Published Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 11:30 pm
The only thing to fear is fro itself

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Kenny Bell's hair bounced as he jogged off the field Saturday, helmet in hand. His smile grew as locked in on 10 matching goofballs in the front row.

Nothing beats playing at Memorial Stadium amid the Sea of Red. But every Nebraska player knows Husker roadies are a different breed. When they cross into enemy territory, they shed their inhibitions. They party a little harder. They yell a little louder. Sometimes they dress a little crazier.

Bell reached his hand to the wall behind the south end zone and delivered high-fives to 10 old guys he'd never met, all in afros and red T-shirts that said “Fear the Fro.”

If only he knew their whole story.

Todd Graves and his buddies go back 30 years, when they worked together at Godfather's in Omaha. They remained tight through job changes and marriages, kids and 50th birthdays, all the activities that make an annual Husker road trip impractical. But where there's an RV, there's a way.

Thursday they packed their afro wigs from Nobbies, drove to Kansas City, rented a 36-foot party on wheels and took off for a college town in northwest Indiana.

Why Purdue? Well, it worked on the calendar. They'd already been to Michigan. And they hoped to improve their road trip win-loss record of 3-5.

Two years ago, they bought tickets at Wisconsin for $225 apiece. Ten seats at Purdue cost them $14 each. Of course, they found other ways to blow cash. Beer, for one.

And then there was that little problem with Holiday Inn Express. Kurt Malsam checked his credit card statement Friday morning and realized that his two-night reservation in West Lafayette was LAST weekend. They were out $631. (That's a lot of pizza delivery tips.)

Hours later, they rolled in to the only vacant hotel — check that, motel — they could find. A customer outside dished them a piece of advice — You're better off in the RV.

“He also told us there's no cockroaches because the rats ate 'em all,” Graves said.

They drew straws. The winners slept on wheels, the losers slept in the motel. “The losers of the losers” slept in the motel beds.

Saturday morning they put the finishing touches on the T-shirts — the white ink was barely dry at kickoff — slipped on their afros and drank enough Bloody Marys to stunt an elephant.

They didn't turn in until 5 a.m. Sunday. Then they turned west, counting the miles to Omaha and the hours to Monday morning's alarm — they suffered a two-hour setback in K.C. when their cars were locked in the RV lot.

All told, the trip cost each guy $420. That doesn't include bar tabs.

“Then you're talking about $600,” Malsam said. “Once a year it's worth it.”

Malsam called it one of their best trips. Not so much for the football, but for the food and drink and new stories to tell.

Like John Finnegan's sneak attack on the sideline.

At halftime Saturday, with Nebraska leading 21-0, Finnegan grabbed his camera, summoned the courage and descended the same ramp the Huskers took from the locker room.

He found himself on the grass behind the south end zone — shouting distance from his buddies in the front row. He spent the second half standing next to credentialed media, snapping photos, acting like he belonged.

Finally, late in the fourth quarter, a Purdue security guard approached Finnegan and asked to see his sideline credential.

“I forgot it in the car,” he said.

The excuse might have worked ... had his hair not looked just like Kenny Bell's.

* * *

Video: NU coach Bo Pelini after the Purdue game:

Video: Postgame analysis with Sam McKewon:

Video: Husker fans at Purdue:

Contact the writer: Dirk Chatelain    |   402-649-1461    |  

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments.



< >
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.'s Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
< >