’t even have to leave your house to look smart or be savvy. All you need are the links in this column, a credit card next to your computer and the ability to congratulate yourself for shopping like millions of other Americans shop … online … with no crowd, no hassle, no second-guessing. It’s your opportunity to delight family and friends at the same time you’re supporting your favorite athletic department.
Our top holiday suggestions for 2012 gift giving are a pair of books: 1) Unbeatable, Tom Osborne and the Greatest Era of Nebraska Football, written by Henry J. Cordes, an Omaha World-Herald staffer given major access to Osborne before he retires as Nebraska’s athletic director on Jan. 1, 2013 (followed by at least six months with the title of Nebraska Athletic Director Emeritus); and 2) Tom Osborne on Leadership, Life Lessons from a Three-Time National Championship Coach, written by Pat Williams with insight/editing from Mike Babcock, Nebraska’s most knowledgeable living football historian.
Every Big Red fan would enjoy having both books in the library, so it might be wise to double your pleasure. At the very least, order one book now for the holiday season and buy the other for a meaningful Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gift when Osborne transitions to the next chapter in his servant-filled life. The N-Sider will focus on the fundamentals of both books, but rest assured, they’re both well written and good reads, even though they’re decidedly different in approach.
Cordes spent 16 hours interviewing Osborne so he could climb inside the Hall-of-Fame coach’s head and get the full thought process on his championship teams, including an inside look at his systems, methods and philosophies that formed the foundation of his success. Cordes also got the inside scoop on Tommie Frazier’s decision to come to Nebraska and writes about how close Tommie came to never setting foot in Lincoln. The author also reveals how Warren Sapp became the perfect foil on the biggest play in the 1994 national championship game and offers a fresh look at Lawrence Phillips: The man, his rage, his crimes and why Osborne has never given up on him.
The narrative nature of Cordes’ hardcover book shows the impact of 120 hours of interviews he needed to match players’ memories with a head coach’s recollection. Within weeks of being published, 10,000 copies of Unbeatable were sold, moving it into the top 80 of Barnes & Noble’s National Top 100 Sales Chart.
The Williams/Babcock paperback publication, priced $11 cheaper than Cordes’book, reached bookstores last weekend and promises to sell quickly as well. Williams used the same editorial approach with Osborne that he used in writing incisive leadership books on Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden. Williams interviewed countless Husker players and coaches so he could dig deeper and reinforce the following eight leadership principles that he connects with Osborne:
• Be a servant leader. Sacrifice yourself for the benefit of others.
• Accentuate the positive and empower those around you.
• Focus on your values and principles and stay true to them.
• Bring a sense of teamwork through loyalty and unity.
• Do whatever you can to help make a difference in the world.
• Whenever you deal with adversity, learn from the experience.
• Focus on what matters most: Character, principles and process.
• Mentor someone and leave a legacy of spirit and perseverance.
A co-founder and senior vice president of the Orlando Magic NBA franchise, Williams is considered one of the nation’s top motivational speakers. According to Babcock a recent Williams’ speech at Lincoln’s Union College reinforced that reputation at the same time it reinforced his new book.
Babcock likes how the book is organized and believes Nebraska fans will enjoy reading the nuances of Osborne’s leadership style that breaks down into these seven chapters: 1) Character: Performance Ensures Trust; 2) Competence: The Key is Preparation; 3) Boldness: Dare to Diversify; 4) Vision: Seeing Ways to Win; 5) People Skills: Working as a Team; 6) A Serving Heart: Servant Leaders Gain Devoted Disciples; and 7) Communication: Making the Right Plays.
“One of my favorite chapters in the book is Chapter 3 about boldness. It focuses on walk-ons,” Babcock said. “It begins with Mitch Krenk, who was not recruited but reflected back on how, 30 years later, he has two Big Eight championship rings and a Super Bowl ring with the Chicago Bears. Mitch talked about how everyone was given an equal opportunity under Osborne and how all walk-ons were treated just like big-time recruits. Even at 52, Mitch (who owns his own construction business in Nebraska City) still reflects on how different his life would be without the lessons he learned under Coach Osborne. He remembers how 150 freshmen reported for that first day of practice with the vast majority being walk-ons.
“That chapter reflects the book well,” Babcock said, “because the folks represented include familiar names as well as those not so familiar, such as Ryan Held and Cartier Walker, both of whom had some nice things to say about Tom. When guys such as Held, who didn’t even letter, say those kinds of things, you know Tom had a significant impact with his positive, reinforcing style of leadership.”
Babcock has written eight other Husker-related football books, including Heart of a Husker and the popular University of Nebraska Football Vault. The N-Sider has such implicit trust in Babcock’s editorial skills that we also offer our endorsement of Hail Varsity. Babcock is the featured columnist for that first-year Nebraska football magazine, which has proven itself unparalleled in terms of quality writing, photography and design.
I know a Hastings, Neb., surgeon who ordered a Hail Varsity subscription last summer for himself and another one for his son living in Chicago. Both insist that Hail Varsity is the most compelling Nebraska football magazine ever. That’s why we strongly recommend a gift subscription to a publication on the move. In fact, through HuskerFanRewards.com, Huskers.com is giving away 10 Hail Varsity gift packs. Those packs include a one-year subscription to Hail Varsity and a signed Tom Osborne cover issue. Anyone can win. Just join the Rewards Club and participate with Huskers.com and Hail Varsity on social media to earn points. We’re distributing prizes in two ways: 1) A straight-up trade for points or 2) By trading points to enter drawings. That’s not all. There are many more opportunities you can use to finish off your holiday shopping. Or, if you haven’t started, make this your one-stop shop, featuring:
Bargain Online Shopping: Huskers.com has an Official Online Book and DVD Store that offers 10 percent discounts on all products. Use coupon code HUSKER10 to take advantage of this holiday offer that expires on Jan. 2, 2013. Scan the list of top sellers and consider buying an E-Gift Certificate from as low as $10 to as high as $200, enabling the recipient to do his or her own shopping between Christmas and New Year’s. I recommend Husker fans check out the Best of Big Red Superstore, where you can find a variety of commemorative “Thanks Coach Osborne” items, including a Black T-Shirt, a Red T-Shirt and a Thanks Tom Tribute Poster, which should hang somewhere in every Husker home as a celebratory reminder of “Nebraska’s greatest servant.” As you shop, please don’t forget that Huskers Authentic has all kinds of holiday-related items and cold-weather gear to help get you through the winter. It’s one-stop shopping for men, for women and for kids. Huskers Authentic offers two rock-solid reasons to shop from home: 1) $4.99 3-day shipping; and 2) an easy 365-day return policy. Want some suggestions with an N-Sider guarantee? Try this Nebraska sideline transition jacket, a classic look to keep you warm. Personally, I like the scarlet long-sleeve T-shirt because it’s old school and looks great. Remember the come-from-behind win over Wisconsin in Lincoln? Pay tribute to #22 with this game replica jersey or select this more traditional scarlet and white jersey. For the avid golfer, you can hit the links like a Husker with this fairway stand bag that has more than a dozen value-added features. While you’re at it, don’t forget the little ones. Check out this infant collared creeper that prepares crawlers to be Huskers.
Team Jack Tee-Shirts: If you haven’t read the N-Sider or watched the Big Ten Network video on 7-year-old Jack Hoffman’s courageous fight against brain cancer, watch this 10-minute video. It explains the close personal relationship between Jack and Rex Burkhead, the captain of the 2012 Allstate Good Works Team, a 2-time Academic All-American and the 2012 Champion Award winner. Jack was the inspiration behind a Nebraska chapter of Uplifting Athletes, and Team Jack has been the catalyst for nearly 15,000 red T-shirts sold, producing a net profit of $120,000 and a matching $100,000 anonymous gift to benefit pediatric brain cancer. Approximately 2,500 Team Jack shirts remain, and every dime of profit in the all-volunteer organization supports the cause.
Personalized Photos: This product is can’t miss in terms of satisfaction. Looking over my left shoulder right now, I have a large framed photo of a packed Memorial Stadium with the Nebraska Band spelling Randy York from one 30-yard line to the other (The digitally integrated photo was a gift). It’s trickery, of course, but it looks like the true power of red and catches most people off guard. Use the Replay Photo applicator to spell your own name here. Equally popular is another personalized digital photo with your favorite fan’s name printed on a red jersey and hanging in a Nebraska football locker. In the upper right-hand corner, Big Red magic is the result of one simple click of your mouse.
Special Stocking Stuffers: Get two copies of 50 Years of Husker Memories for the price of one.This 256-page softcover book is written by HuskerMax.com co-founder David Max, who honors Bob Devaney’s 1962 arrival with a worthwhile trip down memory lane. Max and business partner Joe Hudson, a UNL graduate, launched their website in 1999. Huskers Illustrated is another pillar of Nebraska football history. The publication offers a gift subscription in print and the ability to become an online subscriber with your own account. Another creative stocking stuffer is Husker Legacy, written by Chad Bonham with ex-Husker Gordon Thiessen, who invited Osborne to speak at a special Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) gathering two weeks ago. Thiessen taped that 50-minute program to share with Big Red fans everywhere. Take a few seconds to download the speech. It’s definitely worth hearing Osborne and his sincere yet fascinating insight. He takes you all the way back to his childhood and what it was like to grow up without a father, a patriotic man who decided to enlist so he could serve his country after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Osborne didn’t see his dad for almost five years. Listen to the audio and you’ll understand why Osborne is such a strong believer in servant leadership. You’ll also learn how his 1957 trip to Estes Park, Colo., to attend an FCA Conference in the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Hastings College changed his life … forever.
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