Spring football commitments prevented Tim Phillips, the Kansas football aide who had recruited Brook Berringer, from traveling to Goodland last week for the funeral of the former Nebraska quarterback.
"Coach Mason and I wanted to go," said Phillips, the Jayhawks' outside linebackers coach.
Interestingly, Mason and Phillips had journeyed to Goodland in March of 1990 for the funeral of another football player. His name was Jeff Zielke. He was a KU walk-on defensive back who died of spinal meningitis at the age of 20.
Zielke graduated from Goodland High in 1988. Berringer graduated from that school in 1991. The Zielke and Berringer families were acquainted, and that association helped during KU's recruitment of Berringer.
"He didn't start as a junior, but he had gone to Nebraska's camp and that's how they had a line on him," Phillips said. "We started recruiting him about halfway through his senior year."
Berringer, who died in a small plane crash near Lincoln, Neb., on April 19, wasn't highly recruited, according to Phillips.
"There was us and Nebraska and I think a Division II school like North Dakota State or somebody like that," Phillips said. "And I thought Nebraska was really trying to get him as a walk-on."
Mason and Phillips visited the Berringer household during the recruitment process.
"We flew out there on the university plane. First, we stopped in Minneapolis to see Mark Allison, then we flew to Goodland," Phillips said. "I remember because those were my first home visits and we got back about 3 or 4 in the morning."
Allison, generally regarded as the top high school prospect in Kansas in 1991, later signed with the Jayhawks, but his college career was cut short by injuries.
Berringer, of course, signed with Nebraska. One reason: His love of flying.
"He said Nebraska had some kind of program (for pilots) and we didn't," Phillips said. "Apparently, they do have some kind of program through Nebraska-Omaha. That's what they told him anyway."
Berringer's love of flying was well documented after his death.
"He said that no matter what happened with football, he wanted to be a pilot," Phillips said.
Rumors surfaced a couple of years ago that Berringer, trapped behind Tommie Frazier on the depth chart, considered leaving Nebraska and enrolling at Kansas.
"We heard he wanted to transfer," Phillips said, "but we couldn't confirm that. We couldn't talk to him about it, but we heard he got disgruntled after he'd been there three years."
Regardless, Phillips has remained friends with Berringer's mother Jan over the years. Berringer's father died when he was seven.
"His mom's a great lady," Phillips said. "She was always real nice to me after our games with Nebraska. Coach Mason has corresponded with her, and I wrote her a letter after the crash."