Shatel: Yes, there's another side of Bo Pelini -
Published Monday, September 23, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 11:44 pm
Shatel: Yes, there's another side of Bo Pelini

So you think you know Bo?

Dean Zalman knows Bo Pelini, maybe a different one from the guy you've heard of.

Four years ago, Zalman's wife, Pam, was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors gave her six months to live.

The Zalmans, of Red Cloud, Neb., were big Husker football fans. Season ticket holders in the north Stadium since 1964.

Back in August 2009, Pam was sick, in St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln. Dean and his family thought of a way to make her day.

They had a connection to Pelini. Dean's son, Mike Zalman, had a son who played on the same baseball team as Patrick Pelini.

Mike wrote Bo and told him the situation and asked if there was any way the coach could stop by and say hello to Pam.

Long shot. The coach said he would try on this day. It was during two-a-days. As Dean recalls, it was a busy day. One of the Nebraska quarterbacks went down with an injury.

It was getting late that night, and Dean and the family said it was time to go for the day.

Then, just before 11 p.m., Dean got a call from Mike. Coach Bo had just phoned and said he was on his way.

“Bo showed up and talked football with Pam,” Dean said. “They must have talked for a half an hour. He brought an autographed football and two tickets for a game in his personal suite.

“She didn't make it to that game.”

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Pam passed away not long after that meeting. But Dean will never forget the gesture.

“I'm tired of everyone bagging on Coach Pelini,” Zalman said. “I don't like the things that have been said about him. I know he can't do that for everyone. But I want people to know, he's not only a good coach, he's a human being. A super one.”

Dean says one of his wife's favorite things was watching Pelini send the linebackers on an all-out blitz. He said her final words to Pelini as he left was, “Keep sending those boys, Bo.”

» As expected, many readers want Tommy Armstrong under center now. Make no mistake, Armstrong looks like the next great Nebraska quarterback. The learning curve for 2014 looks a lot shorter. As for 2013, I think Tim Beck should design a package for the kid. Put him in a game in the second or third quarter. Let him run some option. Defenses have a hard enough time preparing all week for an option offense; imagine the panic when they see it once or twice a game and don't know it's coming. Armstrong throws a terrific deep ball, too. Those are two dimensions he could add to the offense now, in doses.

» For what it's worth, the Big Ten Network has released an “All-Big Ten, Non-Conference Team.” There was one Husker on there, guard Spencer Long. I don't know whether to say congratulations or not.

» Better question than all-Big Ten; how would you pick the Legends Division after one month? Nebraska isn't the only program with warts. Michigan hardly looks special. Northwestern needed defense to put away Maine. The Huskers' defense makes them tough to trust. Just a question of how many games will the offense be able to win.

» Iowa? We'll talk after this week's Floyd of Rosedale trip to Minnesota.

» Kind of interesting that UNO was picked to finish last in the spanking new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Mavs were supposedly one of the attractive programs and linchpins of putting this hybrid league together. No respect for Dean Blais? It probably has more to do with the program's inconsistency, the late-season collapses, maybe losing co-captain Matt White. There will be plenty of opportunity to earn respect in that league. Like, every week.

» If there's a better conference logo than the NCHC, I haven't seen it.

» Even if the Royals fall short of the wild card, what a time to be a Kansas City sports fan. FYI, the Royals and Chiefs have never made the postseason in the same year. But it seems like that will happen soon, if not this year. Looking around the wacky NFL, you better believe the Chiefs are for real. You can never go wrong with a salty defense and a quarterback who won't get you in trouble. I don't know if Alex Smith can lower a shoulder like Jay Cutler, though. If that didn't make Bears fans embrace him, I don't know what will. I like my Bears pick to win the NFC North more and more.

» By the way, the second wild card in baseball is a good thing. It's given a little drama to this time of year. Love the one-game-or-else format, too. That's old-time baseball.

» Creightonians are abuzz about landing 6-7 Leon Gilmore, who picked the Jays over Houston and Texas Tech. Gilmore projects as a physical wing player, a position that will serve the Jays well in the Big East. CU continues to mine the state of Texas. It may seem like an odd angle, but the state of Texas is loaded with hoops talent. And if a kid wants to play in the Big East, CU must look like a great option.

» UNO's new soccer home at Caniglia Field is getting closer to being ready. Hellas Construction arrived on Monday to start installing the turf layers. UNO officials expect the team to play on the field this season.

» So how'd you feel about Texas celebrating hard after beating K-State? I know you watched. Me? Well, I heard about it.

» One more and I'm outta here: You won't have to wait until January to get your Outland Trophy fix this year. The Greater Omaha Sports Committee is putting on an Outland Watch party on Nov. 19 at D.J.'s Dugout at 10th and Capitol. The seven Outland finalists will be announced at the event, which will include a silent auction of Husker and Outland items. Tickets are $15. For information call Mike Mancuso at 402-346-8003.

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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