Everyone remembers where they were when specific events occurred. Based on your age you remember when Kennedy was shot, or when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, or where you were on September 11th, 2011.
So where were you on April 18th, 1996? Don’t really remember? Let me jog your memory. It was the day that Brook Berringer and friend Tobey Lake, the brother of Brook’s girlfriend, crashed an airplane that Brook was piloting into an alfalfa field.
I stand behind the saying that being a Nebraska fan from the outside looking in you can’t understand it and from the inside looking out you can’t explain it. Every program has players that they identify with each year. Brook Berringer will forever be one of those players for as much what he meant to the football team and its success to what he accomplished off the field.
Born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, Berringer and his family moved to Goodland, Kansas, after his father passed away from cancer when Brook was just seven years old. Berringer chose Nebraska over many other programs.
The good news was that Berringer chose to be part of a program which peaked while he was on the team. One of the main reasons was due to another quarterback recruit, Tommie Frazier. Berringer saw limited time through his first two seasons of eligibility throwing just 17 pass attempts.
As a junior, Berringer stepped in when Frazier was lost to a blood clot injury. Berringer completed 94-of-151 passes (62 percent) for 1,295 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Berringer battled an injury himself that season after a collapsed lung against Wyoming and doing it again against Oklahoma State.
Nebraska won the National Title Berringer’s junior year, after Brook entered the game to replace Frazier after he threw an interception. Berringer went on to throw a touchdown pass in the Orange Bowl against Miami, only to be replaced late by Frazier in the fourth quarter.
While on the field he showed that he could lead and win, replacing one of the best college quarterbacks in the nation in the middle of a national championship season. It’s how Berringer took being relegated back to a backup that made him so endearing.
He could have pouted. He could have transferred. Brook could have just quit. Berringer though took what he was given as a senior and completed just 26-of-51 passes for 252 yards in nine games. Nebraska played in their third consecutive national championship game, winning back to back national titles as a senior, scoring on a one yard touchdown run against Florida.
Not great stats; great sportsmanship. Brook was a great team player that saw the bigger picture. Along with being a great team player on the field he was equally great off the field. Brook was known for his service off the field being active with local schools and hospitals.
Much like recent former Husker Rex Burkhead, Berringer gained access to people through playing for Nebraska and touched the personal lives of the people of Nebraska. In the spring of 1997, Nebraska started the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team recognizing players and their dedication to service to the community.
Nebraska fans are reminded every year when members of the Berringer Citizenship Team are recognized as well as by the statue that is outside the north stadium of Berringer and Tom Osborne. The bronze statue can be framed under the famous words of William Jennings Bryan, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.”
Sit back and ponder a Nebraska without Brook Berringer as part of its history. It makes me shake my head. It’s still frustrating and saddening to think about how things ended. Brook was about to go onto the NFL which in itself was a vindication of Nebraska and not being able to produce a pocket passing quarterback.
A life cut short and all of the lives touched. It’s not strange for Husker fans to think about and remember Brook, the tragedy of a life cut short and wonder what could have been. The real tragedy would be if Nebraska fans didn’t remember a life as great as the one that he lived.
So where were you that day?