July 9, 1973 - April 18, 1996
Brook Berringer didn’t care for sleep. • He was always waking before dawn to cast a line or to hunt birds with his Brittany spaniels — he kept a photo album of Juke and Bodie. Always chasing his favorite band, Sawyer Brown, across the Midwest — he coaxed ’em to write a song about Nebraska.
But what Berringer loved most — even more than playing quarterback beneath a sea of red — was soaring into a sea of blue and looking down on the world. • Just before 2:30 p.m. on April 18, 1996, Berringer and his girlfriend’s brother, Tobey Lake, lifted off a grass airstrip seven miles northwest of Lincoln. • When the engine sputtered, Berringer should’ve dropped the nose and landed immediately in the field in front of him. Instead he tried to turn back to the airstrip. The J-3 Piper Cub got smacked by a 25 mph northwest wind and stalled. The left wing dropped, and the plane plunged into an alfalfa field and burst into flames.
That’s how a 22-year-old quarterback died. In two decades since, Nebraskans have cherished how he lived. • Gritty between the white lines, emerging from obscurity after Tommie Frazier went down with blood clots, fighting through fractured ribs and a collapsed lung and leading the Huskers to a perfect regular season in 1994, including a near-perfect dissection of No. 2 Colorado. • Humbly on the sideline, reverting to backup after Frazier won the quarterback job in 1995, never dividing the locker room despite bitter disappointment. • Berringer was a Kansan by nature, but Nebraskans nurtured him like few players before. In his shoulder pads, they saw themselves.
On April 18, five hours before he was scheduled to speak at an FCA banquet, three days before he was projected to be chosen in the NFL draft, he could’ve sunk into a couch. He could’ve taken a nap. • No, Brook wanted the sky.
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On the 20-year anniversary, we're asking World-Herald readers to share their memories of that day and of the lasting impact Berringer had on those who followed his life from the sidelines, from the seats at Memorial Stadium, from their living rooms and from afar.
This is the legacy of Brook Berringer, 20 years later, in your own words.
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