Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, 10/7/17

The 1997 Nebraska teams starts the Tunnel Walk at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

There was plenty different this time.

A lot more cell phones, for one. And walking onto the field from the opposite side of Memorial Stadium. Some guys had a little less hair, some guys looked the same.

But when the music started and the crowd roared, it was just like old times for the 1997 Huskers.

"We talked about it last night at the reunion dinner. It would be fights at practice, just like brothers out in the yard bloodying each other's nose," Grant Wistrom said as he leaned against a wall, dressed all in black. "Not practicing at times — fighting. But when we walked off the field, we were all brothers. When we got in the locker room we were all brothers. We were able to put all that stuff aside and we were just family."

The family had a reunion Saturday night, with 140 of the 156 players from Nebraska's 1997 national championship team getting together in Lincoln to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the program's last national title.

There was a dinner Friday night. And another get-together in Nebraska's massive weight room about 45 minutes before kickoff.

It looked a little different than the last time this crew was working out there.

"It means a lot, man. Basically, I got in the Delorean like Marty McFly and went back to hang out with all my brothers that became another part of my family as well," Ahman Green said over the din of 140 old friends reuniting. "It's something that I knew was farther down the line, but you don't think about it when you're 19, 20 years old. You just knew that one day you were going to be having these reunions back on campus somewhere."

The good times were plentiful. The Blackshirts posed for a picture with their defensive coordinator, Charlie McBride, right in the middle with Wistrom. Carlos Polk was among the noisiest — cracking jokes and hugging everyone in sight. A few guys cracked up when Joel Makovicka's old photo popped up on the HuskerVision screens.

Just like a family reunion.

"That's what makes it special, is that you can literally go 20 years without seeing somebody, and then you see them and it's like you never lost a beat," former NU kicker Kris Brown said. "That's what makes it so awesome."

Then, it was time for one more walk together.

The 1997 Huskers gathered on the red carpet underneath North Stadium as an old Tunnel Walk song played. The cell phones came out, recording those precious few minutes for history. Erwin Sweeney was a bundle of energy, high-fiving as many fans as he could.

Then around the curve, and onto the field where 90,000 fans roared their approval.

Wistrom, the All-America defensive end, stayed behind to lead the current Nebraska players in the Husker prayer.

If the current Huskers didn't know about Wistrom and that historic team before, they certainly do now.

"Honestly, recruiting-wise, we probably weren't ranked that high," Wistrom said. "But as far as a group of guys that cared about each other and played football together well, we were damn good, you know?"

* The Husker fans by and large heeded the call for a blackout, with approximately 90 percent of the 89,860 dressed in Nebraska's "other" color. The charge was led by the student section, of course, which showed up early and stayed late.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


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