When I first heard about Brook Berringer's plan crash, I was attending a wake in my hometown of Curtis. A very good friend's mother had lost her battle to cancer, and Mrs Corn Nation and I had driven down from Minnesota to attend her funeral. April 18th, 1996 was a bittersweet day, seeing good friends while at the same time remembering the life of a woman who was a second mother to me.
I am standing in the kitchen of my friend's house, probably drinking a beer (or many beers at all once as I am prone to do on occasion). This guy walks in with a weird grin on his face and he announces to all of us that he's just heard on the radio that Berringer has been killed in a plane crash. I'm thinking he's joking, mostly because of the weird grin on his face. I remember thinking at the time that if he's joking, I'm going to kill him because it's the worst joke I've ever heard.
Immediately a couple of us race to the radio. We stand around with beer in hand, listening and waiting, and as we're waiting, I keep thinking about the guy with the weird grin on his face. I'm still thinking of killing him if for no other reason than it's already been a tough day. The news comes on the radio and it doesn't hit us too hard because we're already rather numb. I look at the guy with the weird grin and I realize that maybe he's got that look on his face because he's just like the rest of us and doesn't know what to think or say either. I let it go because it's a good day to do that.
I never got to meet Berringer in person, but what I remember most about him was that he was the ultimate teammate. You'll never see his name on a Top 25 list of all-time Husker players or anything like that, but without him Nebraska wouldn't have five national titles. He kept the team going in 1994 when everyone's all-time #1 dude Tommie Frazier developed blood clots and had to sit part of the season. When the 1995 season rolled around, Berringer moved into the backup role. You never heard the guy complain, hell, you never heard a negative word out of him.
Then just like that he was gone - two days before the NFL draft. Brian Rosenthal's article in the Lincoln Journal-Star ten years after Berringer's death says a ton about the affect he still has on Husker fans. Today Berringer is remembered in two ways - a statue of him alongside Tom Osborne stands in front of the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex and an annual award, the "Brook Berringer Citizenship Team" honors Nebraska Football players who have "consistently went above and beyond the call of duty providing excellent leadership, involvement and service."
Berringer remains #18, always.