Vince Kunasek didn’t foresee the chain reaction he’d start when he left his late cousin’s Husker football cap in Memorial Stadium with a note requesting a Scott Frost autograph.
"This thing has gone … viral," Kunasek said Wednesday. "I thought maybe someone would get it to (Frost) and then mail it back to me, but so much more happened."
The cap belonged to Paul Renninger, 62, of Shelby, who died from aplastic anemia at the Nebraska Medical Center on Nov. 3, just hours after the Nebraska-Ohio State football game. Kunasek and Renniger had shared seats in the stadium — Section 31, Row 32 — for the past decade.
Christian Reese-Newquist, a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was cleaning the stands after Saturday’s game against Illinois when he found the hat, a red rose from Renniger’s casket and a note. The note, written in red ink, was left on Renniger’s usual seat next to Kunasek’s.
"We left it there as kind of our final goodbye," Kunasek said.
Kunasek, 62, of Omaha, said he’s still trying to wrap his head around what happened next.
Reese-Newquist texted Kunasek on Sunday night and said he was going to do whatever he could to get the hat to Frost. His roommate, Taylor Freeman, tweeted out photos of the hat "and the whole thing just blew up," Kunasek said.
Kunasek got a call to come to Memorial Stadium on Tuesday. He brought along Renninger’s mother, Greta, and Renninger’s daughter, Nikki. Reese-Newquist brought the hat.
"We went up in the elevator at the (football) office and we really didn’t know what would happen," Kunasek said. "Someone asked Christian and Taylor to come into the office and we waited outside. Pretty soon, out the door they both came with coach Frost."
Frost talked with Renninger’s family as if they were longtime friends, Kunasek said. He handed back an autographed hat for Renninger’s family.
"Frost said to me, ‘Hey, Vince, give me a hug,’" Kunasek said. "He’s got a job to do, but we were the most important thing on his mind then. He was very genuine and compassionate."
Kunasek said Renninger had a dry sense of humor and would have been amused by the turn of events.
"He’d probably say, ‘Hats off to you, Vince’ or ‘I had to die for you to get an autograph,’" Kunasek said. "He would have loved it."