Like the swallows to Capistrano last week I returned to the road, getting out to conduct the first 10 of my feature story interviews for the 2014 Huskerland Prep Report preview magazine. You can follow me on Twitter @HuskerlandBob to keep tabs, if you like.
While we are still well short of receiving all the football preview information sheets, the preview stories I have more control over and it was good to get out there and interview those players, and coaches when available. As I have said many times - and maybe you have too - Nebraska is more like a big town than a state, with so many of us connected in so many ways. What interest people in Falls City, where I stayed last Friday, for the most part interest people in Norfolk or Kearney or Hemingford. And you probably have a relative there, too.
While I don't want to give away all the house secrets I can say last Thursday morning, bright and early, I conducted the first of the 2014 football preview feature story interviews, always a red letter day on my calendar, getting a few minutes with Louis DeJager, a fascinating young man who will be a senior at Battle Creek. You know him as a returning all-state football player but there is so much more to his story - can't wait to share it with you.
One of the lists I have in my computer is that of all the schools which have been represented by feature story in our football preview publications, dating back to 1996. As part of that list I also have the schools who have not been represented in our preview. If you were to study that list you would perhaps be mystified by its makeup; I mean, until three years ago there'd never been a Norfolk Catholic player in our preview. Lots during the regular season but none in the preview. How 'bout that.
Part of the reason for that oversight, of sorts, is my game plan for each year preparing the list of feature subjects. Every kid's story is fascinating in its own unique way but I also am a big believer in geography and school size - we like to spread things around. Do I run out and interview what I believe to be the top three players in each class? No, not necessarily. With one eye on the map and the other making sure we have a class-to-class balance - "but Huskerland Bob, how do you drive like that?" - I try to find the right balance. For every Eric Crouch who has been interviewed in the preview I've also interviewed players like, say, Andy Zeisler from Butte or Jade Enevoldsen of Potter-Dix or Sam Frazier of McCook (photo). Fascinating kids with fascinating stories, even if they didn't win the Heisman Trophy.
Oh, there's an occasional Barrett Ruud or Sam Koch mixed in - we told Ahman Green's story, too, and the most intimidating interview ever, the in-person job with Millard North's Seth Olsen - but in the end it's the chance to interview players (and coaches, too) from all across the spectrum of Nebraska high school sports that makes this gig so much fun.
Players who've been interviewed in our football previews - that number will be about 245 when we are done for 2014 - are only part of the bigger picture, of course. Since 1993 Huskerland Prep Report has published feature stories on right at 2,200 athletes, a glorious list which you can find on our Facebook page. (Which I don't do much with but the list is still there...) We are going to celebrate the beginning of our 25th year of publication with a reception Sunday, August 3 at the Central City Performing Arts Center; our intention is to find postal addresses for as many of the players on that list as possible and invite them to attend that day. (Please take another look at that list and if you know somebody on it and can get us a mailing address we'd appreciate the help.)
That will be a great day on so many levels and hearing from so many of our former feature subjects has been as rewarding as it has been great for bringing back memories for all involved. There will be much more of that on Sunday, August 3 and we hope you can be a part of the fun.
So with that it's back to the grind, knocking out a couple more road trips in the coming weeks, trying to bring the 2014 preview to a happy conclusion. We put most of the preview, not all of it but most of it, on the website and we appreciate you following along however you choose.