A full crew joined football coach Mike Riley and Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst for Tuesday’s final stop of the Husker Tour at Balz Reception Hall.
Former Husker and current defensive line coach John Parrella was there early before he headed to his high school alma mater Grand Island Central Catholic, where he received a golden football from the NFL and had his high school jersey retired at the school’s athletic banquet.
Also in attendance were women’s basketball coach Amy Williams, voice of NU football and baseball and emcee of the event Greg Sharpe and former Husker Steve Taylor.
Grand Island residents Phil Cahoy, a Husker gymnastics great, and Phil Ellis, who played linebacker for Nebraska in the mid-1990s, were also on hand.
It was the end of a long day that began at 10 a.m. in Alliance before an early afternoon stop in McCook.
“It’s been fun,” Riley said. “It’s really a special experience. I love what I do, I love representing the University of Nebraska and our football program, and it is fun to go talk to people in the state about football, about the university and about what we do because they all care.
“There have been great crowds, lots of enthusiasm, just lots of good, old-fashioned, down-to-earth fun.”
Riley, heading into his third season as coach, said the crowds have been similar to last year.
“We’ve had great crowds everywhere we’ve been,” Riley said. “We changed it up this year to different cities, and that’s probably a nice thing to be able to do. It’s been pretty consistent — good crowds, a lot of interest and a lot of fun. It’s a very special state.”
Eichorst, who has been Nebraska’s A.D. since 2013, said he was once again lucky to be a part of the trip.
“We’re having a terrific day,” Eichorst said. “We started in Alliance, just finished up in McCook and we’re really excited to be in Grand Island tonight. I have had the opportunity to visit Grand Island on a number of occasions, and this is a special one on a lot of levels because we have so many former Huskers here.”
“The minute we flew in and started driving in and I saw some of those same places I saw when we were here for the funeral,” Riley said, “I thought about it actually when we first landed and I thought about it yesterday when I knew we were coming in.”
Riley said he thinks about Foltz often. He coached him for the 2015 season when Foltz was a junior.
Foltz, a standout athlete at Grand Island High, likely would have been picked in the recent NFL draft.
“There rarely is a day that goes by that I don’t think of Sam Foltz,” Riley said. “I’m reminded every day. When I walk in my office, there’s a picture of Sam. He was a very special young man. I’m just glad at this time that I got to know him.”
The Huskers have turned the page from spring football and are now into their summer workout program. But it’s about three months before fall practice and less than four months until the Sept. 2 opener against Arkansas State at Memorial Stadium.
Quarterbacks Tanner Lee, a transfer from Tulane, and redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien battled for the starting job during spring practice. Both performed well in the spring game, but Riley named Lee as the starting quarterback going into fall camp.
“I think Tanner has all the ingredients to be a great quarterback,” Riley said. “He’s a pretty cool customer. I think he’s smart. I think he’s very, very diligent; a hard worker. I think he has a lot of poise as he plays the game and carries a real confidence into the huddle.
“He has a lightning quick release and a nice arm down the field.”