Safety Austin Cassidy (8) helped the Huskers win in overtime in Ames in 2010.
By Randy York
Austin Cassidy is a walk-on, a dreamer, a leader and perhaps one of Nebraska’s best seniors ever to paint the picture of an incredible journey as a Cornhusker football player. At Monday’s press conference, he gave the media golden quotes, his teammates needed confidence, his coaches glowing endorsements, the athletic program a shot in the arm, fellow walk-ons a memorable voice and Husker fans good reason to pause and reflect before making instant judgments about a certain collapse in Ann Arbor. For good measure, Cassidy even explained why Jared Crick and Terrence Moore – fellow-senior members of his Nebraska family – tug on his heart every bit as much as his own family does while preparing for his final Tunnel Walk and the first Heroes Game against Iowa at Memorial Stadium.
Cassidy, in fact, was almost poetic in his opening remarks about playing his final home game. He couldn’t help noticing high school players warming up inside Memorial Stadium for their state championship game and realizing how that same scene seemed just like yesterday when all his troubles seemed so far away. That’s why the son of a Big 12 Conference associate athletic director for football can hold his head high because he knows, understands and appreciates the roller coaster world of Division 1 football. He grew up on it with his dad, Tim, a former Nebraska football operations assistant AD who will trade his Maroon-and-White Texas A&M Aggie colors Friday for the Scarlet-and-Cream still locked somewhere deep in his heart. Take it straight from a father who was pleased to see his son show the character to stick to his walk-on dream at Nebraska instead of follow his dad from Lincoln to College Station four seasons ago.
Unlike the Beatles’ song, Austin Cassidy became twice the man he used to be instead of half the man he was when he arrived on campus. “Now I’ve come to the end,” Cassidy said Monday. “I know the guys that came here with me and that are here for their fifth year … we’ve been through a lot. I’ve had three different position coaches, two head coaches, two defensive coordinators, two athletic directors and two different conferences, so I’ve seen a whole lot of change. Not much is the same around here from when we first got here. We stuck together, we stuck through it, and it’s going to be one of the most memorable things in my life to go out with those guys one more time.” We could go on-and-on, but trust me, Cassidy describes the Nebraska football experience as well as anyone I’ve heard, and that’s coming from someone who’s read hundreds upon hundreds of personal accounts.
Let’s just say if you’re one of those fans that can’t enjoy a hard-working, role-model player gearing himself and his teammates up to win nine games for a fourth consecutive year, make sure you read Cassidy’s comments in their entirety. No one says it better. Read and you will understand why someone as driven as Cassidy would never allow naysayers to destroy his confidence or minimize the trust he has in his teammates and his coaches. You also might learn why Cassidy believes Iowa will be a much bigger rivalry for Nebraska than Colorado, K-State or KU ever were. Yes, there’s a Big House shadow looking over Austin Cassidy and his teammates, but they view Memorial Stadium as “Our House” and they need every crackling voice in it Friday morning. No one ever said the Big Ten would be an easy game to play or suggest there are times when players need a place to hide away. “It’s hard not to get down on yourself,” Cassidy said. “But at the same time, we don’t have time to sulk. It’s time to move on. We’ve got a big game this weekend. This game means a lot for us on a lot of different levels. This is huge. It’s going to determine where we go in the postseason, so there’s no time to reflect too much. We have to learn from what happened and move on.” A new rivalry will begin, and a new trophy will be awarded. And Austin Cassidy is absolutely right. There’s no time to whine about yesterday. Thanksgiving is Thursday followed by the promise of tomorrow. Judging by the spirit within Cassidy Monday, expect it to grow and spread to all of his teammates. By Friday, that same spirit needs to reach the greatest fans in college football, so warm up your lungs and get your game face on. Your favorite team is counting on you.
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