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Photo Credit: Erin Sorensen

Nebraska Road Race Still Inspires Huskers Into Its 11th Running

July 14, 2023

Different Huskers found different ways to arrive at the same conclusion. Nick Henrich found the Burson family by Will Honas. Ethan Piper saw Mason Winter in the final stretch. Chief Borders, a new face, discovered the Nebraska Road Race by simply wanting to be involved. And what better cause to stand for?

The annual Nebraska Road Race enters its 11th year on Sunday. It was born as a direct result of Jack Hoffman’s 69-yard run during the 2013 Nebraska spring game. Hoffman’s run started a relationship between the Nebraska football program and services for pediatric brain cancer. The relationship has raised over $125,000 thus far. They can raise even more money on Sunday morning for the mile and 5k races. Online registration is still open until 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 15. Those interested can go to In-person registration, at a higher charge, is available at Memorial Stadium before races start at 8 a.m.

“It’s really cool because the money here goes to University of Nebraska Medical Center,” Kate Frazier, Nebraska assistant director of life skills said. “I want to say Nebraska is top five for pediatric brain cancer kids. Being able to keep these kids here and close to home while going through treatments is really important.”

She’s relied on members of the leadership team within the Nebraska football roster to step into their roles. That includes Chief Borders, whose personality makes him a natural fit in this environment.

“I just feel it’s a blessing, you know, just reaching out there and becoming a Husker I realized how big the football program is here,” Borders said. “The football program here is outstanding, it’s beautiful. Love us for who we are as people so to put that smile on their face every time we come out and to run with them on the road race, I just can’t wait to light up somebody’s day.”

Admittedly, the Nebraska linebacker who arrived back in December hadn’t watched Hoffman’s run when Jessica Coody asked him on Sports Nightly. The viral video creator said he needed to pull the video up right away. He may have played it back by the time he and other members of the team scatter across the course on Sunday. Members of the men’s basketball team will also be at water stations around the course, which starts and ends inside Memorial Stadium this year. Husker fans can finish their runs inside the stadium and watch themselves on HuskerVision run the final 69 yards just like Hoffman did over a decade ago. Borders imagined wide receivers coach Garret McGuire would win the 5k among the coaching staff. But he wasn’t ready to count out head coach Matt Rhule. He’d at least finish, Borders said.

Select Huskers will participate in the races. Some may enter themselves as means of motivation. That’s how Piper became friends with a young Lincolnite.

Winter, shy on the radio when sitting beside Piper and answering questions, ran the 5k in last year’s Road Race. Huskers under the viaduct by Devaney Sports Center heard Winter, wearing a white Nebraska football jersey, needed some motivation. The Norfolk native then stepped in to help. “So I picked him up and started running,” Piper said. The offensive lineman carried Winter to the finish on his shoulders. Winter joked he thought he could have fallen off. He’ll be back in this year’s Road Race and encourages other young Husker fans to do the same.

“Because (the Huskers) help cheer you on throughout the race and at the end and start you can get autographs and pictures and you get to high five people and stuff,” he said.

Piper still gets a reaction watching Hoffman’s run. Seeing the young Winter again made him smile. The native Nebraskan knows the totality of his platform as a Husker football player and the impact the team makes. It’s important to him to use that platform to positively shape the world. Either through serving communities in Panama or helping with the Road Race.

“We have a whole new team,” Piper said. “If you have an opportunity to come out, t-shirt bracelet, it goes to pediatric brain cancer research. If you’re debating coming out I think it’s going to be a good time and we’ll have a lot of good energy.”

Andrew Burson is Henrich’s motivator in the race if he ever needed one. Burson and his father, Dennis, sat with Henrich to share their story. Doctors discovered a brain tumor in Andrew when he was 4. He was in the hospital for his fifth birthday. Dennis noted a few vomit spells and wanted to get his son checked out. Their pediatrician ran some scans and they discovered medulloblastoma in Andrew’s third ventricle. They were in Omaha later that week for surgery.

Andrew grew up and is still a huge sports fan. He participated in basketball at the Special Olympics. When it came time to learn math, Dennis posed questions in the form of “if they get a field goal, how many do they have now?”

“So maybe that got him too hooked on sports, I don’t know,” Dennis chuckled. “But he really loves his sports.”

They arrived to their Nebraska allegiance because former Husker Will Honas lived next door to Dennis’ sister in Wichita. They made connections for Honas to look after Andrew. Before transferring to Kansas State, Honas connected Henrich with the Burson family.

“I remember Will was going into his last year at Nebraska and always pushed Andrew with their relationship,” Henrich said. “Always wanted someone to push him whether he was here or not. That’s when Andrew and I met. I’ll make sure Andrew’s got someone to push him for a long time.”

Henrich called Andrew’s story inspiring and enjoys spending time with the family. The prospect of pediatric brain cancer and the hurdles those children face put Henrich’s own knee injury into perspective. He’s back now and is optimistic he and Andrew can run their best time yet. Andrew’s excited for the race. He even recited the first three Nebraska baseball players selected in the MLB Draft and where they went. Dennis always enjoys seeing Andrew be active and stir his love for sports. After all the family’s been through, the Road Race is always an inspiring event.

“You’re going to support a great cause and this is a time where there’s players unfiltered,” Henrich urged people. “There’s no autograph lines or anything. Everyone is just hanging out and coming together as a community and for a great cause. If you can, everyone listening to this should come to the Road Race to do that.”

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