Being from out-of-state and starting college during COVID-19, there were a lot of infamous Husker experiences I missed out on freshman year — one of the most prominent being a game day at Memorial Stadium.
I knew I would be missing out on some of the traditions and typical experiences of a first-year student because I started college during the pandemic. The few expectations I had of college pre-COVID were immediately altered in the spring of 2020 when the nation went into lockdown. However, because classes would still be in person, I held out hope that I would get to have a somewhat traditional college experience.
In many ways, I thought I was getting to encounter normal college life because I didn’t know what it was typically like. It wasn’t until this year that I realized just how abnormal it actually was. Although there are many differences between last year and this year, the most drastic change I’ve witnessed is the campus environment on Husker football game days.
Last fall during home football games, you could walk around campus and pass less than 20 people the whole time you were out. It was almost too peaceful and quiet. Everyone was either catching up on homework or watching the game with some friends in their dorms or at home. From what I could tell, people still enjoyed watching the games, but there was never an overwhelming sense of excitement like I had expected from all that I’d heard about Husker nation and the dedication of its fans.
However, on Sept. 4 of this year, I finally got to experience a home football game in person, and all of my previous expectations were exceeded.
I woke up in the morning and could already hear a buzz outside my window. There was a line of people walking down to the stadium several hours before the game was even scheduled to start. After I had gotten ready, I went out to meet up with a friend and head to the game. As soon as I stepped outside I was met with a crowd of people, young and old, all chatting excitedly as they made their way to tailgates or Memorial Stadium.
There were thousands upon thousands of people all around campus. Some were playing music and grilling burgers, while others set up cornhole and made friends with fellow Husker fans they had never met before. Outside of the stadium, people had put out games for kids to play, tents full of Husker merchandise to buy and concession stands with delicious hotdogs for sale. It was staggering to be surrounded by such a massive crowd when just a year earlier there was hardly anyone out on campus during the games.
As my friend and I made our way to the student section, I couldn’t help but think, “So this is what college is supposed to be like?”
As the time drew closer to kickoff, it was exciting to see the once-empty seats around the stadium start to fill up. During the pre-game show, the band played and got everyone on their feet clapping along to “Dear Old Nebraska U.” Then, when Nebraska’s lineup was being announced and the Tunnel Walk started, I actually got chills. It was surreal to finally be experiencing the intensity of the Husker fan base on game day that I had always heard about.
Throughout the game, my friend and I had a blast participating in all the traditions and shenanigans of the student section. My personal favorites were raising our shoes in the air when our team kicked off, yelling “Husker Power” with all the other fans during pre-game and getting all of Memorial Stadium to participate in the wave with the students.
We ended up winning against Fordham, but for me, that was far from the most exciting part of the day. During the last year and a half, we have not only been separated and distanced from one another, but we have also witnessed a great divide amongst individuals in this nation. My favorite part of the day was getting to experience 90,000 people coming together and setting aside all their differences for just a few hours to unite in supporting one cause and one team.
That alone was enough for me to believe that Husker fans truly are the greatest fans in college football.