LINCOLN — “That’s D-Wade.”
It was an observation heard over and over Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
Dwyane Wade, the 11-time NBA All-Star, was in the building for the season opener with actress wife Gabrielle Union, an Omaha native and well-known Nebraska fan.
The power couple toured Nebraska’s basketball facilities and spoke with the basketball team earlier in the day. Husker hoops coach Tim Miles said the two were “very generous with their time,” spending about 45 minutes with the team.
Union, Miles said, spoke about being a professional and her Nebraska roots. Wade spoke about how lucky NU players were to have the new facilities at their disposal.
“They were blown away with the facilities, just like everyone is,” Miles said. “In fact, (Union) was kind of ribbing him, saying ‘Marquette (Wade’s alma mater) doesn’t have anything like this.’”
Miles’ son, Gabriel, might have been the most excited person with Wade’s presence. He wore a Miami Heat jersey — with “Miles” and the No. 2 printed on the back.
Wade drew a crowd everywhere he went. He and Union were on the field an hour before kickoff, got a quick tour of the football facilities and then returned to the sideline just before the Tunnel Walk.
Wade grabbed his phone out of his pocket on a couple of occasions to snap pictures and videos, including a couple of Union.
He would get his own picture taken with plenty of fans, Herbie Husker and Lil Red.
Wade had a big smile and a high five for his wife after the players took the field, and the two stuck out most of the first quarter on the sidelines despite 90-degree heat.
They even threw on the honorary football jerseys they were given when they were introduced during a break in the action.
Just getting warmed up
Parts of Nebraska’s pregame activities looked familiar. Others seemed a little odd.
Jordan Westerkamp caught a punt on the final play of warm-ups, spiking it to the ground before being mobbed and lifted by teammates, a familiar scene for those who show up early.
But it seemed a little strange that with around 35 to 40 minutes before kickoff, only part of the offense was on the field.
It was primarily just the skill position players out warming up. The offensive line and entire defense came out later.
But nothing appeared to be happening by accident. In fact, as defensive linemen were running onto the field, they were already forming a single-file line as Nebraska assistants were yelling at them to do so.
Also noticeably different were the new clocks and ribbon board near field level.
The sideline had a much different look and feel during the game, too.
Defensive benches formed a “U” shape and coordinator Mark Banker usually sat near the middle, looking like a teacher giving instructions to a class.
There seemed to be a different mood, too. Even when Nebraska was giving up points or having issues on offense — and despite a loud crowd at moments — coaches seemed to command attention without screaming.
They appeared to get their message across and leave players to discuss things among themselves.
Tweaks to a tradition
The latest version of the Tunnel Walk started with a video that showed new coach Mike Riley and a few of his players strolling out of the tunnel and also featured highlights of years past.
It gave way to the familiar tune that accompanies the Huskers to the field, along with a shot of the team in a huddle in the locker room.
Their chant ended and the camera tightly shot Riley as the team headed toward the field. They then ran out through smoke.
Three players held flags, two more than a season ago. Joining the customary American flag were a Blackshirt banner and a red Nebraska flag.
Some of the biggest names on the Nebraska roster weren’t in pads Saturday. But they were hardly inactive.
Suspended linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey was helping out linebacker drills in pregame warm-ups, shagging balls and giving encouragement to teammates.
Wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El was wearing a protective boot on his injured foot, but looked like he wanted to field punts during drills before kickoff.
Four other players — a group that included expected starters Cethan Carter and Jonathan Rose — were also suspended.
Senior defensive tackle Givens Price was awarded the Jake Young Memorial scholarship in a pregame ceremony. ... Alex Gordon, Dave Rimington and Eric Piatkowski headlined the first class of the Nebraska Hall of Fame Saturday. Gordon, the Gold Glove-winning left fielder for the Kansas City Royals, recorded a video accepting the honor. A handful of the group of 22 were in attendance and recognized in the second quarter. ... The Nebraska band was dressed down a bit. The unit wore red golf shirts and black pants, rather than the traditional band outfits, likely a welcomed change on a warm day.