Kearney native Josh Gable, who has played professional soccer in Europe, kicks an extra point for the Danger.
Nebraskans know football. Love for the game pulses through our Big Red veins. Citizens filling high school bleachers on frigid Friday nights is tradition. So is crowding into Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium. In Grand Island, residents embrace their own cherished hometown football tradition. The community comes together to cheer on their Nebraska Danger.
The Heartland Events Center is already rocking as the Green Bay Blizzard’s motorcoach pulls into Fonner Park. The aroma of hot pizzas and fresh popcorn wafts through 5,000-seat Eihusen Arena as the last few feet of artificial turf are rolled into place. Early-bird fans have been trickling in for an hour. The energy steadily grows to a fever pitch as the scoreboard counts down to kickoff.
The Danger mascot, Bones, a furry wolf-like husky, begins riling up the crowd. “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC pumps out from giant speakers.
The voice of local radio announcer Brian Gallagher sounds off as green and red smoke billows from the Danger tunnel: “Welcome to The Bone Yard! Let’s hear it for your Nebraska Danger!”
An electronic light show flashes and highlights play as the team bursts onto the field. Fans rise to their feet and begin stomping until a bagpipe rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” offers a moment of reverence. The Danger win the coin toss. It’s kick-off time.
The Nebraska Danger’s mid-March through mid-June season gives football fans reason to gather in Grand Island months after college championships and the Super Bowl have faded from memory. Some crave the fast action. Being here is a matter of community pride for others. Win or lose, their faithful support never wanes.
Josh Gable’s Danger kick-off lands deep in the opponents end zone, a predictable feat for the former Kearney High School standout on this field measuring 50 yards long and 28 yards wide.
The shorter fields of the Indoor Football League, or IFL, compress the action but don’t contain it – players often flip over the padded walls and into the stands.
David and Sharon Bondegard enjoy the proximity to the players. They sit close. Real close. In the front row. They once shared a moment with a quarterback who ended up in their laps. Their grandson, Jaxon McShane, traded tears for a wide smile when the player apologized and handed him the game ball.
The Bondegards have attended every home game since the team’s inaugural season in 2011 and have traveled to most of the away games within their self-imposed 1,000-mile limit. Traveling to each home game is a shorter 150-mile round trip for the couple from Oak in Nuckolls County. The combined rosters of tonight’s teams nearly equal the population of their quiet village of 60 residents near the Kansas border. Being faithful supporters has endeared the Bondegards to players and staff. Sharon remembers fondly the times players have called to wish her happy Mother’s Day.
The action is fast. Danger defensive lineman Eze Obiora, formerly of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, recovers a fumble on the opening play. Two downs later, and spurred on by a chorus of fans ringing cowbells, Danger quarterback Patrick McCain rushes into the end zone. T-shirts are launched into the stands for 100 lucky fans as the Kiss Cam scans the crowd.
Charlie Bosselman came up with the idea of an indoor football team for Grand Island in 2010. The Grand Island native and CEO of Bosselman Enterprises, with its chain of 45 Nebraska convenience stores and travel centers, might have named his team the Homesteaders or Pioneers, considering his family’s Grand Island ties dating to 1868. He wanted an intimidating name to strike fear into opponents’ hearts. Bosselman’s idea of a team called the Killer Bees, decked out in yellow and black uniforms, didn’t stick.
Bosselman, who owns the team with his wife, Laurie, and his sister, Brandi Bosselman, talked with his staff about what Nebraska and Grand Island are known for. Weather kept coming up. Blizzard was already taken. The Tornadoes and Nebraska Hail sounded too dangerous. Bosselman’s Marketing Director Stephanie King chimed in that sandhill cranes aren’t scary, and the Platte River doesn’t rage. She suggested Nebraska Danger. Nobody had that one.
With his team named, Bosselman, a devoted Husker football fan, decided on the helmeted skull and crossbones logo. The husky mascot adorning Pump & Pantry convenience stores is his idea, too, based on a one-eyed childhood pet dog.
Bosselman often flies a drone around the arena on game night. “We didn’t know what we were doing when we got into this, but we knew we wanted to do something for Grand Island,” Bosselman said.
For the rest of the story see the March/April 2018 issue of Nebraska Life.