N-Sider’s Three Best Tommie Frazier Stories

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With runs like this against Missouri, Tommie Frazier finished second in the 1995 Heisman Trophy voting. Omaha World-Herald Photo

By Randy York

Someone asked this morning if I had any good Tommie Frazier stories, and I have three. But I also want to share my first experience with Tommie and thank him for signing an 11x14-inch photograph of his fabled 75-yard touchdown run in the 1995 national championship romp over Florida in Tempe, Ariz. I’m looking at that photo right now in my office, and I will never forget how gracious Tommie was to sign it at a downtown Kansas City event. Here now are my three favorite Tommie Frazier stories, gleaned from interviews I’ve done with him or events I’ve attended:

Story No. 1…a sappy saga: My favorite story was listening to Tommie answer questions for a full hour at Bo Pelini’s late July Football 202 class at the Hawks Center four years ago – the same day I met Rick Burkhead, Rex’s dad. We both loved hearing Tommie talk about his on-the-field conversations with Miami All-America defensive tackle Warren Sapp during the 1995 Orange Bowl that produced Tom Osborne’s first national championship. In that game, Sapp kept baiting Tommie, who was making his first start after missing the previous seven games with a blood clot. When Frazier went back into the national title game to replace the late Brook Berringer, Sapp tried to get inside Tommie’s head. “Where you been Tom? Where you been?” Sapp asked Frazier, who told him his name was Tommie, not Tom. So the next time Frazier came back into the game late in the third quarter, Sapp said: “Where you been, Tommie? Where you been?” Finally, Frazier told the Football 202 class, he turned around, looked squarely into Sapp’s eyes and said: “It’s not where I’ve been … it’s where I’m going, fat a _ _!” Frazier’s punch line brought the house down. So did his animated impersonations of two coaches he played for at the same time – Osborne, his head coach, and Turner Gill, his position coach. For Osborne, the mock conversation was understandably slow, and for Gill, the dialogue became fast and inspired. “It was almost like Coach Osborne was on No Doz for four years, and Coach Gill was on Red Bull, the energy drink,” Frazier quipped. “Try putting up with that for four years!”

Story No. 2 … a hard place to sleep: Most of us have forgotten that one of Frazier’s last games as a freshman quarterback starter was a 38-24 triumph over Kansas State on Dec. 5, 1992, in, of all places, Tokyo, Japan - a mutually agreed upon replacement for a K-State home game, 6,300 miles from Manhattan. “I’ll never forget that 13-hour plane ride from Kansas City to Tokyo - the longest plane ride in my life at the time,” Frazier recalled in an interview “I was sitting between two big offensive linemen - Zach Wiegert and Lance Lundberg. For a while, I thought it would take forever to get there.” Fortunately, though, like all good offensive linemen, Wiegert and Lundberg created some extra room for their quarterback and kept him happy. “Zach wandered off somewhere, and Lance laid down and went to sleep on the floor,” Frazier recalled. When the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Wiegert and the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Lundberg vacated their seats, things opened up for Touchdown Tommie, who put the arm rests down, threw a pillow next to the window and spread himself across three large seats to take a long and well-deserved winter’s nap.

Story No. 3 … mom definitely knows best: Five years ago, when I had the honor to help induct Tommie into the Nebraska Black Hall of Fame at the North Omaha Boys and Girls Clubs, he mentioned the most important life lesson he learned from Priscilla Frazier, his mother, after receiving his award. Frazier remembers how much he struggled when he arrived on UNL’s campus. He also mentioned how difficult it was to go beyond southern Alabama, his previous northern-most location. Not surprisingly, Tommie got so homesick, he finally summoned enough courage to call his mom and ask if he could come home. “You can come home, but you ain’t gonna live here,” Tommie’s mother told him and he made sure he re-enacted the conversation as closely as possible for the banquet crowd that night. “I had no choice. I had to stay in Lincoln,” Tommie said before adding: “But everything worked out okay – in football and in life.”

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