WATCH: Nebraska Football Enters the Field Led by First Responders in Incredible 9/11 Tribute

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Nebraska football team knows how to do a good, old-fashioned, fist-pumping, goose-bump inspiring, patriotic Tunnel Walk.

And on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Cornhuskers tribute to this country and our first responders was as meaningful as the first time the team did it 20 Septembers ago.

Take a look at the Tunnel Walk. The first responder grouping is different than it was 20 years ago. They added a doctor to the group, which included a policeman and fireman.

Plus, 29-year-old Damian Jackson, a Cornhusker defensive lineman and former Navy SEAL, carried the American flag and led everyone through the tunnel and out onto the field. Like two decades ago, fans chanted U-S-A, U-S-A.

Nebraska Football Vs Rice Was One of First Major Events After 9-11

Nebraska football played host to Rice on Sept. 20, 2001. But there was high anxiety surrounding any sporting event in the days following the terrorist attack. No one was sure whether packed stadiums could be targets. But everyone also knew that Americans needed to return to everyday life, like watching football games with friends and family.

The Nebraska football program, in its first game back, decided to pay tribute to policemen, firemen and other first responders who gave their lives trying to save people at the World Trade Center towers or Pentagon. So they invited representatives of the Nebraska State Patrol, fire department and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s department.

Tim Watson, who was then a Nebraska student, told the Omaha World-Herald that all the American flags around Lincoln were sold out. But he wanted to add one to his Cornhusker fan head gear. “I had to borrow it from my grandma.” 

Extra security was everywhere. There was a moment of silence. Then the crowd sang both God Bless America and the Star-Spangled Banner. Fans hugged each other. Some cried. An actual Nebraska football game seemed almost like an afterthought. On Saturday, the Fox College Football Twitter account posted a video from 20 years ago.

“The Husker Football Nation Tunnel Walk is always great, but there’s never been as one as special as this one.”

Present Day Huskers Feature a Former Navy SEAL

Now, let’s come back to present day. The Nebraska football team played host to the Buffalo Bulls.

The Cornhuskers’ Jackson is an incredible story. And he starred in an emotional tribute video the Nebraska football team released, Aug. 31. Jackson is now on scholarship, but he started in the program as a 24-year-old walk-on. He wrote to every Division I program asking if he could have a chance to play football. He didn’t play in high school. But he was a disciplined, athletic former Navy SEAL. Surely somebody had a spot.

Nebraska football was the first to offer Jackson, who served two deployments, a chance.

Jackson posted the video on his Instagram page earlier Saturday. He captioned it “We will never forget.”