Thirty years ago, when I was a high school junior, my family met a Husker walk-on - Isaiah Moses Hipp - who had traveled from his home in Chapin, South Carolina to play football at Nebraska.
We understood the travel difference. During the summer of '68, we ventured to Greensboro, North Carolina, and spent part of the summer there while my dad attended classes at UNC-Greensboro.
We'd travel to out-of-town games and wait at the locker room for him to come out. Sometimes, he'd be hit up for autographs, which he would always sign. And he always spent time talking to our family. Once, at a KU-NU game in Lawrence, he and fellow Husker Andre Franklin asked if we were going home through Lincoln because they wanted to ride with us. Umm, Isaiah, I'm pretty sure Coach Tom wouldn't have allowed that, although I know we would have done it had he granted permission.
And there was the time we played at OSU. Our family had t-shirts made that said "I'm hip for Hipp" along with the number 32 blazing on the back. After meeting and talking at the locker room door, we began our journey home. We stopped somewhere in Kansas - I think Hutchinson - and the kid at the gas station said, "Hey, I saw you on TV. They showed your shirt."
And at home games, my sister and I always made a mad rush to the south field house and staked our spot to wait for him to come out. We'd wait with Tom Sorley's wife, dad and mom, and some times, Rick Berns' family would wait there with us, too.
The last time I remember seeing him was after the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day in 1980. We lost to Houston, 17 - 14. I don't remember seeing him at Andre's and Becky's wedding either (but that is another story in itself).
He was the subject of my first story I submitted to a newspaper, a personal profile of the Husker walk-on.
Why am I writing about the most famous walk-on football hero of all time? I read something about him today and it made me wonder where he is. And when I subbed at an area high school a few weeks ago, a teacher was telling the lunchroom crowd that he lived above her in the dorm. And I just smiled, remembering a small apartment, I think over on 18th street, where we met him a few times.
I discovered he lives in Virginia Beach. But I want to know more. Did you get married? Have children? When did you finish your degree? What things are important to you now? What do you think of Husker football and your time in Lincoln?
I'm searching for I.M. Hipp. And I'll find him. :)