Ensworth student Michael Buttarazzi was watching a Nebraska football game on TV last year when he noticed some Cornhusker fans wearing corn suits.
That gave him an idea. Ensworth’s star player is Corn Elder, so maybe Buttarazzi and his friends could wear corn suits to the Tigers’ home games.
“We had been trying to figure out something fun to do at the games,” Buttarazzi said. “In the past, we hadn’t been very original, but when we saw the corn suits we thought that would be perfect.”
But there was one problem.
“I looked on the Internet, and (the suits) were kind of expensive — anywhere from $50 to $100 — so I just did some searching and found ($20) corn hats that looked better than the suits,” said Peter Spruill, one of Buttarazzi’s classmates.
And the cornmen were born. Spruill, Buttarazzi, Hutt Cooke, Jack Nesbitt and Wyatt McClellan wear foam corn hats in support of Elder at the Tigers’ games. All five are juniors.
“Most people love the hats,” Buttarazzi said. “At the Brentwood Academy game I had a little kid come up to me and ask me for the hat, and he just ran off with it. The hats are about two feet long. It’s tough to wear around in the car. It’s always hitting people.”
Elder has nine major college offers, including Nebraska. He has rushed for 5,954 career yards and 74 touchdowns entering Friday’s Division II-AA quarterfinal against McCallie (5-5). Ensworth (10-0) is ranked 14th nationally by USA TODAY.
“It’s an honor to have people at our school do stuff like that, and it’s good to see,” said Elder, whose first name is Corneilus. “I guess everybody likes it, and they get a good laugh out of it.”
Elder is taking his first official visit to UCLA next weekend and plans to take his second official visit to Ohio State in December. He hasn’t decided where to take his last three visits, but said he’s still interested in Nebraska.
“I don’t really have a list, but I’ve been talking to (Nebraska) so they’re still in the running,” Elder said.
Nebraska fans who wear corn hats refer to themselves as cornheads.
“They’re sort of like the cheeseheads,” said Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star sports writer Brian Christopherson, referring to Green Bay Packers fans who wear cheesehead hats. “There are usually a couple hundred at each game.”
Sam McKewon, a sports writer for the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, believes the cornhead tradition became popular in the mid-1990s when ESPN’s College GameDay started visiting the Nebraska campus to televise games.
“College students could go to the GameDay set, and the hats were pretty distinctive,” McKewon said. “It’s funny. Kids like them a lot. It’s usually the younger crew that wears the corn hats. Sometimes they’ll paint their face yellow.”
The corn hats got some more exposure when ESPNU televised Ensworth’s 20-0 win over Brentwood Academy three weeks ago.
“I guess they showed (the hats) on (ESPNU) a couple of times,” Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said. “I think that it’s a nice testament to Corn’s approachability and his affable nature off the field. I think what it says is he’s a likeable person.”