Category: Hail Varsity

As it became increasingly apparent that Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos was going to hire former Husker quarterback Scott Frost as the football team’s next coach, the Hail Varsity team started planning how to put Frost on the next issue’s cover. The first plan was to shoot a portrait of Frost in his new Nebraska gear with the stadium in the background. With only one week between the announcement of the hiring and our print deadline, we thought odds were 50/50 of getting one-on-one access with the very busy new coach. We needed a backup plan.

I’d seen an ESPN magazine cover recently that I liked conceptually. For their issue that hit newsstands around Thanksgiving, they created a photoillustration of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz as a larger-than-life float in a parade. I began thinking of ways to put Frost on a conceptual Hail Varsity cover without having access to shooting a unique portrait of him. I wanted to merge the two feelings Husker Nation had about the hire: Scott Frost is a superhero (see his 12-0 record this season at Central Florida) and Scott Frost is the Christmas gift all Nebraska fans wanted this year (see every letter addressed to the North Pole with a Nebraska postmark this year). Mash the two together, and a freshly unwrapped Coach Frost action figure seemed to fit the mold. So, I drew a thumbnail of the concept.

Realizing my initial thumbnail didn’t actually look like anything, I tried again.

Now we had an idea and a week. We had to start executing. I called my very talented friend, Omaha illustrator Tim Mayer. As someone who draws them for a living, I thought he may have some good advice on how to make a superhero. He floated the idea of 3D printing, which sounded awesome but seemed liked it would take more than the one week we had. We decided not to reinvent the wheel, and we hit he toy isles of big box stores to look for inspiration and, with some luck, a model that could transform into Frost.

Tim initially looked at a 24-inch tall Superman figure. Frost has the figure of a man who may duck into phonebooths in the event of trouble, but this one was too big for our needs. We wanted a classic-sized figure, in a plastic and cardboard case. We looked at smaller superheroes like The Hulk and The Flash, and other versions of Superman. They were all too strong and bulky or had emblems embossed in the plastic of their uniforms. We needed to find an earthly superhero, one who wore khakis and didn’t have a logo melted into his chest. We needed a WWE wrestler.

We sifted through stacks of them before finding the perfect guy: Dean Ambrose. He was wearing jeans instead of lycra, shoes instead of rocket packs and his belt didn’t have any grappling hooks or gernades attached. Tim thought his shirt and pants would be easy enough to paint over to transform him into Frost. So, Tim got working on the make-over, as I started building some new packaging based on the visual vocabulary of action figure desgin.

Over the course of about 48 hours, it started coming together.

Frost’s hairline is unique to men from the planet Krypton, so poor Dean lost his head to make room for Clark’s.

An early draft that still needs to be comic-booked up.

Tim nailed the paint job, and added a hat.

Packaging coming together.

Sweat the details. The accessories that come with action figures are always the best part.

Ready for his plastic and cardboard coffin.

From there, it was a matter of finding the right setting for the cover photo. Hail Varsity publisher and photographer Aaron Babcock spotting the perfect spot, under my tree.

After we nailed down the cover picture, it was time for Lil’ Frosty to break out of the box and pose for some photos.

The final cover, which is on newsstands now.


I generally don’t relish glibly criticizing others’ design work. Designing a logo is a hard enough job, and artists who design logos for bowl games likely have far more stakeholders influencing the design than a typical project, which is generally a recipe for a weak product. But I decided to have a little fun by ranking and briefly critiquing all 41 bowl game logos for Hail Varsity this year.

With Nebraska’s 24-17 win over Minnesota last weekend, the Huskers’ record-setting sellout streak stands at 353, nearly 100 ahead of second-place Notre Dame’s current streak of 256.

To commemorate Nebraska’s 350th, against Oregon, I put together a graphic detailing the dizzying numbers of the streak.





With the (very long) 2016 election season closing in the next 36 hours or so (we hope), and with a seemingly universal disdain for the process, we look back at a Hail Varsity project from the spring, in primary season. Each year the publication conducts an informal survey of Husker fans, and with stumping and polling and voting on everyone’s minds, we decided to present the data in a Nate-Silver-meets-ESPN-Magazine sort of way.

We produced campaign buttons for Huskers heroes of the past, largely based on the designs of historic pinbacks from the past century. Then we designed survey data with the same visual vocabulary you’d see on political sites.

While we encourage everyone to vote, it’s inadvisable to write-in Tommie Frazier (compelling though it may be).
















Hail Varsity poster design

With three weeks left until the start of the college football season, it’s time again for the release of Hail Varsity’s annual schedule poster. This year I illustrated the facade of West Stadium. You can find your copied at select retailers around Lincoln and Omaha, but the best and easiest way to get your hands on one is to plunk down a buck here (seriously, ONE dollar). While you’re there, check out the other other sweet merchandise before the season starts.

Hail Varsity cover

Last week, the annual Hail Varsity football yearbook, previewing the 2016 season, hit newsstands. It’s the biggest one yet at 196 pages, features a two stunning gatefold covers and dozens of amazing portraits and photos of the team by ESPN Magazine staffer Bill Frakes and Montana photographer Paul Bellinger.

Designing it is always one of the highlights of the year.

As always, it’s chock-full of the insight and analysis of each Husker opponent readers have come to expect and breakdowns of every position, plus features on Tommy Armstrong Jr., Mike Riley‘s sophomore season, the geography of recruiting and the Husker receiving corps. It’s on newsstands now. But it’s cheaper, easier and better for everyone to just subscribe here.

Hail Varsity cover







Hail Varsity Firmly Rooted cover

On short notice a few weeks ago, we were tasked with coming up with a plan B cover option for in issue of Hail Varsity whose deadline was rapidly approaching. Such is the nature of magazine publishing. While stressful, it’s at the same time one of the most fun situations to be in. Time ticking down, you have to come up with and execute a killer idea. Out came the glue, construction paper and Xacto blades, and we went to work. The story was about the families of brothers who have passed through the Huskers’ football locker room, so we went with a family tree approach. It took all of the twelve hours available, but was fun to work on for every one of those hours. Big thanks to the guys at Admiral District for photographing the image on 20 minutes notice nearing midnight on a Sunday.

Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration

Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration

Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration

Nebraksa Cornhusker football poster

We’re down to three Husker-football-free Saturdays left in the summer. Which means our Hail Varsity schedule posters will be delivered from the printer shortly. At 18″x24″, they’re big enough to cover one entire miserably taupe wall of a cubicle. They should be easy to pick up around Lincoln, or stop by the Hail Varsity World Headquarters in the basement of the old Rock ‘n’ Roll Runza later this week to grab a copy.

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

The Hail Varsity yearbook is on newsstands now and in the mail to subscribers. Annually, it’s one of Hanscom Park Studio’s most challenging, rewarding and fun projects. It’s a nearly 200-page magazine full of amazing portraits, fantastic writing and a few of my original illustrations. What’s not to love?

One of this year’s longread feature stories (in addition to profiles of De’Mornay Pierson-El and Maliek Collins) is on the need for reform of the NCAA. It’s a difficult concept to illustrate and make visually engaging, but I landed on the idea of a whole mess of pipes channeling money all over the place. And I think it works.

Getting the stippling just right on all of the elements took some real commitment to the look, but I think it was fitting texture given the simple pipes and basic three-color palette of the images.

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

Hail Varsity’s annual yearbook, a 175+ page in-depth preview of the Husker football team and its opponents went to press earlier this week. It’s one of the most challenging and gratifying projects of the year, and it’s exciting to see in print. There’s great photography and writing and an illustration we had a lot of fun doing for the main feature.

We did a matching set of double covers, both with gatefolds. They’ll be on newsstands in a little more than a week, and always available at



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