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Published Saturday, November 25, 2000

Kaiser experiences 'perfect' day


Last modified at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, November 27, 2000
  

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Terry Douglass
LINCOLN -- Sometimes in life, things don't always work out the way you had planned.

Some would say the true measure of a man isn't whether you win or lose, but how you deal with adversity along the way. If you come from that school of thought, you'd probably have to agree that Nebraska defensive tackle Loran Kaiser is one heck of a guy.

It's safe to say that last summer when Kaiser envisioned how his senior season would go, it looked nothing like this. Nope. The Farwell native pictured his college football career coming to a close in Miami on Jan. 3 with the scoreboard counting down the final seconds of an Orange Bowl victory and a sixth national championship for the Cornhuskers.

The daydream continued with Kaiser -- all 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds of him -- hoisting Nebraska head coach Frank Solich on his shoulders. With the help of a teammate or two, Kaiser would carry the significantly smaller Solich victoriously off the field.

But with no Orange Bowl and no national championship possible, Kaiser decided to make his own memories on Friday. Just prior to running onto Tom Osborne Field for the final time in a Nebraska uniform, Kaiser stopped to receive the traditional congratulations from his head coach. But instead of returning Solich's hug and words of praise, Kaiser bear-hugged his coach and hoisted him into the air -- just liked he'd always dreamed of.

"I just decided I was going to pick up my head coach because it was something that I had always wanted to do," Kaiser said following Nebraska's 34-32 victory over Colorado. "I wanted to pick him up when we won the national championship, but I won't get to do that, so I settled for my last game."

It's just that kind of attitude that has allowed Kaiser to get by in a season in which he's had to battle adversity at nearly every turn. First, there was an appendectomy just 10 days before the season opener that threatened to cost him playing time. Kaiser was able to recover in time to play, but still had to work hard to put 20 lost pounds back on his frame.

Just when things were starting to return to normal, Kaiser's season took another unfortunate turn. He suffered a foot injury early in the Sept. 30 game against Missouri and basically missed a month of the season before returning to play at less than 100 percent.

The final blow to Kaiser's dream season was the losses. After an Oct. 28 setback at Oklahoma, Nebraska still had a chance to win it all. Two weeks later, Kaiser's national championship visions were wiped away when Kansas State rallied to beat the Huskers.

In spite of it all, Nebraska senior guard Russ Hochstein, who has been Kaiser's roommate for the past three years, said Kaiser has managed to keep his chin up.

"Loran is a very strong person and I think a lot of that comes from his parents," Hochstein said. "He's been taught a lot of strong values and he's got a lot of inner strength. Even when things weren't going his way, he never got down too much."

As far as Kaiser is concerned, what's to be sad about? Even if he hadn't been able to play a down of his senior season, he would have already fulfilled his life-long dream. He was a Husker.

"I'm the luckiest person in the world to be where I'm at right now," Kaiser said. "I thank God for everything he's given me -- my body and my talent. My dream came true. I finished five years in this stadium wearing the scarlet and cream, so it just doesn't get any better than that."

And what a way to end it all.

It was no means the strongest performance of the season for Kaiser and the Nebraska defense, but Josh Brown's 29-yard field goal as time expired gave the Cornhuskers the emotional victory. It was one more chance to celebrate inside the walls of Memorial Stadium. One more opportunity to run, jump and scream on every Nebraska grade-schooler's FieldTurf of dreams.

"You'll never forget your last game in Memorial Stadium and you'll especially never forget a game like this," Kaiser said. "Winning a game like this in your last one is just unforgettable."

It was the ultimate finish to a dream day. Even though his entire season hadn't gone as planned, Kaiser's Senior Day followed the storybook ending blueprint to a tee.

"You could tell that a lot of emotion was there today," Kaiser said. "I wanted to end on a good note. I wanted to come out with a lot of fire. Sure, it's your last game, but you can't sit there and dwell on that. You've got to come out with a lot of emotion -- fiery emotion, not sad emotion.

"Everything turned out just perfect today."

Indeed it did.


Contact Independent sports editor Terry Douglass via e-mail at sportsdesk@theindependent.com or by phone at (308) 381-9414.



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