"Well, hello! We're glad to be here in York … just kidding!"
So were the first words from Nebraska's head football coach in front of roughly 80 fans in attendance at Lochland Country Club in Hastings on Tuesday.
With his well documented 'aw shucks' personality — one that's earned him the designation as "the nicest guy in college football" — Mike Riley spoke and answered questions for about 20 minutes on a variety of topics, including the current state of the Huskers.
"We're on the way. We got past year one. I don't know how many plays we'd like back, but we'd sure take some of them," said Riley, drawing more laughs from the crowd. "We've learned more about our team and they've learned more about us (coaches). We'll keep building it. It's lots of fun. I've just got the greatest job in the world and sometimes I just shake my head that I get to do this."
Joining Riley was NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, who made a splash earlier in the day when he officially signed up for Twitter — an eye-opening move from a guy whose mostly stayed in the shadows during his tenure so far.
The two made the rounds across the state on this short goodwill tour, visiting Valentine and Gering earlier in the day before making a final stop in Hastings.
"We saved the best for last," Eichorst said.
Eichorst praised the work that Riley and company have done so far and also built up the college's academic growth during his 12-minute message.
"Our mission is pretty simple. We try to provide the support and resources necessary to help our young people be successful in academics, athletics and life. We do that as well as anybody in the country and I can back that up," he said. "When you think about the visibility of a football player, and how much pressure they're under and how they're competing for a Big Ten education everyday in the classroom … that's an amazing and daunting task.
"But we've our had our best group of student athletes in terms of academics this year. They had a cumulative GPA of 3.14, giving us six-straight semesters above 3.10. That's hard to do and that doesn't happen every day."
Eichorst also said that the university's graduation rate among athletes was 86 percent, also the highest-ever mark.
"When we transitioned conferences, we were at the top academically in the Big 12, but in the Big 10, we were in the lower tier. Our goal was to climb that ladder," he said. "Our goal is for our graduation rate to be above 90 percent by 2018, which would put us in the top three of the Big 10. We're making a lot of progress there."
Riley said that traveling around Nebraska has given him a deeper appreciation for just how special the fan base is. Both he and Eichorst emphasized the importance of the Memorial Stadium sellout streak and how it's a tradition that can't be taken lightly.
"It's all awesome. This state, we are all in this together. They're is no doubt about it," Riley said. "I've only been here about a year and a half, but it's really evident that you all make a big, big impact. More than any state I've been in or any place I've been. The fans here make the biggest impact than any other place in the country."