Ron Barker has lived in Ohio for 35 of his 48 years, but he'll be decked out in Husker red for Nebraska's game Saturday at Ohio State.
“When all your family is crazy fans, and they're all from Nebraska, you tend to be a lifelong fan,” he said.
Barker, who has lived in Millard and Columbus, turned wife Kathy, daughter Heather and son Brad into Husker fans, too. Heather, 21, has a crush on I-back Rex Burkhead.
Barker and his son snagged tickets to the Ohio State game after they made the 13-hour drive to Lincoln last Saturday for the Huskers' win against Wisconsin. They checked the NU ticket office Monday and got a few of the last available tickets, which they'll share with friends from the Miami Valley Huskers, a group of NU fans in eastern Indiana and southwest Ohio.
Nebraska's 4,000-ticket allotment was gone Tuesday morning and Ohio State's 102,329-seat stadium is sold out.
Barker stayed an extra day in Nebraska for his grandmother Lucille Martin's 100th birthday celebration in Grand Island. He's got family all over the state.
Barker, who now lives in Beaver Creek, right outside of Dayton, said it's been “fairly challenging” to be a Husker fan in Ohio. To be more succinct: He has a strong dislike for the Buckeyes, though he has many friends who follow the team.
“Ohio State fans are a little bit better than Colorado fans, but that is not saying much,” he said. “Hopefully, they'll treat us well.”
Barker is one of the presidents of the Miami Valley Huskers. They'll be on hand, along with the Northeast Ohio Huskers and the Central Ohioans for Nebraska to welcome Husker fans to Ohio Stadium.
Several activities are planned Friday and Saturday, starting with a donor-supporter celebration with UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman from 5 to 7 p.m. EDT at the Camelot Cellars, a winery in Columbus.
The Central Ohioans are holding a pregame party with tastes of Nebraska and Columbus from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Gresso's Pub and Grill in the brewery district of Columbus. Classic Husker game footage will be shown on a big screen. The group will also greet fans and provide shuttle service to the party for those staying at the Sheraton on Capitol Square, the official team hotel.
“We wanted to show off our community. Local football, things people would recognize as unique to Ohio,” said 2006 graduate Crystal (Weaver) Olig, who leads the Central Ohioans with her husband, Kyle. “That's just our welcome to Nebraskans coming for the game and getting them excited for the game.”
One of the biggest events will be Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Recreation and Physical Activity Center across from the stadium. About 500 people are expected at the Husker Huddle, said Shannon Sherman of the Nebraska Alumni Association.
“We've gotten a lot of calls this week,” she said. “I think that exciting win over Wisconsin really sort of energized some fans.”
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Interested fans can buy passes at huskeralum.org or by calling 888-353-1874.
A watch party will be held at Gresso's on Saturday when the game starts.
“Oh my gosh, everybody is so excited,” Olig said. “We've only lived here about three years, but especially for people who have lived her for 10 to 20 years and have had to put up with the Buckeyes. We want to show them Nebraskans know a thing or two about football, too.”
Barker said his group will be holding its usual watch party at Champps in Centerville. They draw anywhere from 65 to 120 fans for every Husker game.
Their parties, with cheers and the playing of the NU fight song, are so popular that the local ESPN affiliate plans to do a segment on their group before the game.
Dan Larsen, another president of the group and a 1971 UNL graduate, drives to every home game. Barker and a vanload from his group drove 18 hours to Orlando for the bowl game last year.
The group organizes a road trip to one game each season. This year, it will be Michigan State.
“We would have done something more organized (for Ohio State), but tickets were just too hard to come by,” he said.
Though he went to the Ohio State game in Lincoln last year, Barker said Saturday's game is special.
“I've been here so many years and have so many Ohio State friends, this has got a little bit extra meaning,” he said. “It's a big deal. There certainly are a lot of people who have been waiting for this for a long time.”
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