He has the bling: the Ed Hardy sunglasses with rhinestones, the silver-chain bracelet with the jeweled skull, the square diamond earring.

But Keithen McCant is especially proud of the gold-and-diamond ring on his pinky finger. The hulking, 6-foot-2 former Husker quarterback, who helped bring the team a Big Eight Conference championship in 1991, raises his hand in a wave as he walks into the Valentino’s at 35th and Holdrege streets.

The ring glints in the midafternoon light from the window, clinks against the water glass and table. Even on McCant's large hand, it fills the entire lower part of his finger, snug between his knuckles.

“(The ring) is home now,” he says in a low voice, smiling slowly.

He came to the trademark Lincoln pizza place Saturday to personally thank the man who reunited him with his now-prized possession. The man who sent him a Facebook message beginning with "I think I have your championship ring and I'd like to get it back to you."

In the early years after NU's league championship, McCant would sometimes slide the ring off his finger and stash it somewhere he figured he'd remember. He doesn't remember when he realized it was missing, but he still recalls the heavy feeling when he thought he'd never see it again.

Enter Ryan Anderson.

Growing up in Omaha, Ryan and his brother, Colin, were used to hearing about their father's prized thrift shop finds. The ring was just one of dozens of Ric Anderson's stories.

He told them about the dusty duffle bag that he’d brought home, only to discover a ring box stuffed down in one of the pockets. The ring had a red N on it and a name that didn’t mean much to Ric, who’d always been more into finding good deals than following local football heroes.

As 27-year-old Ryan talked about his father, McCant wrapped his arm around his 10-year-old son, Noah.

Ric died of liver cancer just a month ago. It wasn’t until his sons were going through his belongings that they found the ring tucked in the corner of a drawer.

“We thought it had to be a replica,” Ryan said.

A quick Google search pulled up McCant’s Facebook page, and Ryan typed a message, not expecting to hear back.

Some 630 miles away, the 46-year-old McCant was jumping up and down.

“I just kept thinking, is this guy messing with me?” McCant said. “Then I looked at my wife and was like, ‘He’s got my ring, babe. He’s really got it.'”

Within a minute of reading the message, McCant dialed Ryan’s number. Twenty-four hours later, the ring was in an overnight package on McCant’s front stoop in McKinney, Texas. He wasn’t willing to wait the two weeks until his visit to Nebraska.

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“I was like a little kid on Christmas when I got that box,” McCant said. He reached out and gripped Ryan’s shoulder. “You don’t even know.”

McCant and Noah opened the box together.

“His face when he saw that ring,” McCant said. “He was just like, ‘Someday that’s going to be mine.’ Now I can pass it along to him.”

With his slice of pizza in hand, Noah corrected his dad.

“But I want my own ring,” he said, peering from under his Nebraska flat-bill cap. “Just like that one, but mine will say wide receiver.”

Before leaving the restaurant, Noah sat on his knees in a booth, reaching over the table to scrawl his signature on a poster a 17-year-old brought up to him.

If the red N's in his bedroom — on the headboard, the comforter, the mirror and the trash can — are any indication, Noah is a true Husker fan. Before his first Nebraska game Saturday, he asked his dad if he could meet Tom Osborne. On their tour of the stadium, a lanky silhouette walked up to the father and son.

“Keithen?” Osborne asked.

“Hey, Coach,” McCant said, his son standing at his hip, looking up wide-eyed at the man he’d heard so much about.

But that wasn’t even the best part for Noah. Walking out on the turf of Memorial Stadium was a feeling that he said he hopes to have again someday, when he’s wearing his own Husker jersey.

McCant said he couldn’t be prouder of his son’s loyalty to a team and state with strong values.

“Nebraskans are just so great — they are good, honest and down-to-earth people,” he said. “These guys are the perfect examples,” he said, gesturing toward Ryan and Colin. “So many people would have turned around and pawned the ring."

The two fought embarrassed smiles.

“That wasn’t even a thought in our mind,” Ryan said to McCant. “You earned it and you deserved to have it back."

Colin nodded. “Our dad just taught us to do the right thing,” he said.

“He obviously did,” McCant said. “And you guys certainly did it.”

​Reach the writer at 402-473-2655 or mklecker@journalstar.com.


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