The N-Sider’s Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes

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N-Sider’s Heisman Portrait

Video: Bo’s Monday Presser

Video: Abdullah’s Presser

By Randy York

If this is Monday, it must be the beginning of Big Ten Conference play.  That means The N-Sider’s Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes will focus on fundamentals today.  First up is Nebraska’s running game, which responded well to Tim Beck’s game plan and therefore has set a physical tone for the rest of September through the end of November.  On deck is Nebraska’s home crowd, which seemed to be as consistently loud since Nebraska upset No. 1 Oklahoma, 17-14 more than a quarter century ago.  In the hole is Illinois’ top running back, who may not command the national recognition of Ameer Abdullah, but is nevertheless definitively dangerous.  We save the last two spots in the Husker lineup for Ameer Abdullah, the cleanup hitter who likes to dodge single defenders, confuse double trouble, juke a triple and weave his way home.  Here we go:

No. 5: On Husker plans for the run game: “To a certain extent you have to take what they can give you,” Bo said at Monday’s press conference.  “Miami might have gotten a little bit spooked early in the game. We hit a couple passes on them … we were running the ball effectively … we’re going to stay with it. We were going to mix in the play action stuff when we needed to, but I thought Tim (Beck) called a heckuva game.”

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No. 4: On the crowd atmosphere against Miami:  “I thought this crowd was phenomenal the other night … it was a tremendous atmosphere … it’s a tremendous advantage. I hope to see that every week,” Pelini said.  “I challenged our team; I challenged the crowd. Let’s make sure it’s that way every week.  You can’t ride the highs and lows in this deal. You can’t pick and choose. It’s got to be the same approach every week.”

No. 3: On defending Illinois junior running back Josh Ferguson: “He’s a really good football player … one of the better backs in the conference,” Pelini said.  “He’s elusive; he’s quick. He’s quick to bounce the football … he runs with really good vision. He’s a good all-around player.  Their staff looks to feature him.  It doesn’t take a long time looking on film to recognize that this guy is a good player.”

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No. 2: On what stuck out about Ameer Abdullah’s performance:  “I don’t know if the first guy brought him down all night.  I don’t remember many times you can say that.  He continues to show why he is who he is.  He was possessed … he ran like he always does. He ended up on top of a lot of people.  Anybody out there who says he isn’t big enough, that he doesn’t run big, they need to take a good, hard look at that film.”

No. 1: On where Ameer belongs in the Heisman Trophy watch:“Anybody who pays attention has him in the top five.  You’ve got to not be paying attention and not watching to not recognize the type of year he’s having so far.  That’s my opinion. I’m a little biased.  I had a front row seat for a pretty good performance.  One thing about Ameer: You know what you’re going to get …he’s wired … a tremendous competitor.”

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Tommie: Matt a Better Movie Idea than Rudy

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From left: Tommie Frazier, Alex Berringer, Jan Berringer, Matt Turman.

By Randy York

Nebraska’s latest College Football Hall-of-Famer waved to Memorial Stadium’s record crowd Saturday night during the second quarter of the Huskers’ 41-31 win over Miami. But before he stepped into the spotlight on the northeast sideline near the Nebraska bench, Tommie Frazier shared something that continues to tug on his heart while celebrating the Huskers’ 20th anniversary of Tom Osborne’s first national championship team.

“It’s so special to look back and see what Brook Berringer and Matt Turman did to help us win the national championship,” Frazier told me.  “Some people still don’t realize what those two guys did for our team.  What they did was more important than what I did, and when I look back, it’s overwhelming and it’s humbling.  Without both of their contributions, we don’t make the national championship game against Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl.  It’s that simple.”

Frazier said the late Berringer had a bond, a relationship and camaraderie in leading Nebraska to seven wins during that national championship season while he was recovering from blood clots.  “Brook was awesome, and Matt was a perfect example of what Tom Osborne taught people every day – you better prepare yourself every day because your number can be called when you least expect it and you better be ready.

One Got on the Field; Other Enabled National Title

“I tell people all the time that they should have made a movie about Matt Turman because he walked on from a little town 30 minutes away from Lincoln and played a major role in helping us win a national championship,” Frazier said.  “They made a movie about Rudy just getting on the field on Notre Dame.”

Turman, the third-string star of a win over Oklahoma State that season and the starting quarterback for Nebraska’s late-season win at Kansas State, missed Friday night’s 20-year reunion banquet because he’s the head coach at Omaha Skutt High School, which defeated Omaha Roncalli that same night.

Saturday, during the second quarter, Frazier, Turman and Jan Berringer, Brook’s mom, represented Brook in a stadium salute to three quarterbacks from three states who led the charge for the national championship trophy – Frazier from Bradenton, Fla., Berringer from Goodland, Kan., and Turman from Wahoo, Neb.

Turman Calls His Role 15 Minutes of Personal Fame

“It’s good to go back to honor the glory years and my 15 minutes of fame,” Turman told me.  “I was a kid from a real small town and played a real smart part in the whole deal.  The guys around me were the ones who made it happen and helped me get the job done.  My perspective is different.  So many of these guys went on to play professional football, they’re the ones who made me a key contributor.  My role just seems kind of small comparatively.”

Informed of Frazier’s “bigger than Rudy” comparison, Turman steps back and finds another way to deflect any special measure that focuses on him.  “Do you remember Brett Popplewell?” he asked.  “Brett was a junior split end from Melbourne, Australia, on our 1994 team.  He moved back to Australia and then came back to Lincoln this weekend for the reunion.  I think that’s pretty cool.”

Tommie Frazier’s right.  Someone should have made a film about Matt Turman, who would have directed a fellow character from Australia to take the attention off of him.  It is, after all, the team that counts.

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Tunnel Walk + The Prayer = Big 1994 Legacies

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Nebraska linebacker Donta Jones says “The Prayer” was pivotal in 1994.

Video: Mark Pelini Leads ‘The Prayer’

Bo Would Have Gone for Two, Too

T.O. Calls ‘94 Team Most Remarkable

Husker Captains Leaders in Life

Nebraska’s Unbeaten 1994 Season

Huskers’ ‘94 Championship Roster

By Randy York

On the eve of Nebraska and Miami renewing a college football rivalry that is dead even at five wins apiece, we take you back two decades when the Huskers were pioneers outdoors and unifiers indoors. 

Tom Osborne’s first national championship team in 1994 launched the Tunnel Walk, and here’s hoping that the Huskers’ four captains finally get to “feel it” since they were already on the field 20 years ago when one of college football’s grandest traditions leveraged sudden impact videos from the biggest screens in college or professional football at the time.

Yes, pregame obligations prevented Terry Connealy, Ed Stewart, Zach Wiegert and Rob Zatechka from having the same rush their teammates experienced because in 1994 all four were already on the field, meeting opposing captains, listening to officials, and being part of the coin toss.

As ground-breaking as the Tunnel Walk was, a Nebraska All-Big Eight linebacker nominates something else as even more pivotal to the Huskers winning their first national championship in a quarter century.  

And what would that be?  “Our pregame prayer,” said Donta Jones, who insists Vernon Powell, a former teammate, introduced “The Prayer”, a pregame ritual for 1994 players wanting to improve their off-season tenacity and amp up their resolve to win a national title after a missed last-second field goal left the Huskers short the previous year.

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1:16 is a Number That Fueled Husker Purpose

“Losing to Florida State the previous year with 1:16 remaining gave our prayer a purpose,” Jones said.  “That entire off-season, we pushed ourselves past the limit on and off the field simply because we believed.  WE BELIEVE became our team motto.  It drove us every day to be champions and finish the business we didn’t finish in 1993.”

The commitment to every day improvement became a shared commodity and the heart and the soul of “The Prayer” which has become part of  Nebraska’s DNA and continues to be a vital component of Husker tradition two decades later.  Jones, one of three Nebraska linebackers who earned first-team All-Big honors in 1994, went on to play six years in the NFL.  He and his wife live in Charlotte, N.C., and flew to Lincoln for this special reunion weekend.  Their oldest son plays football at Ball State and they have two children (15 and 19 months-old) living at home.  Jones smiles when he reveals that his next goal is to officiate NFL games.  It’s a step-by-step process that will require day-by-day improvement and yes, Jones can still recite every word of The Prayer:

Dear Lord, the battles we go through life,

We ask for a chance that’s fair

A chance to equal our stride,

A chance to do or dare

If we should win, let it be by the code,

Faith and Honor held high

If we should lose, we’ll stand by the road,

And cheer as the winners go by

Day by Day, we get better and better!

Til’ we can’t be beat … WON’T BE BEAT!

“We start in low voices and we build to high voices before we say amen,” Jones said.  “That prayer was the purpose that allowed our team to go out and win a national championship for Coach Osborne.” 

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Former Husker John Garrison believes in Mark Pelini’s leadership.

Mark Pelini Leads Prayer to Strive for Excellence

It is same igniter for this year’s team.  Check out the conviction in Nebraska’s resolve here.  “Mark Pelini is doing a great job of leading that prayer,” said Mike Nobler, Nebraska football’s video coordinator.  “He knows how to enunciate, when to slow down and when to speed up.  He has a way to psych people up with ‘Won’t Be Beat.’”

The Prayer is a commitment to strive, to seek excellence, to win the right way and to keep faith and honor held high.  It is a gift from Vernon Powell, a cornerback from East St. Louis, Mo., and two-year Husker letterman in 1990 and ’91.

The language fits Nebraska and reflects the sportsmanship that Tom Osborne embraces, win or lose.  “Coach Osborne’s teams were unselfish, and that’s what made them so special,” Tim Carpenter said prior to nearly 100 players, coaches and staff members gathering to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 national championship season Friday night inside Memorial Stadium.

“Looking back and reflecting, it was the leadership of the coaching staff that brought our unselfishness out,” said Carpenter, a Columbus, Neb., native who earned his first of four varsity letters at tight end in 1994.  “We were all more interested in reaching the team goal than any personal goals, and we all knew our role in reaching that goal.  That was a special group of people, all trying to accomplish the same thing.”

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Tom Osborne’s players celebrate their head coach’s first national title.

Huskers Sharpened Their Skills in Practice

“The reason Coach Osborne called this team remarkable was because of our one common goal,” said Jamel Williams, who was a sophomore “rover” from Merrillville, Ind. “We practiced that way every day and it carried over into our game play. The goal was the same year-round, from winter conditioning and spring ball to summer workouts and fall camp.  “We ended every workout every day saying 1:16 to remind us of what we had to do to get what we wanted.  If we had not practiced the way we did, I don’t think we could have accomplished the goal we set.  I watched a replay the other night with our three boys, and I couldn’t help thinking how awesome it was to play for Coach Osborne in the first of his three national championships.”

Darren Schmadeke, a junior cornerback from Albion, Neb., said the memories of that experience “are life lasting because after coming so close a year earlier, our team dedicated itself to winning it all,” he recalled.  “Our Unity Council was very strong and so was our focus and our dedication.  We knew when we stepped on the field, we were going to win.  The confidence and leadership we had in our captains was a big part of our success.

“I will never forget Tom Osborne’s halftime locker room talk at the Orange Bowl,” Schmadeke said.  “He remained calm, focused and told us exactly what we needed to do to win the game.  Helping Coach Osborne win his national championship is something we’re all proud to be a part of … and something we will never forget.”

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1994 Husker Captains Became Leaders in Life

By Randy York

When Bob Devaney asked Tom Osborne to become part of his first coaching staff in Lincoln in 1962, one legend later coaxed another into taking on the responsibility to serve as Nebraska’s first-ever academic counselor. What a strategic fit it was for Osborne to help student-athletes focus on academics, athletics and lifelong goals. The structure he established kept Husker players driven athletically, dedicated academically, and devoted to create a vision for the rest of their lives.

The four captains on Osborne’s first national championship football team in 1994 reflect the overall leadership skills that carried the Huskers to a 13-0 season capped by a 24-17 come-from-behind win over Miami in the Orange Bowl. Those four captains are among 100-plus players, coaches and staff members who will return this weekend to celebrate the 20th anniversary of an accomplishment they compressed into two inspiring words … Unfinished Business. It’s a carryover from the missed 45-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left in the final second of Nebraska’s 18-16 national championship loss to Florida State on the same field a year earlier.

Nebraska’s four 1994 captains in Lincoln this weekend include:

Terry Connealy: Growing up on a ranch near Hyannis, Neb., Connealy was the youngest of seven children and helped raise Angus cattle. Even though he played eight-man prep football, Osborne offered a scholarship. Connealy became a first-team All- Big Eight Conference defensive tackle as a junior and twice was named a first-team GTE Academic All-American. “Nebraska kids are the heart-and-soul of the program,” said Connealy, pictured above while pointing skyward in an iconic ‘95 Orange Bowl photo taken by Ted Kirk of the Lincoln Journal Star. “We were physical, had a power running game and outworked people. Kids who grew up dreaming of playing here set the stage for the work ethic that spills over to others. It’s what Nebraska football is all about.” Connealy now serves as senior vice president-National Mortgage Development for Mutual of Omaha Bank.

Osborne on Connealy: “Terry was a good all-around athlete in high school.  He was a good football player, a good basketball player and he did some good things in track and field.  He came from a good family and had a great work ethic growing up near Hyannis, where he played eight-man football.  He was a guy who developed a lot after he got here and played with a different level of athlete than he’d been playing against.  He was very dedicated in the weight room, in our off-season program and spring ball served him well because he had good size, good tools, a good attitude and became a very good football player.  He’s also done very well in the business world and is certainly someone who everyone respects in what he does today.”

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Ed Stewart: When sophomore safety Mike Minter suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 31-0 season-opening win over West Virginia in the Kickoff Classic, the Huskers relied on Stewart, a senior co-captain, pictured above with Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini.  Stewart, picture above intercepting a pass against Oklahoma, became a consensus All-America linebacker and was the coaches’ and the media’s choice for 1994 Big Eight Conference Defensive Player of the Year. A product of Chicago’s Mt. Carmel High School, Stewart finished his Husker career with three more tackles than 1993 Butkus Award winner Trev Alberts. Stewart went on to become a professional speaker, consultant and athletic administrator. A member of the Big 12 Conference senior management team, Stewart continues to serve as the Big 12’s assistant commissioner for football.

Osborne on Stewart: “Ed played in a very different setting than Terry did.  He was a great player we recruited from a very competitive Catholic league in Chicago, so he was competing against some of the best almost every year in high school.  Ed’s another one who has gone on to do very well in athletic administration. He was at the University of Missouri and then the Big Eight Office and then the Big 12 Office, and he has been well respected by everybody.  I thought a lot of Ed.  We knew he was going to be a great player, and we needed him.  We had a good offense in 1994, but I think our defense that year was definitely our strong suit.  There were times they had to carry the load, and they were able to do it with strong leadership.” 

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Zach Wiegert: Nebraska three-time first-team All-Big Eight offensive tackle Zach Wiegert received more votes for the Huskers’ All-Century Team than any other player at any one position. A native of Fremont, Neb., Wiegert, pictured above, was the 1994 Outland Trophy-winning anchor who majored in economics and admired engineers for their ability to solve problems. After 12 years playing in the NFL, Wiegert became an investment partner who has been involved in developing the Nebraska Innovation Campus and the downtown Lincoln retail-apartment-parking facility, now called the Larson Building. He also was a prime force for building a courtyard hotel in the Haymarket area. A “big picture guy”, Wiegert has earned his reputation as a savvy business owner.

Osborne on Wiegert: “Zach came to Nebraska from Fremont (Neb.) Bergan, which isn’t exactly the biggest school in the world.  He had good coaching there and came from an athletic family. In fact, his grandfather was one of my coaches at Hastings College.  Wayne Weber was our offensive line coach there, and I think he had a significant influence in Zach’s life.  Zach didn’t play much early on, but really came around in the next year or two.  He buckled down and became a good student and was a great athlete.  His action on the field pretty well documents that.  He played a long time in the NFL and when he came back here, he’s played a large role in the business world.  The Omaha development company where he works has fingerprints all over major projects in Omaha and Lincoln.  Zach has done very well.”

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Rob Zatechka:  “Nebraska’s 1994 Pipeline included Outland Trophy winner Wiegert next to All-America guard Brenden Stai, plus future Outland winner Aaron Graham at center, along with Joel Wilks at guard and Rob Zatechka (No. 56 above) at the other tackle. While Wiegert, Stai and Graham all earned first-team All- Big Eight honors, Zatechka was another peak performer, becoming a four-time academic All-Big Eight selection who graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in biological sciences. A three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, Zatechka also was Nebraska’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year and earned a prestigious NCAA Top Eight Award. He spent four seasons playing for the New York Giants before becoming an anesthesiologist in West Omaha.”

Osborne on Zatechka: “Rob came from Lincoln East High School.  I watched a lot of film on him, and you could look at just about everybody around the country, and there weren’t many better than Rob Zatechka.  Rob’s brother Jon also played for us in the offensive line in 1994 through ‘97.  Rob was remarkable.  To my knowledge, he never had a B, and he’s a guy who was in pre-medicine and really didn’t have to study very much.  I don’t know if there really is such a thing as a photographic memory, but Rob had tremendous recall.  He must have studied a fair amount, but things came so easily for him.  I don’t think he put near the amount time other student-athletes did, yet he just kind of breezed right through.  He spent four years in the NFL, and then went on to graduate from Med School.  All four of the captains on this team did very well for themselves in their lives after football.”

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Who Wants to Pose with Johnny, Mike & Eric?

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Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier and Eric Crouch will be in Lincoln Saturday.

By Randy York

Johnny Rodgers thinks everyone on Planet Earth should do a Heisman pose at least once, regardless of age, gender, or passion for football.  You can hold a real or an imaginary football between your elbow and the right side of your body while kicking your left leg up and out at the same time you’re extending your left arm like you’re ready to leave all potential defenders in the dust.  Every man, woman and child easily can carbon copy the Heisman Trophy statue whether they’re on or off Memorial Stadium’s fabled turf.

I walk right by the South end zone inside the stadium almost every day, and it’s a hoot to see who wants to strike their own Heisman pose.  Kids love to do it … boys and girls as well as men and women who could be their parents or grandparents.  How do I know?  Because I make a habit of asking them if they want me to take their picture near our famous and  historic Tunnel Walk entrance.

I think only three or four people of the dozens upon dozens I’ve asked to pose so I can take their picture have declined.  Who needs a football?  Everyone knows the Heisman pose when they see it, and here’s the big news of the day: On Saturday, Nebraska football fans will get the opportunity to take pictures with the real Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football.  And guess what?  All three of Nebraska’s Heisman Trophy winners will be right there with you.  Johnny Rodgers (1972 Heisman winner), Mike Rozier (1983) and Eric Crouch (2001) will be special guests at the Nissan Heisman House Tour – a seven-hour session from noon until 7 p.m. Saturday inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in the West Haymarket District.

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Pinnacle Bank Arena will be the home for Saturday’s Heisman House Tour.

ESPN Anchor Will Join Husker Heisman Winners

Nebraska’s trio of Heisman winners will join ESPN’s Neil Everett for all kinds of fun, games and creative activity leading up to the Huskers’ Saturday night showdown against Miami on ESPN2. Consider this a special invitation from Nissan and ESPN to get to know the Heisman Trophy winners during a pre-game experience that celebrates college football’s most outstanding players.  The tour will make stops at 10 marquee matchups this season and the road will reach its ultimate destination in North Texas for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

I know what you’re about to ask: How much is it going to cost to meet and interact with Heisman winners and national media?  The answer is nothing.  It’s free.  The tour sponsors have put together an interesting lineup to live, laugh, learn and love college football even more than you already do.  Johnny The Jet Rodgers, for instance, will appear from 2 to 3:30 p.m. to participate in a chalk talk session with Everett, the ESPN anchor.  An autograph session will follow.

Mike Rozier Will Discuss His Legendary Career

From 3:30 to 4 p.m., Rozier will join Everett and discuss his legendary career for his chalk talk.  Crouch is the day’s cleanup hitter.  He’ll take the microphone at 4:30 p.m. for his chalk talk with Everett and then will sign autographs from 5 to 6 p.m.

Fans will have the opportunity to participate and/or interact in eight different ways, and No. 6 on that chart may turn out to be the fan favorite – create your own Heisman pose atop a trophy base.  With that, plus a smart phone or an iPhone, you can text or email yourself to everyone who will wish they were smart enough to do what you decided to do.

You also can take pictures with the Heisman Trophy; catch a ride with the Heisman winners in the all-new 2015 Nissan Pathfinder; participate in autograph sessions and photo opportunities with former football greats; win prizes by participating in interactive games, including a virtual quarterback challenge; test your college football knowledge by tweeting your answers to Twitter Trivia questions; create your own Heisman pose atop a trophy base (I know we’ve already mentioned that, but just to make sure, we’re double covering it); register for Heisman House credentials, which allows fans to check in and instantly share your experience via social media; and last, but certainly not least, keep tabs on the weekend’s action by viewing games and highlights on multiple televisions throughout Heisman House Tour area.

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Impromptu Idea: Missouri Tiger Fans on Nebraska Turf

I end with an anecdote that involved three high school wrestling coaches from Missouri.  They were in Lincoln over the summer for a coaches’ clinic, and even though all three were Missouri fans, they couldn’t resist checking out Memorial Stadium during a break.  They marveled at the expanded East Stadium and the increased seating capacity that goes well beyond 90,000.  They said they enjoyed Missouri and Nebraska belonging to the same conference before the Huskers moved to the Big Ten and Mizzou bolted to join the SEC.  All three were well aware of Nebraska’s three Heisman Trophy winners and decided they wanted to strike their own Heisman pose near the grand entrance of Nebraska’s Tunnel Walk with gate sentinel Bob Brown in the background.

They asked if I would use my phone to shoot a picture of them and send via text immediately after taking it.  That’s what I did, and within minutes, they were three happy Heisman amigos destined to  entertain their friends and families with a unique photo, designed to make everyone smile. I mentioned using a real or an imaginary football for your Heisman pose.  Let the record show that this was the first photo I ever snapped with a real dog taking the place of an imaginary football.

The question now is very simple: Who wants to pose with Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier and/or Eric Crouch?  Better do it Saturday because these kinds of opportunities are few and far between.

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Osborne Calls 1994 Team Most Remarkable

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By Randy York

As Nebraska’s Hall-of-Fame head football coach prepares to rendezvous with players, coaches and athletic staffers celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Huskers’ 1994 national championship team, Tom Osborne had a quip, a quote and an anecdote when I asked him to take us back into his time tunnel before Nebraska hosts Miami Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

The Quip: “Time has gone really fast. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long ago,” Osborne told me. “I’m looking forward to seeing everybody. I just hope I’m able to recognize them and they’re able to recognize me.”

The Quote: “That ’94 team went through an awful lot of adversity and did it with such commitment, resolve, and work ethic. They weren’t going to let anything slow them down. They were going to prevail no matter what,” Osborne said. “Their attitude, determination and their sheer will to win might have made them the most remarkable team I’ve ever been around.”

The Anecdote: “I’m not saying I knew what was going to happen in the second half of that Orange Bowl. I don’t have perfect vision. But when certain things happen, I just thought there were enough conversations going on, I needed to remind our players that flagrant fouls are usually preceded by some kind of back-and-forth trash talk that leads to a penalty. At some point, I could see something was going to go outside the rules.”

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Will Rudd honors College Hall of Fame quarterback Tommie Frazier.

Prophetic Osborne Unleashes Frazier, Schlesinger

Osborne proved prophetic. The Hurricanes lost their cool and the Huskers found their offense, launching Tommie Frazier and Corey Schlesinger like rockets into a shell-shocked defense loaded with NFL talent, including linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive tackle Warren Sapp.  The ’94 team may not match the ability of Osborne’s national championship teams in ’95 and ’97, but it had heart, chemistry, togetherness, a selfless attitude, and even a third-team walk-on quarterback, Matt Turman, who filled in for the late Brook Berringer to enable the Huskers’ great escape at K-State. At one point, Berringer started seven straight games in 1994 and kept the Huskers’ record unblemished.

Frazier got healthy enough to start the Orange Bowl, only to see Berringer relieve him and throw a touchdown pass before Touchdown Tommie answered the last bell. Last December, when Frazier was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, he could feel Berringer’s guidance and sense his selflessness.

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Brook Berringer was a vital part of NU’s 1994 national championship team.

Frazier: Berringer Was a Role Model for Everyone

“Brook wasn’t just a role model for me. He was a role model for everyone in the whole state of Nebraska and throughout Husker Nation,” Frazier told me. “I think about how tough it would be to handle the situation he was in and still walk into the stadium every day willing to do whatever he could to help us win a national championship. He was the same person every day and a true man in every sense of the word. People don’t understand what he contributed in that national championship game. I started and didn’t do very well. He came in and kept the game close. I ended up getting the MVP Award, but he was a big part of what I did. Without Brook, we don’t beat Miami.”

Jan Berringer, Brook’s mom, will be at Memorial Stadium Saturday to help honor her son for making this 20-year anniversary celebration possible. Brook may not have been the Most Valuable Player in the ‘94 national championship game, but he was positively, undeniably a VVP – a Very Valuable Player that makes this reunion a reality in a rivalry renewal that should be treasured and valued because of its own special place in Tom Osborne’s heart.

Thanks, Brook, for the incredible influence you still have on a program that absolutely will never, ever forget you.

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Brown Sees Huskers through Historic Lens

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Bob Brown was Nebraska’s first African-American to be named All-American.

By Randy York

If you’re a Nebraska football fan who purchased one of the 430 tickets to attend Saturday night’s Husker Huddle prior to NU’s nationally televised game at Fresno State, you will be rewarded for your loyalty and entertained in a uniquely historical way.  The event’s featured speaker is none other than Bob (Boomer) Brown, a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.  Talk about bringing history to a two-hour pregame huddle that will include a buffet and the ever-popular dueling piano performers.  A unanimous first-team 1963 All-American, Brown was a true trailblazer.  He not only played when the Huskers’ 335 consecutive home game sellout streak started in 1962, he helped lead Nebraska’s revival the day Bob Devaney arrived in Lincoln. 

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Bob Brown is a member of the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Brown: Nebraska Treated Others like Nebraskans

I have no idea what Bob Brown will share in his pregame talk, but I know how much value he provided five years ago while sharing his memories of being a student-athlete at Nebraska in the early 1960s.  “More than 50 years ago, we didn’t just turn out muscle heads. Nebraska turned out fine young men who challenged themselves intellectually as well as athletically,” Brown told me.  As the No. 2 overall pick in the first round of the 1964 NFL draft, Brown played 10 seasons and was named first-team All-NFL seven times.  A native of Cleveland, he’s equally proud of becoming the first African-American to earn All-America football honors as a Husker.

“We had great experiences at Nebraska,” Brown said. “There weren’t many black guys going to Nebraska in those days, but all the people in Nebraska treated us like we were Nebraskans – the same way they treat all the other out-of-state players who decide to come to Lincoln.”  When Devaney left Wyoming for Nebraska, “he turned the whole program and the whole state around with a new way of thinking,” Brown told me. “Of course, I knew Coach (Tom) Osborne before he ever became a great coach.  He may have been the youngest coach on that staff, but he was the common thread that ran through it. Those coaches were open and nice and always left you with a warm feeling.”

After Growing Up on Big Ten Soil, He Chose NU

Perhaps Brown will share with Husker fans his own unique twist of playing in the Big Eight Conference, even though he was recruited from Ohio, home of some of the Big Ten’s most fertile recruiting soil.  Interestingly, Brown will never forget the second game he played under Devaney, a 25-13 win at Michigan, Devaney’s home state.  “We didn’t take a very big travel squad, and Michigan must have dressed 150 people that day,” Brown recalled.  “We were doing our jumping jacks when they came out of their tunnel in Ann Arbor, and the crowd roared. It sounded like thunder, but we were the ones who had the real Thunder that day,” Brown said, referring to Bill “Thunder” Thornton, Nebraska’s first modern-day black football captain.

The historic footnote is obvious.  “It’s a fact, and it’s still a belief that we all share – winning at Michigan on that late September Saturday in 1962 marked the start of Bob Devaney and the beginning of Nebraska football really taking off,” Brown said.  For me, that observation begs for another historic footnote.  Before 1962, Nebraska had experienced seven consecutive non-winning seasons, so Brown indeed was a catalyst for Nebraska’s renaissance.  Somehow, in my opinion, Husker fans should always remember what life was like before Bob Devaney arrived.

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Voices from Husker Nation

Thanks for a great article on Bob Brown.  I was just 22 in 1962 and remember Bob Brown very much.  Seems like he was a 300-pounder.  I was always proud that he played at Nebraska and followed him in the pros.  Enjoy reading positive sports news.Gary Lukert, Seward, Nebraska

Loved your story about Bob Brown.  He has always been one of my football idols even though all I knew about him was as a legendary player for Nebraska and Philadelphia.  Seems like a quality man and looks young and healthy in the picture!  If you ever speak with Bob again, please tell him that a Nebraska football brother is a big fan of his.  Carl Johnson, Phoenix, Arizona

 

 

There is No One like Nebraska’s Givens Price

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At an Uplifting Athletes Road Race, Jack Hoffman runs with Givens Price.

By Randy York

We all despise that overused five-word expression friends and family seem to use all the time … you had to be there.  So please pardon me when I tell you that you had to be there Monday morning to hear Givens Price address the entire Nebraska Athletic Department staff with a speech he wrote himself, communicated clearly, and ended with six words that will never go out of style in Lincoln or anywhere else in this state – There is No Place Like Nebraska!  I’m leveraging Givens’ use of that expression and offering up this official Husker athletic blog space for an addendum.  It ties the collective mindset of Price’s audience to the impact he had on the third floor of Memorial Stadium Monday morning: There is No One like Nebraska’s Given Price.  I apologize for saying it, but you had to be there to know how Price’s carefully selected words resonated with everyone in the room.

Peg Slagle, who coordinates 120 workers that support 101 full-scale suites inside Memorial Stadium, was the first to stand up and applaud Givens’ speech.  Within seconds, every athletic department employee joined a standing ovation to thank a student-athlete whose main goal was to thank everyone in the room.  Win-win doesn’t begin to describe the essence of a person providing the message for an audience that  could not have been more appreciative.  “Givens hit the ball out of the park, and that ball is still flying,” Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst told Dennis Leblanc and Keith Zimmer, who made a joint recommendation that Price be a keynote speaker at the annual departmental kickoff meeting.

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Barney Cotton, right, helped present Givens Price his first varsity letter.

Committed to Nebraska at 15, Launched Career at 16

Leblanc, Nebraska’s longtime senior associate athletic director for academics, and Zimmer, NU’s longtime associate athletic director for life skills, thought Price was the “perfectly unique choice” to speak because the 6-foot-4, 310-pound junior offensive guard from Houston committed to Nebraska when he was only 15 years old.  He began his freshman season at NU when he was 16 and has been influenced by everything that he’s needed to develop academically, athletically, and personally.  An accounting/management major, Price turned down scholarships from Baylor and Rice to accept the Huskers’ offer. He has relished Nebraska’s overall support system in every phase and facet of his growth. 

“We often hear the phrase ‘There is NO place like Nebraska,’” Price told his audience while representing 600-plus student-athletes who benefit from overall staff support.  “When I came on my first recruiting visit, that phrase was everywhere I looked.  In my opinion, so many things separate Nebraska from other places … the people, the commitment to the student-athlete, the pride the staff displays in every job that supports us, the student-athletes, the teamwork, and the willingness to help and serve every student-athlete here.”

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Givens Price (78) competes at right tackle with fellow junior Zac Sterup.

Primary Goal: Mature in All Aspects, Become a Man

When he arrived in Lincoln, Price admitted he was nervous, anxious, even scared.  “Because I was so much younger than normal, the challenges I was facing – both academically and athletically – were greater than any obstacle I’d ever seen in my life,” he told his audience.  “I knew immediately that I needed to mature in all aspects of my life, so I could become a man.  I’ve been a Husker since the summer of 2011.  I could not be more pleased with the choice I made and where I am today because so many of you in this room have helped me.

“My message to all of you is very simple,” Price said.  “Thank you … thank you for what each and every one of you do each and every day.  You may not think or believe it, but all of you matter and display an important role in how we, as student-athletes, feel about our overall college experience.  There are so many things that I appreciate about all of you.  You are kind, hardworking, respectful, outgoing, committed, and patient.  So many of you have dedicated the better part of your life to serving us.  Now that our new academic year is underway and our new athletic seasons have begun, please know that we are watching you and we are modeling you by your consistent, everyday actions.  You are helping us get to where we want to be as a well-balanced student-athlete.  On behalf of all 600-plus student-athletes here, thank you for what all of you do for us.  It was true when I made my first visit here, and it’s still true now … there really is no place like Nebraska.”

Price may or may not start Saturday night when Nebraska plays at Fresno State, but he will play.  Because he had never played football until he was a freshman in high school, Price is still learning and trying to soak up every bit of competitive wisdom he can from teammates, coaches, and peers.  He’s into nutrition and devoted to strength and conditioning and embraces the balance between student and athlete. His mother, Edithmary Price, is proud to have her son learning and maturing at Nebraska, where he makes sure he volunteers his time with Husker Heroes, Husker Hotline, Uplifting Athletes, and Make-a-Wish.  He enjoys reaching out to visit local area hospitals.  An Academic All-Big Ten Conference honoree in 2012 and 2013 after redshirting in 2011, Price is making daily strides in all aspects of his life and continues to be a pivotal part of Nebraska’s offensive line.

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Husker junior Givens Price talks with a Lincoln businessman at a Career Fair.

Husker Swimmer: Price is a Major Role Model

Kelly Dunn, a senior member of the Husker women’s swimming and diving team, is from Chicago.  She’s also been a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and won a student-athlete Hero Leadership Award. Price was one of the first people she met when they arrived as freshmen in the same year.  “We became fast friends and went on to have several classes together in the last three years,” Dunn told me Thursday.  “The thing that sets Givens apart from a lot of people you meet in college is that he’s not fazed by the temporary things.  I’ve always admired him for his constant ability to persevere through hard times with the knowledge that his time at Nebraska is about so much more than athletics.

“Is he dedicated to the team?” Dunn said.  “Absolutely!  He’s one of the most dedicated people I know.  But what’s really remarkable to me is that he came here at such a young age.  Even when we were freshmen together and he was just 16, he always understood that hard work and responsibility are two of the most important qualities you can maintain in all aspects of your life.  That’s a lesson that many people learn late in life and a lesson that some never learn at all.  Givens understood that when he was only 16.  As a friend and getting to watch him grow into the respectable, hard-working man he is today, I can’t wait to see him continue his journey as he strives to reach his full potential.  He’s one of a kind.  There’s no one more deserving than he is.”

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Taylor Knows Why Fresno is a Tough Place

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By Randy York

If any Nebraska player or a coach wants to know why Fresno State is leading the nation with 13 consecutive college football wins at home, they can ask Steve Taylor on the team plane Friday why it’s such a tough place to play.  “Fresno is a dangerous team, and I’m a little nervous about that,” Taylor told me Tuesday.  “They would love nothing more than knocking off the Nebraska Cornhuskers on a late, very hot Saturday night in Fresno.”

Why would Taylor, whose bio indicates he came to Nebraska from San Diego, know so much about Fresno?  “Because I grew up there, and most of my family still lives there,” he said.  “I helped my mom downsize her house not too long ago.  I have a sister who still lives there, and a brother and most of my first- and second-cousins and aunts and uncles.  We go to Fresno twice a year, so I know all about what can happen there.” 

One of the fastest and most productive quarterbacks in Nebraska history, Taylor will be in the Huskers Sports Network broadcast booth instead of on the field.  But that hasn’t prevented him from becoming a designated ticket broker for his family.  “I just bought 10 more,” he said.  “They want to go because everyone in town thinks Fresno’s going to win.”

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Steve Taylor, a successful Lincoln realtor, with his wife and three daughters.

‘Everyone in Fresno Thinks They’re Going to Win’

I ask Nebraska’s All-America quarterback what the odds might be for an 0-2 team (which has lost to USC and Utah) to beat a 2-0 Husker team.  “As a native of Fresno, you can’t help but be a little leery after our performance last week,” Taylor said.  “I think we absolutely have more talent and are a better team, but I know Fresno.  Those guys and their fans are going to be sky-high for this game.  There’s a lot of pride, even though they don’t have what we’re used to having at Nebraska.  It’s a different day and age now.  Everyone in Fresno thinks they’re going to win.”

Passionate fans know the quarterbacks who have played at Fresno State, such as Trent Dilfer, who spent 14 years in the NFL.  Taylor also mentioned David Carr and Derek Carr as Fresno State quarterbacks advancing to the NFL.   “What our fans don’t know about Fresno is how hot it gets in that stadium,” he said.  “It’s a sauna.  I talked to my sister, and she says the temperature’s going to be 105, even with a late kickoff.  I didn’t need her to tell me how hot it’s going to be.   I lived in Fresno when it got up to 119 degrees.  That’s one reason why they like to play people at home.  The whole city (which has about 180,000 more residents than Lincoln) gets pumped up.”

Taylor went unbeaten as a starting quarterback in his last two Lincoln High School seasons in Fresno – from two Raisin Bowls to his freshman and sophomore seasons at Edison High School in Fresno.  He then moved to San Diego, where he was best known for breaking Marcus Allen’s high school total offense records.  Taylor received scholarships from the best schools in the Pac-10, including USC and UCLA.  He chose Nebraska, where he started in three and played in four bowl games – two Fiesta Bowls, one Sugar and one Orange – against Michigan, Florida State, LSU and Miami, respectively.

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Taylor Has Relatives Who Are Gifted Athletically

Working alongside Greg Sharpe, Matt Davison, Lane Grindle and Matt Coatney, Taylor co-hosts the Husker Game Day Show with Sharpe and co-hosts the Big Red Reaction postgame coverage with Coatney.  If anyone should ask Taylor how deep his roots are, he can tell you how the children of his sisters and brothers have left their own indelible marks in athletics, including a nephew, DeShawn Stevenson, who went straight from Washington Union High School to the first round of the NBA draft and played on a world championship Dallas Maverick team.

Athletes that have emerged from both his mom’s side and his dad’s side of the family are into competing at very high levels, and they’re all eager to see a nationally prominent Nebraska program make the trip to Steve Taylor’s hometown.  Because Nebraska isn’t flying to Fresno until later Friday and flying back to Lincoln immediately after the game, Taylor won’t see his family long.  “I was back in Fresno and closed and purchased my third and final home for my mom in April,” he said.  “She raised four kids as a single mom and has been retired for 20 years.  We plan to come back to Fresno this year for Christmas.”

Somehow, I think Steve Taylor believes his alma mater will prevail in the Central California late night heat.  But it might not be easy to pin the first defeat on a Fresno State team that hasn’t lost at home in three seasons.  Some might want to plan a Saturday afternoon nap into your schedule so you can get as pumped up as Taylor expects the home team to be.

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The N-Sider’s Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes

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Husker defensive end Randy Gregory (44) is expected to return to action.

Video: Bo Pelini Press Conference

Video: Tommy Armstrong Presser

Huskers Hit Road for First Time in 2014

Nebraska Game Notes for Fresno State

By Randy York

By now, you know The N-Sider drill: Watch Bo Pelini’s third weekly press conference and select my Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes to equip those who don’t have time to be a Husker sponge, but want to stay aligned with our seventh-year head coach in every possible way. As always, we start in reverse order:

5) On Bo’s timetable published one week ago in this exact same position related to junior defensive end Randy Gregory:  “He ran yesterday.  He looked great, and he looked great today.  I expect him to practice, probably tomorrow.  I’d say Wednesday at the very latest, but he’ll be ready to go this weekend.”  For some, that’s worth a few cartwheels.  For others, that’s what Bo predicted last week – Gregory being ready to put the pads back on so he can dig his cleats into Bulldog Stadium’s turf in Fresno, Calif., Saturday night.  Third-year coach Tim DeRuyter has won back-to-back Mountain West Conference Championships and led Fresno to a 12-0 record at home.  Randy Gregory isn’t exactly Willie Harper or Grant Wistrom yet, but his presence would be similarly welcomed with his return. The Huskers need Gregory back in the lineup.  A first-team All-Big Ten choice and Nebraska’s 2013 Team Defensive MVP, Gregory was limited to a few snaps in the season opener before he was sidelined with a minor knee injury.  He had a procedure on the knee on Aug. 31 and the Fresno State game has been his targeted return.  In his sophomore season, the 6-foot-6 defensive end led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks for 69 yards in losses.  Last Saturday, Gregory was one of the last to return to the locker room because fans kept asking for post-game photos.  An All-America candidate across college football’s prime media outlets, Gregory is accommodating off the field and a true destructive force on it.  He alters offensive schemes and is a migraine headache for any offensive coordinator. 

4) On something important that gets buried in Coach Bo’s candor about last Saturday’s defensive and offensive breakdowns: “Going forward, like I told our football team, I don’t feel any different as far as what this football team is capable of today as I did a week ago.”  That’s a very important statement that comes straight from the heart, the mind and the soul of a head coach who pointed the finger at himself when Nebraska’s sequel to the best offensive explosion in modern Big Ten Conference history one week morphed into a game that wasn’t decided until the last 20 seconds the next week.  No wonder Bo said “thank God for Ameer Abdullah” whose rather miraculous catch-and-run touchdown enabled the Huskers to escape with a 31-24 win.

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Ameer Abdullah (8) accelerates on his way to his decisive touchdown run.

3) On Nebraska Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah deserving more and better opportunities touching the football from this day forward: “We have to make sure to get the ball in his hands.  I mean, he’s our best football player.  We better make sure we get the ball in his hands.”  ESPN SportsCenter’s top play of the day for two consecutive Saturdays has been a Husker.  Jordan Westerkamp’s behind-the-back catch was first, and Abdullah’s magic carpet ride to the South end zone was second.  Yes, McNeese State was crowding the box, daring the Huskers to throw the football.  “We had multiple opportunities in the passing game, and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Pelini said.  “There are other ways to get Ameer the ball, and we should get him the ball.”

2) On something that connected with Bo Monday and elevated his trust:  “We can talk about what’s necessary – the type of mindset, the type of preparation, the type of discipline, and the type of focus you have to have to play great, which we didn’t have on Saturday.  That starts right here.  There’s one thing to talk about it, and there’s another to feel it, and believe me, on Saturday, they felt it.”  This quote has a direct connect with quote 4 when Bo purified his heart and cleansed his mind about Nebraska’s team getting off-track.  Bottom line, Bo spent an hour earlier Monday at a Nebraska Athletics’ kickoff meeting for staff and coaches.  Best-selling author Jon Gordon addressed the group for the last 12 minutes and included an anecdote about what Mike Krzyzewski did for basketball’s Team USA to understand why it’s so important to play for your country.  “Obviously, that isn’t our situation,” Pelini said, “but he brought up that, at one point, they got to talk to some West Point people who lost family members and died for their country.”  It was an important strategic point for Pelini, who related the story to compare the difference between talking about something and actually feeling it.  However the team huddled up and whatever players and coaches said to each other behind closed doors must have cleared the air.  That’s why Pelini wasn’t asking: “Can you feel it?”  He went to great depths to communicate that he definitely feels it; the coaching staff feels it; and the players feel it, too.

1) On maintaining his faith in sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., who had his share of struggles, even though the blame should not all fall on his shoulders: “Trust me, when I tell you the problems in that passing game went well beyond that quarterback position.  Our lack of detail in some of the other positions put our quarterback in bad positions.”  Let the record show that Tommy Armstrong Jr. rushed 11 times for 131 net yards and scored a touchdown.  He also completed 16 of 31 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns.  A 373-yard, three-touchdown total offense day is a unique target for disappointment, but Armstrong insisted on taking a lion’s share of the blame.  “It starts with me.  I’m the quarterback,” he told the media.  “I wear this shirt loud and proud.  If I’m not playing my heart out in the game, we can’t get wins.  I didn’t have my offense prepared well, and I take blame for it because it all starts with me, and it’s something I can’t let happen.  Ameer has told us a bunch of times that you have to respect the game.  We can’t take any team lightly.  We have to prepare every week as if we’re playing the No. 1 team in the nation.”   The road to redemption begins in Fresno.  Some might remember Nebraska’s only other game against the Bulldogs in Lincoln three years ago when the Huskers won, 42-29.  Abdullah was just a freshman.  He had a 100-yard kickoff return in that game and set a Nebraska record with 211 kickoff return yards in the contest.  Abdullah, a captain and a leader, not only is in prime position to get the ball more, but ready to do whatever it takes to help his quarterback, coaches, teammates and others, including fans, to “feel” what he felt last Saturday.  Abdullah and Armstrong are counting on everyone learning a powerful lesson that can still take the Huskers to Indianapolis and, perhaps, beyond.

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