Monte Selden carries a heavy responsibility on Husker football Saturdays — one that weighs about 15 tons.
It's not the players. Not the coaches. Not the cheerleaders, nor the support staff.
But just as important: their stuff.
“Everything it takes to play the game is on the trailer. The flags the cheerleaders carry, medical and radio equipment, the headsets — even Lil' Red is in there,” said Monte Selden, president and owner of Selden Trucking, based in Shelby, Neb., about 80 miles west of Omaha.
For 16 years, Selden's company has been hauling all the Husker equipment that makes Nebraska's away football games possible. The game cannot go on, or even start, until Selden rolls into town with his 53-foot-long black and scarlet and cream truck and trailer.
His time and everything that goes into it, like gas and mileage, is considered a donation to NU, although the university covers the cost of replacing the Adidas signage on the trailer and his hotel room. At the end of each season, officials determine how much his services cost and NU gives him donor points to exchange for perks, like a parking pass.
Selden's story with the Huskers began 16 years ago when he saw an advertisement in a trucking magazine that NU was looking for additional carriers. At that time, NU used a different trucking company each week, and that method was becoming more complicated as the years went on, said football equipment manager Jay Terry.
“It was pretty difficult to tell someone what we needed done every week,” he said. “We need someone part of our routine, someone who knew how we load and set up.”
In 1996, Selden was added as an alternate and told he could haul equipment to the Big 12 Championship game if the Huskers beat Colorado the week before. They did, and Selden made his debut.
The partnership continued, with Selden hauling to places like Washington state in 1997 and Notre Dame in 2000. After serving as the carrier to the 2002 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Selden started to discuss with NU the possibility of becoming NU's exclusive carrier.
Before the 2005 season started, they worked out a deal, and Selden became NU's only carrier.
“It's just taken off from there,” Selden said. “I've done every game since then.”
It's not like Selden specialized in hauling athletic equipment.
He runs a fleet of about 40 refrigerated trucks, some of which are owner-operated and some of which are company trucks. They primarily carry Nebraska beef products to California and bring back produce. His employees haul for companies like JBS Swift and Cargill Meat Solutions and bring back produce for warehouses like Affiliated Foods, Greenberg Fruit Co. and Liberty Fruit.
The 20 other trucks deliver products to a 600-mile radius from Selden's headquarters to cities like Denver, Fargo, N.D., Minneapolis, Oklahoma City and Kansas City.
The company employs about 42 drivers, three mechanics and six office staff. It's a sizable employer in the rural Shelby community of about 700 people.
Selden's NU relationship provides something fun to do on the weekends. A lifelong football lover, Selden said the accessibility to players and coaches and sideline seats during games are enough to keep him involved.
“It's a different aspect of the Husker experience. You get to see what goes on behind the scenes,” he said. “To me, it's just something extra special.”
Shortly after you pick up the newspaper this morning, Selden and his co-captain and operations manager Todd Oshel will be rolling into Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game. The two departed from their Shelby headquarters and drove 65 miles to Lincoln after working all day Thursday.
After helping to load equipment, they left Lincoln at about 7 p.m. and drove all night, rotating drivers and stopping for fuel as needed.
Loading equipment can be a challenge. The trailer is full from front to back for regular games, Oshel said, but for bowl games it's generally full front to back and top to bottom.
“Loading that trailer is kind of like the game of Tetris,” he said, laughing. “You've got to turn the trunks and bag carts certain ways in order to make everything fit right.”
Typically, when they arrive at a destination, the pair go straight to the team hotel and check in. They'll unload some of the equipment players and coaches will need first, like videos and drinks.
Then, they'll take off for the stadium to help set up the locker room.
NU Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Jamrog said many people don't realize what goes into Selden's role because most of his work is done before the players, coaches and other staff arrive.
“There's people in our program that sometimes go unnoticed, but they are so valuable to your program. Monte is one of those guys who's at the top of the list,” he said.
Selden and Oshel help load gear during halftime, packing away items not needed for the second half. They return to the sidelines sometime during the third quarter, but as soon as the game is over, they're back to the truck, helping to load it up.
“Then we're on the road and headed back to Lincoln,” Oshel said, noting they often get back to town early in the morning after driving all night. “That's so the next morning, support staff can come in and they can do the players' laundry so they can get ready for practice.”
Even though Selden and Oshel consider the job fun, they treat the gig like a job.
But do they ever worry about not making it? Something happening?
Earlier this season, Boise State's equipment truck struck a cow near Albuquerque, N.M., on its way to Mississippi for a game against Southern Mississippi. What if something similar happened and Selden got a call asking, “Why aren't you here yet?”
“I don't want to ever answer that question,” he said. “I'm not happy until I'm sitting there (at the destination).”
As a precaution, he replaces the tractor part of the Husker carrier each year. Especially with NU's move to the Big Ten, Selden and Oshel are covering more territory, and ensuring the truck can handle long trips is vital.
In 2011, for example, they made the thousand-mile trek to University Park, Pa., only to turn around later in the week for the Huskers vs. Wolverines football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., 750 miles from Lincoln.
But no matter the game or destination, Selden's goal is the same: Get the equipment to a location as quickly as possible, and to get it back to Lincoln as efficiently as possible.
“It's something I could do, on my part, to help the Huskers through trucking,” he said.
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