Of fathers, sons and daughters

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A memorial scholarship in honor of a Husker Hall of Famer is given to another Hall of Famer’s daughter

Anne Martin doesn’t remember much about the night her dad got inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

It was 1993. She was just 2 years old. But someone captured it on VHS tape back then and mailed a copy to her parents.

In 2010, she watched the old video for the first time:

There’s her dad, former Husker All-American defensive end Bob Martin, standing near the podium. There’s him suddenly looking down – in surprise – at something beneath the frame of the video and then picking a little blonde girl up and holding her.

There’s the little girl waving to all sides of the crowd as if the people are there to see her. (If you look closely at that old tape, you can see her sticking her tongue out at her dad and smiling at him.)

There’s that little girl getting bored and running back to her mom.

That little girl was Anne Martin.

“Everyone started laughing, and my dad just kind of picked me up and just kept going with his speech.”

She laughs.

“I was a pretty active kid when I was little.”

She still is. A junior now at UNL, she’s majoring in elementary education and also competes for the Huskers in track and field. She does the heptathlon – high jump, long jump, shot put, javelin, hurdles, the 800 meters and the 200 meters.

She grew up in Davey, Neb., just north of Lincoln, in the same house her parents bought when her dad was playing for the New York Jets. She competed in sports for Waverly High and won 16 medals in the state track and field meet, including six titles. In 2008, her high jump of 5 feet, 8 inches won the All Class gold and was the top jump that year.

Winning gold at the state meet qualified her for a very special privately funded scholarship at UNL – the John “Choppy” Rhodes Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was created by Choppy’s son, John, and John’s wife, Allison.

Choppy Rhodes was one of the state’s greatest athletes of the 1920s. Like Anne, Choppy excelled in many sports. In 1921, he became the first Nebraska high school athlete to high jump 6 feet. He played baseball, football, basketball and track.

Choppy became a standout fullback for the University of Nebraska football team. He played on the team that beat the legendary Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. He won eight varsity letters.

In June of 2010, after receiving the Choppy Rhodes scholarship, Anne received a letter from Choppy’s son, John, who lives in California.

The letter contained some surprising information, and a request to watch that old VHS tape.

He wrote:

In 1993, Choppy was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. Though you may not remember, another Husker, your father Bob Martin, was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame that same evening. I did not realize you were his daughter until I received a list of this year’s current scholarship recipients from the NU Foundation. Your hometown was listed as Davey. That rang a bell.

My sister and I accepted Choppy’s award posthumously, and of course, your dad received his award in person. I brought a video camera with me and with the help of Allison, my wife, we taped the evening’s festivities. When Bob, your dad, was being introduced and his exploits in football enumerated, a little blonde-headed girl appeared on stage and was picked up by her dad …

You can only get one guess as to who ‘stole’ the show that night. I can’t tell you how very special it is to us to have you as a recipient of this scholarship.

I made copies of the videotapes for all of the recipients of the event and mailed the tapes to them. If your dad still has the tape, and a tape player, have him get it out and play it back for everyone’s enjoyment. I replayed my copy the other day. It was great!

Also, sat next to your dad at the football game the next day and feel we struck up a good friendship. Please give your dad my very best regards for me.

Yours truly,

John Rhodes

Anne’s parents still had the VHS tape. But they didn’t have a VHS player. So Anne went to her aunt’s house to watch it.

“I wanted to see it so badly,” she says. “When I first watched the video, I was kind of shocked. I don’t remember running up to my dad or anything like that.

“But then once I watched it, I kind of started remembering pictures and little things about that night.”

And there was yet another crazy coincidence.

On that old tape, there’s John Rhodes himself, standing at the podium back in 1993 with his sister to accept the Hall of Fame award for their father.

There’s John talking about how they were starting to investigate how to set up a scholarship for young athletes at UNL – a scholarship in Choppy’s name!

“Seeing how everything came together is just – it’s just crazy, really,” Anne says. “I would like to thank John for this opportunity and this scholarship.

“It’s really meant a lot to me, especially now that I know how our families have connected somehow.”

Student support is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. Choppy’s son John and his wife made plans through University of Nebraska Foundation Charitable Gift Annuities to enhance the Choppy Rhodes Scholarship for successful athletes and scholars, and they made provisions within that fund allowing other people to do the same.

If you would like more information on how this could work for you and the Rhodes Memorial Scholarship, please consider giving online or contact the foundation’s Planned Giving staff at 800-432-3216.

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