300 games later, Husker pride still burns red hot

Story by Kay Kemmet | Omaha World-Herald

Writer’s note: This Saturday feature is an interesting spin on a sports feature and was placed where sports stories are usually teased, above the masthead in the Omaha-World Herald. The story of these two fans shows Nebraskan’s passion for football, but also tells the story of a couple and their life together. I spent much of my reporting time researching each game mentioned in the article.

Kathy and Jon Pounds looked at each other as their red-wearing friends cheered. The two turned to each other.

“This is better than our wedding day,” Jon told his wife.

The Huskers had just claimed the 1994 national championship with an Orange Bowl win over the Miami Hurricanes.

“She was in total agreement,” said Jon Pounds, 57. “A lot of wives would have been offended.”

Not Kathy. She enjoys Husker games as much as her husband of 26 years. So much so that the Blair, Neb., couple haven’t missed a game — home or away — since the 1988 Nebraska vs. UCLA game in Los Angeles, when the Huskers lost 41-28.

You read that right — the couple have been at every single Husker football game for 23 years.

“Your experience is so much different being in the stadium instead of watching it on TV,” said Kathy Pounds, 49.

On Saturday, the couple will attend their 300th consecutive game in Ann Arbor, Mich.

They’ve driven coast to coast to see the Huskers. They even followed the team to Tokyo in 1992.

It seems like they’ve planned their entire married life around Nebraska’s football schedule — down to their wedding (they got married in the off season in 1985) and Kathy’s kidney transplant last summer.

“We told the doctors that we had to do the transplant so I could be ready for the first Husker game,” said Kathy, who has a genetic kidney disease.

She was ready for this season’s first game with her new kidney — donated by her husband. And she doesn’t plan to miss a game in the foreseeable future.

“I hope to be 85 or 90 years old and still going, especially now that I have a new kidney. I probably will (miss a game eventually), and that’s the day I die,” said Kathy, who manages the Subway restaurant in Blair.

After her transplant, she received a get-well letter from NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne and an autographed picture of coach Bo Pelini. Both are framed and hang in the Pounds’ living room.

Chris Anderson, Athletic Department spokeswoman, said the couple’s accomplishment is pretty remarkable. While there are fans who have attended 300-plus home games, Anderson said she hasn’t heard of anyone attending so many consecutive home and away games.

The couple started dating in 1982, and after a few months, Jon took Kathy to her first Husker game, a match against Iowa State in Ames. It was cold, and the stadium was so full there was only standing room.

Kathy had never been a Husker fan. But after the Huskers won 48-10, she was hooked.

“I thought, ‘If she likes it in this weather, then she’d like any of them,'” said Jon, who works at Mid-America Computer Corp. in Blair.

He displays a picture on his desk of himself, Kathy and Osborne with the 1994 National Championship trophy, and he wears Husker apparel every Friday, in season and out.

While the couple didn’t start their streak until 1988, they haven’t missed many games since 1983. And after almost 30 years, they have their routine down.

For home games, they drive to Lincoln in Jon’s 1978 Lil’ Red Express truck — a special edition Dodge pickup with Husker decals and a “No Place Like Nebraska” horn. They tailgate before heading to their seats in section 31, on Memorial Stadium’s west side.

For away games, they usually drive, but for longer trips — like last weekend’s Penn State game — they fly. “The good thing about Nebraska is it’s centrally located,” Kathy said.

Over the years, they have nearly missed a few games because of bad weather. In October 1993, they almost didn’t make the drive to Boulder for the Colorado game. But they did. The Huskers won, 21-17.

“Everybody pretty much knows that if they have anything going on on a Husker Saturday, Jon and Kathy aren’t going to be there,” said Kathy, who recently missed a relative’s wedding because of a game.

Kathy works a second job to help fund their football fix. With hotels, transportation, food and tickets, it adds up. They haven’t tracked just how much they’ve spent on Husker football, and Jon said that’s probably a good thing.

Kathy and Jon don’t know when they decided to follow the team to every game. They just knew watching it on TV wouldn’t cut it.

“We just love the Huskers,” Kathy said.

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