Mike Horacek remembers what it was like playing Nebraska in the 1990s.
Horacek was a receiver on the Iowa State team that upset Nebraska 19-10 in Ames in 1992. It was the only loss the Huskers had during a five-year stretch in Big Eight play.
“I used to walk into the huddle and our offensive linemen would be defeated before the game even started,” Horacek said, “because it was like WWE on the other side.”
Horacek and a large group of former Nebraska football players, along with their family and friends, were in Lincoln last Thursday for the premiere of the two-part documentary “Day by Day: The Rise” at The Rococo Theatre. It was an event with cocktail attire, so all who attended were dressed well. Suits, dresses and fancy hats started pouring in prior to the 7:30 p.m. showing.
For the nearly two hours before the showing, the former players were reunited with drinks, hugs and plenty of stories.
Horacek, an Omaha native, was in town to support his Husker friends who were involved with helping make the film, including Mark Brungardt, one of the producers of the documentary, and former Huskers Tony Veland and Clinton Childs, all good friends of his.
The documentary was directed by Justin LePera and two former Huskers in Brungardt and Josh Davis. Tom Osborne rightly plays a large role in the documentary. When the coach got to the theatre, he was stopped after every couple steps by old friends wanting pictures with him.
“There’s not a better sports story,” Horacek said. “To honor Tom Osborne, the man that he’s been and the lives that he’s touched, a man that puts God first, it’s by no circumstance that he’s been as successful as he has been.”
One of the former Huskers who was present for the showing was Jared Tomich, who came to Lincoln as a walk-on in 1992 and became a second-round NFL Draft pick in 1997. Tomich, who lives in Indiana, traveled to Lincoln three times during the production of the documentary.
Getting the opportunity to be a part of something that close to Tomich’s heart was a great experience for the former defensive end who collected 26 tackles for loss and 16 sacks in his Husker career. A big part of his Nebraska experience was the man who coached him.
“As the head coach, he was the glue for the team and he was the shining example for all of us,” Tomich said. “And for me when I was coming in, there was a respect in their culture that was imposed on me. You know, there was 150 18- and 19-year-old men in a room and we’re all going nuts, going crazy, but the moment he walks in everybody’s sitting down, hats are off, looking straight ahead and it’s undivided attention.
“He never demanded that, it was just taught by the cultures before.”
One of the best memories Tomich has of Osborne was his coaching style. He got his point across without being overly dramatic or using curse words.
“One of the neatest things with Coach Osborne was, if it was a halftime or even a practice, and we got a ‘Gosh darnit, men’ we knew he was hot,” Tomich said. “We knew he was not happy with us, and that was all it took. He didn’t have to raise his voice. His style was just incredible.”
For Steve Warren, who played defensive tackle at Nebraska from 1996-99 and recorded 18 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks before being drafted in the third round by Green Bay in 2000, he was simply excited to attend the event and get together with his old teammates again.
“It was good to get back with the fellas, talk about old times, reminisce a little bit,” said Warren, whose Warren Academy trains and develops local athletes to help reach their potential. “Mark (Brungardt) is a good friend of mine, so to help him out, to help Josh (Davis) out and those guys who were a part of this, it’s just good to be a part of something that was special back then and special now.”
Warren said he wanted to attend the event in person because he saw it as a way to support family.
“We’re a close group, it’s our story,” he said. “So we gotta be here for it.”
Clester Johnson, who played wingback from 1991-95, initially didn’t know what to think about the documentary. There had been plans to get something like it made for a while, but it took time and multiple starts and stops. In the end, it all worked out and he was excited for the story to be told.
Johnson was glad to be back with his old buddies as well, and thinks Husker football fans who watch the documentary will enjoy how deep the stories go.
“There are some intimate stories that you just don’t talk about in the media,” Johnson said. “We were able to maybe discuss some of those and see some of the background to how we developed and became who we were.”
Clinton Childs said the documentary was something that was long overdue considering how dominant the Nebraska football program was in the 90s. Childs, a former running back, rushed for 992 yards and nine touchdowns while racking up 413 yards on kickoff returns from 1992-95.
“It’s great to come back and I’ve already been able to run into some of the guys who I played with and haven’t seen for a while,” Childs said. “To come to an event like this, I think it’s pretty cool.”
Childs said the production process brought up old memories from his playing days. Those were fun to relive after around 30 years.
“It makes you remember some of the things you’ve actually gone through that you don’t think about on a day-to-day basis,” he said, “so just to have the camaraderie and be able to come back and talk about some of the guys and have the roundtable and things like that, and to actually have an event like this I think is pretty nice.”