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Coaches, players and friends bid Berringer farewell

(c) 1996 Copyright Nando.net
(c) 1996 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Apr 22, 1996 - 11:00 EST) -- In the dark of a crisp, spring morning outside Memorial Stadium, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne walked quietly with more than 40 players, coaches and others who boarded a bus Monday for Kansas.

The somber group was heading to Goodland, Kan., for the funeral of former Cornhuskers quarterback Brook Berringer, killed with a friend in a plane crash last week near Lincoln.

"I am going to speak at the service, but I don't have anything to say right now," Osborne said.

The players also were quiet as they waited to begin the trip.

Art Lindsay, 62, of Lincoln, who often attended the Grace Community Church with Berringer, had a ready smile for everyone who passed by.

"This is a great day of celebration, because Brook is home," Lindsay said. "I'm just so absolutely proud of him; and I wouldn't wish him back in this worldly mess for anything."

Lindsay, a former pastor and missionary who had spent the past few days preparing remarks for delivery at the funeral, said he had known Berringer for three years.

"We got together at least once a week for a meal, for Bible study, for something," Lindsay said. "We had come together in our relationship with Christ."

Lindsay said Berringer was the executor of his estate "because it seemed so obvious that he would outlive me by far."

"We were working together on a book about his life," Lindsay said. "I still want to finish the book and I know he will be working with me on it."

Lindsay said Berringer often memorized Scripture, and that the promising athlete had a favorite verse from Corinthians: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.'

"I misquoted that about a week ago and Brook caught me on it right away," Lindsay said of 2 Corinthians 5:17.

In both Nebraska and Kansas, family, friends and fans alike trekked to Goodland for funeral services for the fallen quarterback and his friend, Tobey Lake, who also was killed.

On the Kansas field where Berringer played high school football, students laid out roses to form an "18," the number Berringer wore at Nebraska. Roses also formed a "99," the number Lake wore at Goodland High.

Lake, 32, of Aurora, Colo., was the brother of Berringer's girlfriend, Tiffini Lake.

People gathered at the Max Jones Fieldhouse at Goodland High School to prepare for the funeral. Organizers expected a full house, said Marty Melia, a friend of the family and owner of radio stations KLOE-KKCI.

"The building seats 3,500 to 3,900, and we're just positive that is going to fill up," Melia said. "There's been talk of opening up another place, perhaps the football field."

A reserve quarterback who helped Nebraska win the 1994 and 1995 national championships, Berringer, 22, also loved to hunt, fly airplanes and spend time with school children and other fans of Nebraska football.

Berringer was piloting the airplane that crashed in an alfalfa field north of Lincoln. The accident occurred just two days before the NFL draft, and Berringer had expected to be among those chosen.

Lake, also a licensed pilot, managed an interior finishing business in Denver.

Berringer spent most of his career backing up star quarterback Tommie Frazier. But he stepped into a starting role in 1994 when Frazier was injured, and led Nebraska to seven straight victories, despite suffering from a partially collapsed lung.

Berringer's father died when Berringer was 7. Others in his family include his mother, Jan, and two sisters, Nicoel Nasseri of Kansas City and Drue Berringer, a junior at Kansas State University.

Tributes and memorials for Berringer and Lake began soon after their deaths. A video tribute to Berringer was played at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln before a Cornhusker scrimmage Saturday. Players said Berringer's death was on their minds. Osborne acknowledged it.

"It's been difficult," Osborne said. "It was difficult to concentrate and play the spring game. But it was something we had to do."

Strong, dependable and intelligent, Berringer was expected to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds. He might have been taken by Kansas City.

"Our offensive coordinator Paul Hackett went up and had lunch with him and visited with him, and we felt very comfortable that he would be an outstanding developmental quarterback," said Lynn Stiles, Chiefs' vice president of player personnel. "The only thing I can say is my heart goes out to all the fans of Nebraska. He was a quality, quality person.

"Without a doubt, he would have been considered by the Chiefs."