by Lindsay Minch
Playing football at Nebraska is a big commitment, but Troy Hassebroek?s dedication to the Lincoln community has always come first.

For Hassebroek, playing football is only a small part of his demanding, yet fulfilling schedule.

"It is difficult to describe the warm feelings you get out of doing things like this," Hassebroek said of his involvement in the community. "But it constantly encourages me to do more."

The thousands of goosebumps Hassebroek attributes to the thrill of walking out of the tunnel on game day are identical to the goosebumps that someone experiences as they listen to him tell of the pure enjoyment he experiences from giving back to the community.

"Growing up, I never thought I would have the chance to play football at such a prestigious school," Hassebroek said. "But it has provided me with a great chance to work with kids throughout the community."

Although it would be convenient to make excuses to do the opposite, he takes time out of his schedule full of classes, practices and weight training, to visit schools, nursing homes and hospitals. He does all of this because it brings happiness to others.

As a middle-grades education major, Hassebroek not only takes time out to work in the community, he hopes to soon be working with youth full-time. He feels this is the most influential time in a child?s life.

"I?ve worked with kids all of my life," Hassebroek said. "It is what I really like to do, and the middle grades are so difficult for kids. I would like to be there to provide some direction for these kids."

It is difficult to understand how an individual can do so much in the community and be a hard-hitting football player at the same time. Nevertheless, Hassebroek rarely misses a beat.

In the Huskers? first game this season, Hassebroek caught two passes for a game-high 25 yards, while also making a tackle on special teams.

As a former walk-on from Lincoln High School, he had to work hard to earn his spot in the starting lineup.

"There isn?t a player out there who has out-worked Troy," said Receivers Coach Ron Brown.

Hassebroek redshirted as a true freshman in 1998. He recorded playing time in five games plus the Fiesta Bowl in 1999, where he earned his first career start.

Hassebroek saw action in 11 games during the 2000 season as a backup for Bobby Newcombe and John Gibson. He hauled in his first career reception against Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. Following the season, Hassebroek was rewarded for his work on the field with a scholarship.

As a junior, he backed up Gibson at wingback, while also returning a punt for 28 yards against No. 2 Oklahoma and producing a 16-yard return against Kansas. He notched four tackles on special teams, leading all offensive players.

Hassebroek?s most important contribution to the Huskers? run-oriented offense is his blocking skills.

"He is already playing a big role for us," Brown said. "He had a big game against Arizona State. He had two big catches, but he also had eight knockdown blocks. He put eight guys on the ground, which is quite a few for a wide receiver."

Hassebroek has continually set and reached his personal goals throughout his career. However, he stresses a team-first mentality, and his personal goals always come second.

His people-first attitude is evident in his pregame rituals as well. The morning of each game, he lines up his shoes, bag and fire-department t-shirt in remembrance of Sept. 11.

He then focuses on two teddy bears given to him by his grandmother and a young girl named Alyssa. St. Christopher necklaces hang from the bears? necks to remind him of how he got to this point in life, and all that he is thankful for.

For Hassebroek and his younger brother, Adam, who is a redshirt freshman for the Huskers, Saturdays are something special. "It is one of the greatest things in your life," Hassebroek said. "You can?t describe it. It is like getting goosebumps all over your body thousands of times over. The first time I walked out there I almost cried, and it will probably be the same my last time."