Far from home, they’re still pulling for Nebraska

When Georgia and Nebraska played each other for the first and only time in the Sun Bowl game 43 years ago — Georgia lost by 39 — there probably weren’t a lot of divided loyalties among football watchers in the Peach State.

The 1,000-plus miles between Lincoln and Athens put fans of both schools a world apart. But their second showdown New Year’s Day in the Capital One Bowl will be different.

If you stop in at Coldbrews Sports Bar and Grill in Roswell, don’t be confused by the red décor. For the past year, it’s been the official watch site for the local University of Nebraska Alumni Association chapter.

Husker paraphernalia deck the walls and on game days, the TV screens are tuned to Big Red. During halftime, the alumni raffle off Husker loot to raise money for Nebraska scholarships.

Owner Smokie Paris welcomed the fans of the Big 10 (Nebraska’s conference) when it became the watch spot, but not without some Bulldog resistance.

“One customer said to me, ‘Why don’t you just move to Nebraska,’” Paris said.

She is not anti-UGA. She just wanted the Huskers fans to have a place to congregate.

“We welcome everyone, but you can find a place to watch UGA just about anywhere in the state,” she said.

Paris has learned Husker lingo and has even placed a special drink on the menu in their honor, a mixture of beer and tomato juice known in Nebraska as The Big Red or just Red Beer.

The big screen TVs and the opportunity to see games they can’t attend is a far cry from the way things used to be, said Jeff and Kim Castle. They moved to Georgia in the 1980’s when Jeff relocated for a job.

“There was no Internet, no satellite games. There might be one (Nebraska) game a year on TV,” he said.

To hear a live broadcast, they would meet at fellow fans’ houses and call someone back home, who’d put the phone up to the radio and relay the play-by-play.

“Afterward, we’d pass the hat to pay for the long distance bill,” said Kim Castle.

Ric Rosseter, president of Georgians for Nebraska, has been involved with the alumni association for about 18 years of its 20-plus-year existence. The group boasts about 1,500 members in metro Atlanta.

“That doesn’t even begin to touch the total number of Nebraskans in the same area, let alone Georgia,” he said. “I could not even guess at that number. We’re everywhere. I tell the native Georgians that I meet that we’re taking over, they just don’t know it.”

To join the group, attending a University of Nebraska school isn’t a prerequisite. Cornhusker-native Jeff Appleton graduated from Purdue then lived in Indiana for 30 years before moving to Atlanta.

“If you’re from Nebraska, you’re a Husker,” he said.

A tattoo of the Husker logo graces one of his upper arms and a “Nebraska Black Shirts” tattoo, stylized from a Harley Davidson shield, marks his other arm.

“When I’m out cutting the grass, the neighbors know who I root for,” he said.

George Haney grew up in East Point but played for the Nebraska from 1959 to 1961, returning to Georgia after a NFL stint playing for Green Bay. He married his wife Peggy, who’s also from East Point and never lived in Nebraska, a few years ago.

A recent convert, Peggy proudly wears her Husker clothing and has no problem rooting for Nebraska. The two even scheduled their wedding around the football schedule.

“We went to a game on Saturday and got married on Sunday,” Peggy Haney said.

One thing Nebraska and Georgia fans have in common, the group said, is their easy-going nature.

“We clap for good plays no matter which team did it,” said Athene Tenney, a Georgians for Nebraska member. “We don’t want to see anyone hurt. After all it’s football, not war.”

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