LINCOLN — Beau Sales nuzzles up against his father, Brett, underneath the North Stadium bleachers.
The 8-month-old watches a video on his dad’s iPhone. A binky is clipped to his faded red onesie that reads, “Osborne. Devaney. Some Other Guys. Frost.”
“So this is Beau,” Brett says, presenting his son, speaking up over the noise of the fans in line behind him. “He was born on Dec. 3, 2017. The day Scott Frost was hired.”
So of course, Brett said, they had to be first in line for Fan Day on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Brett and wife Maggie were reading the news on ESPN’s ticker just as Maggie went into labor Dec. 2. Beau was born in the early hours of Dec. 3, the day Frost was introduced to Nebraska by Athletic Director Bill Moos. Usually, the Saleses wouldn’t have much interest in autographs.
“But this one is really special,” Brett said.
The three were part of the 8,000 who flocked from all over to catch a glimpse of Nebraska’s first-year coach Saturday.
Lines for Fan Day formed at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. To accommodate the influx, the athletic department set up a separate line to see Frost. When gates opened at 6:30 p.m., the coach’s line stretched from Gate 24 to the Bob Devaney statue, more than halfway around the stadium.
Around campus, the scene was similar to a Husker game day — the first of which comes Sept. 1 against Akron. In line before gates opened, children adorned in Frost shirts — Frost Warning, Frost Advisory, It’s Getting Frosty — played catch in front of the Tom Osborne and Brook Berringer statue. Fans in customized jerseys with names of former walk-ons and their county number stood in the shade for respite from the 90-degree heat. In the campus bookstore, Frost’s No. 7 jerseys were on the first rack inside the door.
Part of the intrigue Saturday wasn’t just seeing Frost, fans said, but thanking him for returning.
Bill Bradford and his wife drove three hours from Hillsboro, Kansas, to see the coach. Bradford wore a crimson No. 7 jersey he bought in 1997, when the quarterback helped lead Nebraska to its last national championship. He planned on telling Frost thank you, and getting a signature on the back of the jersey.
“It’s gonna be very, very, very, very nice to see him,” Bradford said.
Daniel Vence brought a poster of Frost’s most famous play, the Flea Kicker at Missouri in 1997. The pass from Frost and reception by Matt Davison kept Nebraska’s title hopes alive.
Vence already has Davison’s signature. He came from Omaha to complete the photo.
“He’s from Wood River, and I’m from Fullerton originally,” Vence said. “Small-town kids stick together.”
In his 70 years as a Husker fan, Vence has seen a lot. And he came Saturday not only to get Frost’s signature, but also to pay his respects to one of his favorite players.
“It’s going to be emotional,” Vence said of meeting Frost. “Because I think he’s going to bring the team back around. So it’ll be emotional.”
For two hours, fans were able to get signatures from the entire team and staff. But many filtered into the Frost line, which weaved from the gate, stretched the length of the field and curved through the weight room. It was like children waiting to see Santa at a shopping mall.
In a raised chair at a silver table, Frost smiled for photos, signed jerseys and held children.
Maggie and Brett thought about naming their child Scott but decided against it. They liked Beau best.
“Not after Bo Pelini,” Maggie pointed out.
The Saleses had Frost sign the front page of The World-Herald from Dec. 3, the day Beau was born.
The day their family, and Nebraska, changed forever.