Monday, September 24, 2018
Text Size

TeamMates making a difference

On July 15, a band of brothers from the University of Nebraska gathered together at one of the best golf courses in the country, Wild Horse Golf Club, for a great cause. The event was started by the person it is named after, Adrian Fiala, and still continues to this day. This tournament places a former Husker athlete on a team of four. The five man scramble uses the best hit ball each stroke. The purpose is to raise funds for the TeamMates program, which helps children of all ages to have someone in their lives to help guide, influence, be held accountable to and form a friendship with that could last a lifetime.

As people arrived they mingled with one another. Former teammates joked and visited. Golfers were preparing their equipment. Fans were getting pictures taken and autographs signed. Everyone seemed to gravitate towards the one and only Dr. Tom Osborne. The time to kick-off the event was near as everyone grouped up in front of the club house to hear a few words from Osborne as he talked about the successes of the TeamMates program and the impact it is having in communities.

“TeamMates started back in 1991. I got in front of the football team one day and asked players how many would be willing to serve as mentors to some seventh and eighth grade boys in Lincoln Schools. We had 22 hands that went up, so we matched them up with 22 seventh and eighth grade boys in Lincoln. After about four or five years it played itself out and out of those 22, 21 graduated on time,” said Dr. Osborne. “Certainly exceeded expectations. We got some scholarship money together and 18 of the 22 went on to college.”

After observing the positive results experienced from the first 22 students, a need was realized.

“We decided at that point there was something to this and we expanded the program. Of course we didn’t have enough football players to mentor large numbers of people. We started first in Lincoln, then across the state, now we’re in Iowa, and we have a start in Kansas, Wyoming and South Dakota. It’s grown substantially and seems to meet a need,” said Osborne.

So many good things come from being a mentor or having a mentor in your life.

“I think the mentors, generally speaking, feel that they get as much or more out of it than the mentees, which is kind of surprising, but that’s the way people feel about it,” stated Osborne.

Former place kicker Spencer Lindsay said, “I’ve always been a big fan of the TeamMates program and everything Coach Osborne does, so I was just happy to be involved with it.”

“I’ve been involved with it four years and my partner graduated this year, so that made me very proud that I had something to do with that, because when I first started to know him four or five years ago, he was not quite a trouble maker, but had no inspiration about doing anything. I hoped by talking with him and visiting him every week that I made a difference. I know now that he has graduated and I am happy for it. I’m starting a new one here this coming year,” said Dennis Thorell. “It’s a lot of fun talking with the kids. You’d be surprised at what some of the kids have gone through.”

“The TeamMates Program obviously is an incredible thing. Our loyalty and our love for Coach Osborne allows us an opportunity to go out and do these sorts of things,” former Gothenburg Swede and Husker TE Monte Kratzenstein said. “I probably played in it five, six, seven times depending on the schedule. It is a great event. The cool thing about it is the different generations. You’ve got players from the 70’s, some guys that I idolized growing up, and now this year we have Drew Brown and Spencer Lindsay who are some of the young guys. That’s what is really cool about this brotherhood thing,” Kratzenstein said about the tournament.

“It’s a pretty neat organization they have going here. It’s really about the people who they effect. There’s a lot of people who need help not only in this area, but throughout the country. It’s neat for a lot of former players to come back here and do an event like this,” current Husker place kicker Drew Brown said.

This was Brown’s first year and he is planning on participating in this event in the future.

When asked about the upcoming season, Brown stated, ”Hopefully it will be successful. You never know what it’s going to be like. We have been working our butts off to be good.”

As the final team finished their day and were strolling into the club house more fun was to be had.

Dave Morock introduced the players. Jerry Murtaugh talked about the Nebraska Legends Foundation. A special thanks was handed out to the people responsible for organizing this fundraising event; they were Lynnette Stevens, Dave Morock, Monte Kratzenstein and Don Graham. That was followed by the auction of some excellent items. There was a football signed by “Coach Mike Riley” donated by Chris Anderson at the University of Nebraska athletic department, two tickets to the Wisconsin football game, a football signed by three Nebraska Heisman trophy winners donated by Johnny Rogers, and a beautiful picture of the 1904 Nebraska Football team that was donated by Bill Kosch. The top three teams and flag prizes were awarded prizes.

This yearly event must be attended by any person that is a Husker fan, a person that likes buying nice items, TeamMates members or people who like to golf. TeamMates is a much needed program that needs more volunteers to be mentors.

The friendly bantering and stories that were shared during the day made everyone smile and feel as if they are part of the team. It was a great day with great people for a great cause.