The University of Nebraska got its start in 1869, just two years after Nebraska was granted statehood. The university buildings sprang up in the midst of Lincoln, Nebraska, and while foliage and even structures struggled in the harsh prairie conditions, the campus grew, enrollment went up, and athletic teams began to play.
The teams now play as the Huskers, but they did not start off under this name. The mascot also underwent extensive physical changes over the years, and the teams added a second one as well. Let’s take a look to see how Herbie Husker got his start on the sidelines of Nebraska games.
How Herbie Husker and Came to Be
The sports teams at Nebraska didn’t always play under the name “Huskers.” Indeed, some of the early names sound like goofy head-scratchers to our modern ears. During the first two seasons of Nebraska football (1890 and 1891), they were called the Old Gold Knights. That name was abandoned until the turn of the century in favor of a new name – the Bugeaters. This name came from the insect-devouring bull bats that were prevalent in the area, but when the Bugeaters suffered their first losing season in 10 years, local sportswriter Charles S. Sherman had had enough with the name.
Declaring the Bugeaters name as “unglamorous,” Sherman found the term “Cornhuskers” (used by neighboring Iowa from time to time) far more appealing. When Iowa leaned toward Hawkeyes, Sherman claimed the term for Nebraska, leading to it becoming the state’s official nickname – and a new designation for the university’s sports teams.
As far as a mascot goes, Herbie Husker’s modern-day look actually originated from a Cotton Bowl appearance in 1974 when artist Dirk West from Lubbock, Texas, designed a Cornhusker cartoon for the press headquarters. His rendition caught the eye of Nebraska’s Sports Information Director Don Bryant, who helped commission West to draw a Cornhusker cartoon that became the mascot for the Nebraska Husker athletic teams. Of course, Herbie Husker was not always the dashing mascot we know and love today. In fact, before the Huskers had Herbie, they had a mascot whose head was an ear of corn! Here, we’ll break down how the Huskers mascot has changed over the years.
From Corn Cob to Herbie Husker
In the ’40s and ’50s, after the team became known as the Huskers (but before they had Herbie roaming the sidelines), they had Corn Cob – a person dressed in black with a corncob for a head, complete with eyes and a mouth.
Corn Cob evolved to Johnny Husker in 1956, which was the only year he was the official mascot.
Husker Man was another attempt at a mascot in 1962 and was the first iteration that resembles today’s Herbie Husker. He looked pretty agricultural (which is no surprise, owing to the university’s team name), complete with a straw hat, overalls, and a plaid shirt.
Another “corn” mascot appeared in the mid-1960s. This one was more of a complete ear of corn, as opposed to the early Corn Cob mascot. This mascot costume fit over the head and upper body of the wearer.
Harry Husker, from the mid-1960s to 1973, is similar to Husker Man, although this fella wore a red jacket and tie instead of overalls.
Herbie Husker finally appeared in 1974, drawn by the aforementioned Dirk West. Herbie’s first version was a burly man in overalls, a large “N” on his chest, a wide red hat, a football tucked firmly in one hand, and a cob of corn in his pocket.
In 2003, Herbie underwent some modernizing. The overalls were discarded in favor of blue jeans. He also wore a red work shirt, work boots, and a red cowboy hat – all in an attempt to reflect modern agricultural workers. He remains dressed so today.
Make Herbie Proud
Are you a confident, proud Husker fan? Are you not super into dressing up like a corncob? If you’re headed to a Husker game (or are rooting them on at home), be sure to check out the vast selection of Husker gear at Fanatics before game time.