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May 7, 2014
Husker Buzz: Schmahl has touched us all
The Husker family was delivered some crushing news this week when former director and creator of Husker Vision Jeff Schmahl announced he's been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.
If you don't know Schmahl, I guarantee he's probably touched you in some way or made an impact in your life if you follow Nebraska athletics.
Not only was Schmahl the creator of Husker Vision, he also helped co-create one of the greatest entrances in college football - The Tunnel Walk.
In 1994 NU was the first non-professional football stadium in the country to feature big screen replay boards. It was Schmahl who chose to go with the Mitsubishi Diamond Vision boards over the more popular Sony Jumbotron boards at the time.
Schmahl then convinced Mitsubishi to allow Nebraska to brand the boards as "Husker Vision" instead of "Diamond Vision."
"I want to brand everything with our own name. We were kicking around names and I had already called Mitsubishi and asked 'what if we call our screen Husker Vision?' Instead of Diamond Vision, we would call it Husker Vision," Schmahl told me last year in an interview for my "100 Things Nebraska Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" book. "Mitsubishi took it up to their corporate headquarters and they said 'that would be fine, it's better than calling it a Jumbotron.'
"After about 15 minutes of discussion I said 'how about we call it 'Husker Vision?' It's a Diamond Vision screen, but it's our screen. It's Husker Vision. Then we can call everything that we do Husker Vision. That's what our control room is, that's what our TV shows are. It's Husker Vision. It was one of those things that once you said it people said 'that's perfect.'"
Other schools eventually followed Schmahl's lead and put in big screen boards and developed names like "Buff Vision" or "Sooner Vision."
However, maybe the biggest thing Schmahl was a part of was helping create the idea we now know as "The Tunnel Walk."
"The idea of creating an entrance was mine in terms of sticking a camera into the tunnel," Schmahl said. "The thing that really triggered my mind was just the cool thing of the players hitting the horseshoe and nobody really knew, but maybe they've heard about it or saw a picture, but that was one of my things that it was such a cool tradition. It wasn't even as much as the team coming out of the tunnel and touching that horseshoe, but it was taking the fans to a place they can't go when they're in their seats. That's what I wanted to do with the visual of the Tunnel Walk."
The Tunnel Walk quickly became the most intimidating entrance in college football and each year Schmahl and his staff found different ways to make it bigger and better.
"What you want to do in the entertainment industry is give people goosebump moments," Schmahl said. "If I tell you right now to get goosebumps, well you can't. You can't give yourself goosebumps, yet when you get them it feels really good. It's your body giving you a sensation that 'I really like this.'
"That's one of the really cool things the Tunnel Walk did and still does is you get goosebumps. It makes you feel good and makes you want to stand up and yell even louder. I think even the opposing teams got goosebumps and I think that's when opposing teams started to do (their own Tunnel Walks)."
When Schmahl looks back at Husker Vision and The Tunnel Walk, those were some of the best and most memorable years of his life.
"We created a monster," Schmahl said. "Then when you win national championships and you have national championships to play with and you've got literally the most exciting years of Nebraska football, I kind of got to build the Tunnel Walk around those things.
"There was this aspect when (current Husker Vision directors) Kirk Hartman and Shot Kleen and I would say 'yep, we did it again this year, but dang it, I don't know how we are going to outdo ourselves next year.' That was always one of the big things for people to see the new Tunnel Walk. There was always a pressure to put together an even better Tunnel Walk. It started out very, very simple and got more complex and involved more things."
You can follow Schmahl and battle with cancer on his blog titled "The Last Train."
After cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska's draft is hard to project.
Both offensive lineman Spencer Long and Quincy Enunwa should get drafted, but it's hard to predict where.
Long certainly would be projected higher if not for the season ending knee injury he suffered, but I still think his body of work, along with his intelligence is going to get him picked in the final three rounds.
Enunwa is a wild card to me. I know he had an unbelievable workout in Lincoln last month and the scouts came away very impressed. I could see him going much higher than anybody projects. His physical style is exactly what NFL teams are looking for in a wide receiver.
Three and out
***No in-state player helped his stock more this past weekend in Chicago at the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour than Bellevue West wide receiver C.J. Johnson. I know Wisconsin called Thunderbird head coach Mike Huffman at 8 am Monday morning to let him know they heard about his performance. Nebraska's Barney Cotton has also been in contact with Huffman about Johnson's performance. It's only a matter of time before that first "Power Five" offer comes.
***One of the best stories to come out of the RCS Camp in Chicago was Grand Island C.C. defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan. Here's a kid that's only been playing football for a few years, but not only did he hold his own against the Midwest's best, he showed an upside and potential that will have several college coaches keeping close tabs on him. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Ghaifan easily could get in the 280 to 290 pound range once he gets into college.
***This has quietly been one of Nebraska's best overall years in athletics in quite some time.
Football finished strong with a bowl victory and nine wins, men's basketball made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, the women's basketball team won the Big Ten tournament, volleyball finished second in the Big Ten behind national champion Penn State, softball won the Big Ten title, the women's soccer team won both the Big Ten tournament and regular season titles, women's gymnastics' won the Big Ten and placed sixth nationally, and the baseball team is in contention for their first NCAA tournament bid since 2008.
It's hard to ask for a much better overall year than that. I'd say Nebraska has more than left its mark on the Big Ten in year No. 3.
Sean Callahan can be reached at [email protected] and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.