LINCOLN, Neb. — As he watched palm trees sway and giant cranes collapse, Dicaprio Bootle spent Sunday in silence, waiting for the call.
On Monday morning, it finally came.
“Got a call from my brother,” the Nebraska Cornhuskers redshirt freshman cornerback told Land of 10. “My mom called to basically tell him to tell me not to worry about it, that they’re doing fine. They’re OK. Nothing major.”
Bootle is one of a handful of Huskers who hail from south Florida, where Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday. The Big Red defensive back played prep ball at Southridge High and Killian High in Miami-Dade County.
“I wondered [Sunday],” Bootle said Monday during the Cornhuskers’ mid-day media session at Memorial Stadium. “I saw a lot of my friends post Snapchats of the storm and some of the damage that it [did to] my city. But everything’s fine.
“I knew a lot of people affected by the storm. But my city’s strong and I know they’ll bounce back from whatever damage has occurred. There’s always hurricanes that come through. We’re kind of used to that kind of stuff down there.”
I can’t stop listening to this , I wanna go back to Florida so I can watch the Hurricane https://t.co/XOH2XEjtOK
— Dicaprio Bootle (@_flightsdelayed) September 6, 2017
As of early Monday morning, Irma had killed at least five Americans, left 3.5 million Floridians without power — including Bootle’s mom and dad — while bringing 16 inches of rain and winds howling at up to 142 miles per hour across parts of the Sunshine State.
How the heck do you get used to that?
“Just think of a super-big thunderstorm, fast winds, all that kind of stuff,” said Bootle, who’s recorded 6 tackles, including 4 at Oregon last Saturday, in a nickel-back role.
“You just kind of sit and wait it out. A lot of times, power just goes out, so you might be sitting in the dark or something, waiting on the storm to pass [by] and the power to come back.”
It’s the second time Mother Nature’s battered the southern United States in two weeks, with Hurricane Harvey having already caused the loss of at least 70 lives in southeast Texas and at least $100 billion in damages.
So basically, the Huskers from greater Houston and greater Miami have spent a good chunk of this month exchanging weather reports. And prayers.
Bootle said the family of safety Josh Kalu, a Houston native, is high and dry, “but really, when Irma was coming, he was just asking if my family was going to stay, were they going to be OK, and all that kind of stuff.”
They are. Thankfully, the same goes for the family of Huskers outside linebacker Alex Davis, whose hometown is Riviera Beach, near West Palm Beach along Florida’s east coast, about an hour north of Fort Lauderdale.
Davis was 8 years old during the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season — the one that brought, most notably, Frances — and the images of trees on the ground and roofs in tatters never left his psyche.
‘There were times I was just really thinking about my family.’
— Nebraska Cornhuskers OLB Alex Davis, a south Florida native, on Hurricane Irma
“I definitely was on the phone with them as much as I could,” Davis said, “just asking them how everything was going, just keeping them in my prayers and telling them to stay safe and just stay inside the house. Because you never know. That type of stuff, you never know what it can really do, that type of storm.”
Davis had felt a more direct impact, ironically, by Harvey a week earlier. His sister Tanya lives in Houston, and while she made it through, her possessions — clothes, car, furniture — weren’t so lucky.
“She just lost all her material stuff … she said [water] was thigh-deep,” Davis recalled. “Everything was floating in her apartment and it was tough.”
The games, understandably, start to slip down the mental depth chart a bit.
“Because there were times I was just really thinking about my family,” Davis said.
“I called them and I was like, ‘Maybe y’all should come up here [to Lincoln].’ Because they were actually coming up for the Northern Illinois game and they were going to stay for the Rutgers game [Sept. 23], too. I was like, ‘Maybe y’all should just come out a week early or something,’ but they just stuck it out.”
And stuck fast. After Irma hit south Florida, the storm veered west and north, toward Tampa, as opposed to heading east.
Sometimes, y’all catch a break.
“The way they were talking about the storm, I thought it was going to be a lot crazier than what it was,” Davis said with a smile of relief. “They didn’t lose power, surprisingly.
“We’ve been getting pretty lucky. And blessed.”