Nebraska Cornhusker fans love their football. They love everything about the Husker program. I remember a time when once someone found out you had tickets to a home game, they held you in awe. Kids grew up wanting to be a Husker. The state basically shut down during a home game, especially back in the day when not every college game was on television.
Vintage Red Sports Gallery is a throwback to those days. J.C. Wickstrom has been a Husker fan since he can recall. “Maybe 5?” he said. His love for Husker football and other sports is strong. He has spent a lot of time and money in creating an impressive collection.
Given the opportunity to share his collection with other Husker fans allows Vintage Red to be more than a sports collectible store; it’s a museum. Not everything displayed is for sale, he said. Thus, the opportunity to share his collection with other Husker fans was one he couldn’t pass up. He has a partner with Vintage Red, but Wickstrom is the day-to-day presence. The gallery is located near 8th and Q Streets in Lincoln’s Haymarket district.
Husker fans will love what they see. The collection dates to the early days of the Huskers. Remember when Nebraska was called the Bugeaters? Well, not many of us remember the actual time period, but we recall the history.
A football from the 1936 team features autographs from Coach Dana X. Bible and Sam Francis, the Huskers’ Heisman Trophy runner-up that season. The football had been kept in a drawer for about 50 years, Wickstrom said. The autographs look fresh because they hadn’t been exposed to light.
Nebraska went to its first bowl game in 1940. The Huskers lost 21-13 to Stanford in the Rose Bowl. But, Wickstrom has a notable display of several Rose Bowl memorabilia, including a deflated football, toy and game ticket.
Bobby Reynolds’ 1950 jersey has a funny story. Reynolds set the team’s season rushing and touchdown records in 1950 with 1,342 yards and 22 touchdowns. The rushing record would last until Mike Rozier set the record in 1982 with more than 1,600 yards.
Reynolds powered through an injury-filled career at Nebraska. He suffered a shoulder injury, broken leg and lyme infection in an eye. He was named an All-American following the 1950 season. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League.
Reynolds’ jersey became pink by accident during a laundry miscue. Ask Wickstrom for more information about it when you visit the gallery.
Vintage Red’s collection brought back so many memories during our visit. The 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma “Game of the Century” is prominently featured at the gallery. Jerseys of Husker greats from the team are displayed along with a poster highlighting the game. The Huskers won 35-31 in a wild shootout. Nebraska and Oklahoma finished 1-2 that season in the football polls.
One of Wickstrom’s all-time favorite Huskers is Lawrence (LC) Cole. The defensive end turned college and high school football coach was a star during the late 1970s. The gallery features a helmet and jersey of Cole’s. But, the topping for the display is a pair of western boots the team received when it played in the 1976 Astro Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. He never wore them, Wickstrom said.
One of the displays features my all-time favorite Husker – Turner Gill. Gill was the quarterback for the legendary “Scoring Explosion” team of 1983. The team played for the national title, losing 31-30 to Miami in the Orange Bowl when a two-point conversion failed on a tipped pass at the end of the game.
Wickstrom actually drove to the campus of Liberty University in Virginia to pick up the memorabilia Gill was willing to part with. The former All-Big quarterback is the head coach at Liberty. He talked with his family before agreeing to sell some of his memorabilia, Wickstrom said. Gill’s daughters approved the deal, he said.
Rozier, of course, is represented. He was one of the “Triplets” of that ’83 team. Rozier rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 1983, when he won the school’s second Heisman Trophy. Irving Fryar – the No. 1 pick of the 1984 NFL draft – was the third member.
Wickstrom put together a display of some of his favorite running backs, featuring Jeff Smith, Ken Clark, Doug DuBose and Monte Anthony. Clark and Anthony both passed away young.
Tommie Frazier’s game jersey and cleats from the 1996 Fiesta Bowl -which claimed the school’s fourth national title – are among the items available for view.
Recent Huskers are featured at the gallery. Ndamakung Suh has his Blackshirt framed on a wall. The most impressive display in the building may be Ameer Abdullah’s game uniform from the 2014 Holiday Bowl. The uniform has grass stains on it.
The Husker exhibits aren’t just focused on players. Wickstrom is proud to have the last playbook used by Coach Bob Devaney. The coach used it in the 1973 Orange Bowl against Notre Dame in his last game as a coach. He retired from coaching following the 40-6 victory. He served as the school’s athletic director for several years afterward.
Tom Osborne’s headset from the 1978 win over the Oklahoma Sooners is on display. The game marked Osborne’s first win over the Sooners as Husker head coach, after going 0-5 in his first five seasons.
While he served as head coach from 1998-2003, Frank Solich’s display includes items from his days as a Husker fullback.
Another interesting exhibit features the cover of each of the 53 bowl games in which Nebraska has appeared. The Huskers are 26-27 in bowl games, with five national championships.
Outside of the gallery, visitors can purchase Husker-related items in the gift shop. Game-worn helmets, including professional ones, are for sale. I was tempted to buy Roger Craig’s helmet from the San Francisco 49ers, until Lisa gave me the “look.”
I could go on and on and on and on and…But, you get the picture. Vintage Red has A LOT of Husker memorabilia on display. It is worth a visit. Who knows, you may run into a former Cornhusker at the gallery. Wickstrom’s goal is to have the gallery serve as a meeting space for fans and former players.
We strongly encourage you to visit, especially if you’re a Husker or football fan, or know a fan.
For more information on Vintage Red and its memorabilia, please visit www.vintageredne.com. Please note, Vintage Red isn’t affiliated with the University of Nebraska or the athletic program.