Uniforms

2019 Nebraska Alternative Uniforms Reviewed

Nebraska and Adidas released the alternate uniform the Huskers will wear at some point in the 2019 season.  I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen it before – and no, I’m not talking about the photo* that leaked out from the hype video shoot a few weeks ago.

*How mad do you think the Adidas folks were about this image stealing their thunder?  The one time they shoot the hype video on location – instead of from the comfort of their ad agency’s studio – and the full uniform leaks out.  

How familiar are these uniforms?  Here is how I feel like the design process went for this year’s alts:

{Scene:  Adidas U.S. Headquarters, Portland, Oregon. A random Tuesday in June}

Account Rep:  Hey, Nebraska wants their alternate uniform to be black this year.  I don’t have a lot of requirements, other than they want to release it in time for their Fan Day in early August.

Lead Designer:  Um…It’s the middle of summer.  There is no way we can create a black alternate uniform in time.

Account Rep:  Don’t we have a single alternative uniform template that we use for colleges?  Usually the only thing you guys do is update the colors and logos, and send it off to the factory in Asia.

Lead Designer:  We’re trying to get away from that.  The guys on the Basketball Design Team were making us look bad.

Account Rep:  So what can we do?  Scott Frost has a history with Nike, and his A.D. has a policy to never tell Frost “no”.  Nebraska is our oldest, and one of our best clients.  Surely we can do something for them.

Design Team Intern (flipping through a book of previous Nebraska uniforms):  Look at these black uniforms they wore back in 2013.  What if we clean these up and pass them off as new?

Lead Designer:  Hmm…that could work.  There is definitely room for improvement on these.  Maybe incorporate some elements from their current practice jerseys.  What do you think?

Account Rep:  I really don’t care what they look like, as long as we can debut them before the season starts.

Lead Designer:  That’s what we do best!  We’ll have a sketch ready by the end of the day.

{scene}

How similar are the new set to 2013?  Here is a side by side comparison (image by @BrettSBaker)

sidebyside
As is the custom, we’ll go from the top down.

Helmet:

helmet side

The improvements from the 2013 set start at the top.  Adidas got rid of the weird gradient facemask that was black on the outsides and red in the middle, and replaced it with a basic black facemask that works much better.  Nebraska’s signature sans-serif “N” remains, but it is now black instead of red.  Both the 2013 and 2019 versions have a black helmet stripe that is noticeably thicker than normal.

Our video model has a red chinstrap, which I would suspect gets swapped out for black or white when the players get them.

I would have been okay with Adidas being a little more aggressive in their design on the helmet.  Possibly a black helmet with white “N”, or even the script Huskers in black instead of the helmet N.  That said, I have no issue with the lid.

Grade:  B

Jersey:

48572099382_f7ff061018_n

Yes, I am an unabashed old-school fuddy-duddy who thinks Nebraska’s uniforms are fine as they are, thank you very much.  But there is more to my dislike than me being averse to change.  My biggest objection is the black jersey, for two primary reasons*:

  1. Only the defense – Nebraska’s storied “Blackshirts” – should wear black jerseys.  Period.  Does it really make sense that some third string wide receiver gets to wear the same black jersey as Mohamed Barry and the rest of the defense?  What in the name of Charlie McBride is going on here?
  2. After the defense’s disastrous performance in 2018 (31.3 points per game allowed, 12th in the Big Ten) black is the last color Nebraska should be wearing against the majority of the teams on their schedule.

*Why yes, I did plagiarize and update my 2013 review of Nebraska’s uniforms for the preceding three paragraphs.  Hey, if Adidas gets to pass off old material as new, I can too.

The good news is my stance has softened a little bit since 2013.  While I still think only the first team defense should wear black, I really do like this version.  Adidas abandoned the “tire tread” motif, and they got rid of the numeral font that looked like it came from “The Longest Yard”.  I have my concerns about using red for the TV numbers on the shoulders and name on the back – but that is more about being able to read them from Row 47 instead of a stylistic concern.

My biggest gripe is the use of the Blackshirts logo on the sleeves.  In the press release, Adidas tries to spin it as “personifying the players’ relentless attitude, a skull-and-crossbones logo sits on the jersey’s sleeve caps”.  Filter out the b.s. and the takeaway is “we understand that this is a defensive logo, but it still looks cool, and we hope prospective recruits agree.”

Overall, I understand why black jerseys are popular.  And if Nebraska “needs” a black jersey, this is a pretty good version – even if it cheapens what “Blackshirts” once meant.   Allow me to plagiarize myself from 2013 one more time:  “Black will always be a cool color for young males, as it denotes toughness and strength.”  I guess that applies to third string wide receivers too.

Grade:  A

Pants:

pants

When it comes to the pants on their alternate uniforms, Adidas has really embraced a “less is more” approach.  I would have been okay with the 2013 version, with its black leg stripe and over-sized “N”.  Instead, it looks like Nebraska will wear their regular white pants.

At the risk of being alarmist, seeing the new jersey paired with the regular pants makes me a little concerned that this new ensemble will be used a more of a “third jersey” than a one time only alternate.

I really like Scott Frost, and I love how he is bringing the things he learned at his previous coaching stops back to Nebraska.  But I have no desire to see Nebraska getting into the mix and match “uniform system” that Central Florida has, let alone the weekly game of one upsmanship that Oregon plays.

Grade: B

Accessories:

In the hype video, we see three different Adidas accessories get some extended screen time.

  • The most notable item is a helmet visor that, when viewed from certain angles, shows a Blackshirts logo.  None of the pictures in the press release do it justice, so you’ll want to watch the hype video to see it in action.  Assuming such images on visors are game legal (and with the NCAA, one should never make assumptions) I would expect to see a lot of these throughout the year.
  • There are the (now) standard gloves that make a form a Blackshirts logo when the palms are placed just so.  It will be interesting to see if those gloves are reserved for defensive players, or if everybody gets a pair.
  • Finally, there is a pair a black cleats.  I’m no sneakerhead, but I think they look really sharp.

cleats

Grade:  A

Overall:

Put it all together, and this is what it looks like from head to toe.

head to toe

A big part of grading the alternates that Adidas produces for football is managing expectations.  With 2019 being the 150th anniversary of college football, and the 150th anniversary of the University of Nebraska, I had hoped for some sort of 1969 throwback uniform.  So from that aspect, I’m a little bummed at the missed opportunity – even if Nebraska wore a “fauxback” uniform last year.

When I first saw the leaked image, I was disappointed.  I’m not a fan of NU wearing black, and let’s be honest – the overall look is little more than tweaks to the 2013 alt.

But the more I look at it, the more comfortable I am with it.

Why?  Indulge me in one more flashback, this time to Nebraska’s last attempt at black – the horrifically bad 2015 set:

I could get on-board with an all-black get up similar to this.  Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.

It may not be as #HuskerBold as adidas would like, but I’d wager it would be better received.

Give Adidas credit. They checked all of the boxes and made an alternate uniform that should appeal to the coveted kids as well as the cranky traditionalists.  That is a win in my book.

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2016 Nebraska Alternate Uniforms Reviewed

Once again, we’ve reached a day full of equal parts anticipation and dread:  alternate uniform reveal day.  In a twist, Nebraska will wear their new duds on the road:  September 24th at Northwestern.*

*I’m not sure why Northwestern is becoming the NU Uniform Bowl, with Nebraska wearing all black in 2015, and Northwestern wearing all black in 2014.  The good news is, the team in white tends to win the game.

As is our custom, let’s break it down piece by piece.

Helmet:

sideheaddown

As heavily (and rightfully) criticized as adidas has been for their previous attempts at alternate uniforms for NU, they usually do their best design work on the helmet.  Adidas has found a good groove with maintaining Nebraska’s signature sans-serif “N”, but surrounding it with some trendy elements.  The lone dud was the 2013 version with the thick black stripe and facemask that went from black to red.

This year is no different.  At first glance, it reminds you of the late 1970’s when Nebraska wore grey facemasks – the only thing missing is the traditional red stripe down the middle.  But on closer inspection, you see the “keeping up with the Joneses” touches:  a matte helmet, a chrome facemask, and the “N” rendered in a metallic red instead of the standard red helmet tape.  With a list like that, you might think they overdid it, but it works.  Oh boy, do these work.  I guarantee there will be calls from Husker fans to make this the permanent helmet.

I have a couple of minor nit-picks:  For the numbers on the back of the helmet, I much prefer the current font over the block numerals.  I’m okay with the idea of putting Herbie Husker on the front helmet bumper, but I don’t care for this version of him.  I’d propose giving the defensive players a Blackshirts logo instead.  But any quibbles I have are easily erased by the state decal on the back of the helmet.  That is a keeper.

helmet

Grade:  A

Jersey:

headdown

Last year, I took issue with how the uniforms seemed to be more of a showcase for adidas and their “high performance” gear than a unique expression of Nebraska Football.  I closed by saying “Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.”

And for the most part, adidas listened.  Yes, the sublimated tire treads are still there, but they are much less pronounced than past years.  The shoulder stripes still have diagonal slits, but it works here.  I’ll get to the numbers in a second, but overall, this is a nice jersey.  It combines classic and modern better than any alternate Nebraska has ever worn.  That is a giant step forward for adidas.

However…

I have two complaints about the jerseys:

1. The shiny, reflective numbers. We’ve progressed away from the duct tape numbers, but take a look at the picture below.  Even in the studio, there is rather significant glare on the top part of the jersey.  Maybe it’s my aging eyes, but on a quick glance, that 16 looks a lot like an 18.  Frankly, this won’t be as big of an issue for me as it has been in the past – only because I’m unable to make the trip to Evanston.  I’m hopeful that the numbers will be moderately legible on TV, but if past history is any indication, my sympathies for anybody in the stadium.

reflective

2. Take another look at the picture above.  Pretend you aren’t reading this on a Nebraska site, and tell me what team this uniform belongs to.  Maybe you base your guess off of the red numbers and multiple adidas logos (Louisville? NC State? Northern Illinois? Mississippi State?  Troy?) or the B1G logo (Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Rutgers all wear red).  If you happen to know which Big Ten schools currently wear adidas, you could narrow it down to Nebraska or Indiana (Wisconsin is now with Under Armour).  But from there, you’d either need to zoom in to the Herbie on the helmet bumper or flip a coin.  Would it have ruined the look to add the “A Winning Tradition” patch?  Personally, I don’t think so.

Even with those two beefs, this is easily adidas’s best work to date.

 

Grade:  B

Pants

N on pants

As much as I crack on adidas, I really should give them credit for simplifying my job here.  Why?  Because for the third straight year, I can recycle the same comment on the major design element on the pants:  “Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.”  The way I see it, if they don’t have to come up with something original, neither should I.

Snark aside, I think the “N” works here.  The diagonal slashes through the “N” and the stripes are unnecessary, but I can deal with them.

This is a good place to address the monochromatic white look.  As a traditionalist, I love the road white jerseys matched up with the red pants.  It is a beautiful look.  As a moderately superstitious fan, I get the angst over Nebraska wearing “surrender whites” on the road.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I believe NU has a losing record in all white.  Yes, those numbers are tainted by the 2002 and 2015 teams who probably would have lost no matter what color pants they wore, but some folks out there still don’t care for the all-white look.

To those people, let me say this:  I hear you.  I am one of you.  I believe the Unicameral should pass a law requiring red pants on the road – even though said law would be impossible to enforce due to every infraction occurring outside of their jurisdiction.  But this look, when taken as a whole works.  Red pants with this ensemble wouldn’t work as well.

Grade:  B+

Accessories

kneeling

Compared to other years, the reveal video and Glamour Shots of the flexing model are rather light on images of the accessories.  But what I see I really like.  Instead of socks with a weird print or pattern – the ones that look cool on a receiver or defensive back, but ridiculous on a lineman – our model has opted for a basic pair of white socks.  The cleats are equally clean and simple.

As part of their ongoing efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, adidas once again has the undershirt with a gigantic “N” on it.  If you’d like to read snarky comments about that, feel free to go back to any of my other reviews.  I do find it interesting that I have never seen one of those shirts of sale in any of the Husker shops around Lincoln.

The fact that I only needed to allocate a couple of sentences to accessories is another win.

Grade:  A

Overall

squatting

 

 

Let’s start this final section by indulging me in one more quote from last year:  “In my opinion, this helmet represents what a Nebraska alternate uniform should strive to be:  different, yet recognizable.  Trendy, yet classic.”  For the first four years of the alternate uniform era, adidas has failed to take that idea past the helmet.  The result has been a cookie cutter template that is more about adidas and their latest ‘innovation’ than it is about Nebraska.  For a school of Nebraska’s stature, getting the same treatment as every other adidas school should be taken as an insult.

With that in mind, let’s take a minute and address the thematic inspiration for the “Husker Chrome” alts.  According to the press release / marketing materials, these uniforms are “inspired by the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, also know as the ‘Star City'”.  Remember that picture of the back of the helmet?  I hope you noticed how the “player numbers featured in metallic red and metallic chrome outlining on the back of the helmet, showcas(es) the Star City’s ability to shine.”

No?  You didn’t get that?  Me neither.

Despite that underdeveloped – if not complete reach – of a theme, adidas has done good work here.  Unlike the last few years, I was cautiously optimistic about what we would see this year.  Adidas has produced a number of alternate uniforms for the Nebraska Basketball team that are absolutely beautiful.*  It’s clear that they’ve brought that same talent over to the football side of the house.

*With the obvious exception of the annual train wreck that is the adidas postseason templates.  Yikes.

But most importantly is this line in the press release:  “the new Husker Chrome alternate uniform blends crisp, modernized design with a tribute to Nebraska’s clean, classic signature look.”  Finally, adidas seems to get that gaudy designs won’t play here. Superhero costumes that barely resemble Nebraska Football don’t work here. Numbers that are impossible to read are a failure to the 90,000 passionate fans that show up here.  Seriously, take a look at this picture of I.M. Hipp and tell me you can’t see some of the design inspiration:

1978 IM Hipp

I’ll gladly listen to any cynics who want to (rightfully) point out that NU’s athletic apparel contract is coming up for renewal soon, and this is the uniform equivalent of the washed up veteran putting up big numbers before going into free agency.  With Michigan and Wisconsin leaving the “three stripe life”, adidas views Nebraska as their Rod Tidwell.  Or maybe you want to note that one success doesn’t make up for years of failures.  I get that.  Personally, I don’t think you’re wrong.

But let’s give credit where credit is due.  I have been a big critic of adidas and have used this space to attack their lackluster designs and what I perceive to be disrespect to Nebraska as a premier school. However, they came through here.  It may not be a clear-cut home run, but they are definitely a stand up triple.  That is huge.

There was a part of me that was worried that with alternate uniform alpha dog Oregon coming to town this fall, adidas would use that game to make some big splash – only to end up falling flat on their face.  But I would put these uniforms up against whatever the Ducks bring to town.  They’re that good.

Grade: A

*   *   *

Here are the updated Alternate Uniform Power Rankings

  1. 2016 “Husker Chrome”.  Easily the best.  Easily.
  2. 2009 “300th Sellout”.  Technically, a throwback to the 1962 uniforms, but they looked great.
  3. 2012 “Big N”. The idea was there, the execution wasn’t.
  4. 2013 “Longest Yard”. I actually think these are the ugliest, but they get bonus points for having legible numbers.
  5. 2015 “Back In Black”. The helmet was nice.
  6. 2014 Anarchy“. From the Bo Pelini reveal to the shoes that looked orange, these were all fail.
  7. 2002 “Wide Stripe”. I maintain the best thing Steve Pedersen did at Nebraska was to get rid of these.

 

2015 Nebraska Alternates Reviewed

Today is the day that some of us look forward to and others dread:  alternate uniform reveal day.  Nebraska will wear these October 24th against Northwestern.*

*Apparently, Nebraska is telling Northwestern “we’ll see your ugly black uniforms, and raise you one.”

Let’s dive in, piece by piece.

Helmet:

helmet

Like last year, the lid was easily the highlight of the ensemble.  When a picture of the matte black helmet with the classic sans-serif “N” was released late Wednesday night, I was cautiously optimistic that I would like this year’s uniforms.

In my opinion, this helmet represents what a Nebraska alternate uniform should strive to be:  different, yet recognizable.  Trendy, yet classic.  Without question, this is my favorite component of any Husker alternate to date.

Could this be the year that I go from grudging acceptance to full-on love?  Could adidas redeem their battered reputation with Husker fans with a grand slam design?

Grade:  A

Jersey:

jersey

 

Nope.

Goodness…where to even begin with this thing?  Let’s start with the pattern in the jersey.  The adidas press release says “the jersey’s padlock system secures tension over the shoulder pads, while the bodymap fit adheres to the player, making it difficult for opponents to grab, hold or tackle.”

Uh-huh.  Sure.  Bummer about not being able to tackle us Northwestern.

You can call it whatever you want.  I say it looks like tire treads, which when combined with the diagonal slits going through the numbers, makes it look like the uniforms were run over by a truck (Wisconsin fans, feel free to insert a Melvin Gordon joke here).

Speaking of the numerals, they are rather reminiscent of the duct tape numbers from last year’s jersey.  Hopefully, the addition of the silver – sorry, “forged steel” – outline will make them easier to read from row 47.  I’m not optimistic.

One of my biggest criticisms of adidas is how they put all of their schools through a generic template and fail to do anything unique – even for a once-a-year special jersey.  For the most part, that holds true:  compare these to the new adidas uniforms for UCLA, Miami, and others.  Lots of similarities, especially the tire tread pattern.  However, I will acknowledge that adidas has finally done something unique for the Huskers, adding the word “HUSKERS” along the side of the jersey.

sideview

I appreciate the gesture, but all it does is clutter up a jersey that is already too busy.  Next time, replace your tire treads with the outline of the state.

Grade:  C

Pants

pants

Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

Oh wait, that’s what I wrote a year ago when adidas made the same pants in red.

C’mon adidas.  Make an effort to do something new.  I understand the monochromatic looks are the big thing now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this with red pants or even the silver – er, “forged steel” – from the outline of the numbers.

Points are deducted for the needless slashes through the stripes and the tire tread pattern.

Grade:  C-

Accessories

Let’s start with the cleats.

shoes

I love them.  Simple, clean, and a dramatic improvement over the 2014 version that looked orange under the lights.  Plus, they have ” a SPRINTSKIN upper with SHOCKWEB reinforcement and a SPRINTFRAME plate that provides maximum acceleration and multi-directional traction”*, which has to be good.

*Anybody else find it ironic that a company whose name does not have any capital letters creates products with the CAPS LOCK glued down?  Just me?

I have a seen a picture that suggests these will reflect very silver on the field, but I’m optimistic that will be okay.  If nothing else, they should take focus away from the ugly patterned dress socks.

Next up is the undershirt – I mean, “TECHFIT gun show baselayer”*.

undershirt

 

*You wish I was making that up.

As noted uniform critic Paul Lukas tweeted, “I think the red ‘N’ stands for ‘No.'”  I’m not a fan of the tire tread meets camouflage look on the sleeves, but it’s better than the “Z” that was on the arm last year.

Its interesting – at least as far as a discussion on alternate uniform accessories goes – that there are no close up pictures of the gloves.  All of the previous uniforms have had fancy gloves that make an “N” when the palms are placed side by side.  Surely, the new gloves do that – unless there wasn’t room after adidas put in “4-way stretch mesh for compression fit and GripTack 2.0 for consistent control in all weather conditions.”

Grade:  B

Overall

In what will be a surprise to nobody, I’m not a fan of these.  One last time, let’s go back to what I said a year ago:

I think for 2015, I will need to greatly lower my expectations.  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.

By those standards, adidas delivered 100%.  As you hopefully gathered by the corporate buzz speak that I sprinkled in from the press release, these uniforms are much more about adidas than they are about Nebraska.  Let’s take a look at the whole ensemble from head to toe.

headtotoe

There is very good potential here.  There really is.  I can’t believe my traditionalist fingers are going to type this, but that black helmet may be a keeper.  Silver shoes are silly, but no worse than the neon highlighter shoes many basketball teams wear.

Until Jason Peter says otherwise, I’m still of the opinion that black jerseys should not be worn by 4th string receivers.  That said, I could get on-board with an all-black get up similar to this.  Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.

It may not be as #HuskerBold as adidas would like, but I’d wager it would be better received.

Grade: C+

Husker Halloween in September

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

Nebraska’s 2014 Alternate Uniforms Reviewed

Yesterday, Nebraska revealed the adidas TechFit uniforms they will wear against Illinois on September 27.  This is the third year of Nebraska wearing alternate uniforms, and as you may recall, I haven’t exactly been fond of the previous editions (2012, 2013).  So how do the new ones grade out?

Helmet

Easily the best component in the whole ensemble.  The matte red with the black sans-serif “N” looks sharp on its own.  Adding the slice of black on the rear of the helmet brings a unique (but not completely original) touch.  The overall lid is easily the best of the three Nebraska alternates to date – even if it may contain a hidden message of anarchy.

Grade:  B+

Jersey

I didn’t care for last year’s black jerseys (only Blackshirts should wear black jerseys.  Period.)  I like having Nebraska wear red jerseys at home.  So there’s that – and yes, it’s all downhill from here.

My son isn’t old enough to ask for something like a Huskers alternate jersey, which is too bad because this one would be a pretty easy do-it-yourself project.  You would only need three items:

  1. A red shirt – preferably a form-fitting workout type shirt.
  2. Duct tape – classic silver
  3. Electrical tape – basic black

All you would do is put the duct tape on the shirt in the shape of whichever number you want, then put the electrical tape over the top.  Boom.  You just saved $59.99, and made something just as beautiful as this jersey.

I’m not a fan of the pattern in the chest and shoulders.  What is that?  Lightning bolts?  Tiger stripes?  As I said last year, if adidas insists on having some print pattern on the jerseys, make Nebraska’s unique – like the outline of the state, small letter “N”s, or a micro print of Bo Pelini holding a cat.

But my biggest gripe is the missed opportunity.  As the uniform patch tells you, 2014 is the 125th season of Nebraska football.  I didn’t expect Nebraska’s alt to be a true throwback, but I was hoping it would at least draw some inspiration from an old Nebraska jersey*.  A faux-retro Bugeaters jersey would have been beyond amazing, which is clearly too much to ask.

*Technically adidas was inspired by Nebraska’s past, as the all-red is from the 2012 alternate and the divided numerals are from the 2013 version.

Grade:  C

Pants

I’m not a fan of the red on red look.  I didn’t care for it in 2012, and I don’t like it any better in 2014.  I can understand that the kids – and these things are designed with 18 year old recruits in mind – may not want white pants, but I’m not sure they want to look like ketchup bottles either.  I think the pants would have been much better in black.

I’m undecided on the leg stripes.  Initially, I hated them – more electrical tape! – but I’ve come back towards indifference.  Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

Grade:  C+

Accessories

As if there was any doubt that these alternate uniforms are all about getting you to buy things, the photo gallery on Huskers.com has more pictures of the gloves, shoes, and undershirt (3) than they do of the entire uniform (2).

The undershirt cracks me up.  Where to start?  The “N” on the sleeve is odd.  Aside from the unanswered question of why there is only one, there is the problem that unless you’re walking around in a permanent gun show flex (as all alternate uniform models are), that “N” on your arm is going to look like a “Z”.

The giant “N” looks like something a super hero would wear (“It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s Nowledge Man!”).  Maybe the super hero concept helps to explain the reappearance of the lightning bolts on the sleeves.

But the biggest source of amusement will be seeing these shirts on Husker fans this fall.  Our model is an obviously fit young man, in the middle of a flex which raises his chest and shoulders.  The skin-tight shirt looks good on him.  Joe Fan at the tailgate or in row 78 probably won’t be as slender as the model, and likely will just be standing there not flexing.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I fully expect these base layer shirts to look ridiculous on anybody with more than 10% body fat.

Every time I see the receiver gloves that make a picture/logo when put together, I’m always surprised that they do not produce more 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalties than they do.  Again, this is another missed opportunity for the outline of the state, a big bullseye for Tommy Armstrong, or a picture of Bo holding a cat.

I think the cleats are rather ugly – especially with the black dress socks – but no more so than the rest of the ensemble.

Grade:  C

Overall

I don’t like these uniforms.

I know, that’s not exactly breaking news given my disdain for the two previous versions.  I’ll freely admit my grades are skewed by who I am:

  • I’m old enough to be the father of a Husker player, so I’m not in the target demographic for these uniforms.
  • I’m unabashedly traditionalist.  I’ve gone my whole life knowing what Nebraska will look like when they come out of the tunnel.  Red jerseys, white pants, the iconic white helmet with the simple red “N”.  The details of that look have changed over the years, but the core stays the same.  I like that.

But as we enter the third year of alternate uniforms (with my third straight bad grade), I’m beginning to think the biggest issue is my expectations.  I want Nebraska to have something cool.  Something unique yet classic.  Something the five star recruits want to wear, but the farmers at the coffee shop will like.  Admittedly, that is a tall order.  Yet every year, I keep expecting the design team at adidas to deliver it.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they can.*

*Nor am I sure that Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, or any other apparel provider could deliver something I’d love, but I wouldn’t mind seeing their concepts…

I think for 2015, I will need to greatly lower my expectations.  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.

Grade:  C-

Is There A Hidden Message in Nebraska’s New Helmet?

Nebraska and adidas released the alternate uniform the Huskers will wear against Illinois in 2014.  While I have some strong opinions on the overall uniform, let’s focus on the helmet.  I’m calling it the Anarchy Helmet.

The Husker’s new “Anarchy Helmet”

 

Why?  Looking at the initial pictures, the unique color scheme (red and black, separated by a diagonal line) looked familiar to me.  I felt like I had seen it somewhere before.  On a flag, maybe?  A quick Google search revealed that the red and black flag is a symbol for anarchy*

*More specifically, anarcho-syndicalism which Wikipedia describes as “a theory of anarchism which views revolutionary industrial unionism or syndicalism as a method for workers in capitalist society to gain control of an economy and, with that control, influence broader society.”  

A red and black flag used as anarchy symbol. T...

A red and black flag used as anarchy symbol. The flag is associated with a branch of Anarchism closely associated with labor organizations. The red portion of the flag represents labor; the black, anarchism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hmm…anybody see a correlation between that definition and the plight of college athletes in 2014?  How about if we follow that up with another quote from that Wikipedia article:

“The end goal of anarcho-syndicalism is to abolish the wage system, regarding it as wage slavery. Anarcho-syndicalist theory therefore generally focuses on the labour movement.”

Are the Nebraska Cornhuskers agents of anarchy?  Are Kenny Bell, Ameer Abdullah, and others seeking to overthrow a system that makes millions of dollars off of their efforts, but leaves them hungry at night?

Now, I’m guessing the designers at adidas did not intentionally set out to offer a symbolic commentary on NCAA reform, paying student-athletes, or the efforts at Northwestern to unionize college athletes.  And I’ll guarantee Nebraska A.D. Shawn Eichorst, Coach Bo Pelini, or anybody else connected to the University of Nebraska did not endorse any message about anarchism.  Feel free to chalk it up to a random coincidence pointed out by a fan blogger reading way too much into a football helmet design.

Of course, there is one other nugget from the Nebraska/adidas release.  All of the tweets, releases, and social media offerings from Nebraska and adidas have used the hashtag #RedRising.  Using the color symbolism from the flag above, that hashtag says labor is rising.  That sounds like a very apt metaphor for the position of the NCAA student athlete in 2014.

Industrial unionism aside, the Anarchy Helmet is pretty sweet.  I like the matte red with the traditional sans-serif “N” in black.  The black wedge on the bottom makes an interesting visual offset.  It is easily the best component of the 2014 Nebraska alternates, and the best alternate helmet the Huskers have worn to date – even if there is an undertone of anarchy.

 

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 9 – 1 (Z)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

This is it.  The final ten*.  The single digit club is made up of quarterbacks (including a Heisman Trophy winner), cornerbacks, I-Backs, and a miscellaneous blend of wingbacks, receivers, and kickers.

*Actually, there are only nine.  My research could not uncover any Nebraska football player who ever wore the number 0 or 00.  

And more than probably any other group in the countdown, 9 – 1 contains guys who despite solid (if not outstanding) careers, were never fully embraced by Husker fans, cautionary tales, and talk of a curse.

9

Best Player:  Steve Taylor, Quarterback, 1985 – 1988
Other notables:  Gary Russell
Personal Favorite:  Taylor

Comments:  Throughout the countdown, we’ve talked about players who were ahead of their time.  Guys who could be lifted out of their era and land successfully in today’s game.  Steve Taylor is one of those guys.

Taylor had good speed and elusive moves as a runner (over 2,000 career rush yards and a then single game record 157 yards against Utah State in 1987).  But Taylor does not always receive enough credit as a passer.  Certainly, many remember his impressive line against #3 UCLA (10-15, 217 yards, five touchdowns).  But having been away from an option offense for more than ten years, can we really appreciate what a five passing touchdown day would have looked like in Osborne’s ground offense?

In case you thought the UCLA game was a fluke, Taylor added a four TD performance against Mizzou in the same season, which helped him earn All America honors.  I’d love to see what somebody with Taylor’s skill set would look like in one of today’s spread offenses.

8

Best Player:  Tyrone Williams, Cornerback, 1993 – 1995
Other notables:  Ameer Abdullah, Tyrone Byrd
Personal Favorite:  Ameer Abdullah, I-Back, 2011 – 2014

Comments: Tyrone Williams was an excellent cover corner. Strong and fast, he matched up against some excellent receivers during his NU career and usually came out on top. He received honors after each of his three seasons at NU: Big 8 Defensive Newcomer in 1993 and All Big 8 in 1994 and 1995.  He may not be in the first tier of great Husker cornerbacks, but he’s definitely in the next group.

Ameer Abdullah is everything you could want in a college running back. Breakaway speed, raw power, good vision and agility, and a warrior-like toughness to play through injuries. When Abdullah arrived on campus he was not as highly regarded as fellow recruits Aaron Green and Braylon Heard. Yet, Abdullah is poised to finish his Husker career near the top of the all-time rushing chart. Off the field, Abdullah is a bright kid who understands the importance of education. His statement announcing his decision to come back for his senior season should be required reading for all student athletes.

7

Best Player:  Eric Crouch, Quarterback, 1998 – 2001
Other notables:  Scott Frost, Demorrio Williams
Personal Favorite:  Crouch

Comments:  Nebraska’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner is one of the most electrifying athletes to ever play at Nebraska. Sprinter fast, Crouch was a threat to score from anywhere on the field. He carried the 2001 team to the National Championship game (Seriously. Crouch almost has as many rushing yards at team leader Dahrran Diedrick and his two best receivers were Wilson Thomas and Tracey Wistrom. Not exactly Rozier and Fryar – or even Phillips and Muhammad).

One of the themes within this set of numbers is talented players who were never fully embraced by Husker fans. The number 7 has two primary examples in Crouch and Scott Frost. The primary reason, in my opinion, was a perceived lack of loyalty to the program. Frost famously chose Stanford and Bill Walsh over Nebraska out of high school, before coming home. Crouch had to be convinced to return to campus during a heated QB controversy with Bobby Newcombe. Personally, I think these reasons are stupid.  I’d wager at least a third of the guys in this countdown have been homesick, changed their mind, or reacted poorly to disappointing news. I care more about their on-field production (a National Championship for Frost and a Heisman for Crouch) than a harmless decisions made by a teenager.

6

Best Player:  Keith Jones, I-Back, 1984 – 1987
Other notables:  Sammy Sims
Personal Favorite:  
Darin Erstad, Punter, 1994

Comments:  The original “End Zone” Jones, Keith was a very successful back at Nebraska.  An injury to Doug DuBose made him a starter his junior season, and he never looked back, leading the Big 8 with 830 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to All Big 8 honors.  The speedy I-Back, another product of the Omaha Central pipeline, had a big encore as a senior.  He put up 1,232 yards and another 13 TDs, picking up all conference honors again.  Jones left NU third on the all-time rushing list.

I remember hearing that Darin Erstad was going to join the football team as a punter.  At the time, I thought it was odd that the best baseball player at Nebraska was going to be a punter and not a “skill” player, but Erstad proved quite skilled.  He averaged over 42 yards a kick, made some PATs, and a couple of field goals.  I wholeheartedly believe he does not receive nearly enough recognition for his role in the 1995 Orange Bowl.  But let’s be honest, he’s on this list for one reason:  Double Extra Point!

5

Best Player:  DeJuan Groce, Cornerback, 1999 – 2002
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  
Jammal Lord, Quarterback, 2000 – 2003

Comments:  DeJuan Groce was a good cornerback.  Not great – or at least not as great as some of the others on this list – but good enough to be a multi-year starter and second team All Big XII selection as a senior.  But make no mistake, DeJuan Groce is not on this list for his work in the secondary.  Groce is here because he is one of the best return men in school history, trailing only Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers in punt return yards and touchdowns.  In his senior year, Groce racked up a school record 732 yards on punt returns and scored four touchdowns, including two against Troy State.  For his efforts as a return man, Groce was named All Big XII and All America as a return specialist.

I liked Jammal Lord.  I thought he was a talented athlete who made a pretty decent quarterback.  Unfortunately, he is another player whose career is not fully appreciated by Husker fans.  Why?  Lord had two big strikes against him:  1) he followed a Heisman Trophy winner, and 2) he was the quarterback of the 2002 team that broke the 9-win streak.  Like many Husker QBs in the Osborne/Solich era, Lord was definitely more of a runner (1,412 yards rushing in 2002) than a passer (48% career passer, more interceptions than touchdowns).  Lord racked up big numbers (234 rushing yards against Texas), but did not always make the play in crunch time (he threw an interception that ended that Texas game).  Regardless, I believe that had he been surrounded with better talent, Lord would be remembered more fondly.

4

Best Player:  Lavonte David, Linebacker, 2010 – 2011
Other notables:  Larry Asante, Troy Dumas, Tim Jackson
Personal Favorite:  
David

Comments:  One of the best linebackers in school history, Lavonte David is on the short list with Mike Rozier for the best Junior College transfer in school history.  David appeared to be as fast going sideline to sideline as he was going straight ahead.  Combine that with his ability to detect plays before anybody else, and it is no wonder he racked up so many tackles in his two year career.  As a junior, he set a single season record with 152 tackles.  He followed that with 133 more as a senior.  To put that in perspective, Lavonte David played in 27 games as a Blackshirt.  In 14 of those games, he recorded ten or more tackles.

David racked up the honors in his two years.  Big XII Defensive Player of the Year, Big XII Defensive Newcomer of the Year, All Big XII, All Big 10, Big 10 Linebacker of the Year, All-American, and finalist for the Butkus, Lott, and Bednarik  Trophies.

In my years of watching Nebraska football, I’ve seen some outstanding linebackers.  Barrett Ruud.  Ed Stewart.  Demorrio Williams.  Trev Alberts.  Terrell Farley.  But I’m not sure if any of them were better than David.  He always seemed to either make the tackle, or be within 5 yards of the ball carrier.  And he had a knack for making a big play when Nebraska needed it the most – especially his stop, strip, and recovery of Braxton Miller in the 2011 Ohio State game.

3

Best Player:  Keyuo Craver, Cornerback, 1998 – 2001
Other notables:  Matt Davison, Tyrone Legette, Taylor Martinez, Daimion Stafford, Dean Sukup
Personal Favorite:  
Taylor Martinez, Quarterback, 2009 – 2013

Comments:  Keyuo Craver was another terrific cornerback from an era of great secondary players.  Craver wasn’t especially big (he was listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds), but he was fast, athletic, and always around the ball.  He ended his career second all time in pass breakups and first in career tackles among cornerbacks.  Craver was also a special teams standout, blocking four kicks and scoring two touchdowns.

As a senior, Craver was All Big XII, All-America, and was a semi-finalist for several national awards.

Ah Taylor Martinez. Has there been a more polarizing player in Nebraska history? The freshman phenom who burst onto the scene with long touchdown runs was a sight to behold. Then injuries hit, and he was arguably never the same. His image probably took a bigger beating than his body, as he took heat for calling his dad from the locker room during a game, being careless with the football, body language that made him appear aloof, and his interesting relationship with the local media. And yet, he holds darn near every record that a NU quarterback can hold – including some involving turnovers.  He was a player who could make you say “Oh my God!” for both good and bad reasons.

There will probably never be another T-Magic.  While I’m guessing that’s okay for many fans, I think it is a little sad too.

2

Best Player:  Jeff Krejci, Safety, 1978 – 1981
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  
T.J. Hollowell, Linebacker, 2001 – 2003

Comments:  Jeff Krejci is poster child for the Nebraska walk-on program.  A Nebraska kid from a small town (Schuyler), he walked on to Nebraska in 1978, and was buried on the depth chart.  Through hard work and perseverance, he worked his way up and saw enough playing time to earn a couple of varsity letters.  As a senior, he became a full time starter at safety and was good enough to be named All Big 8, and earn a shot at the NFL.  A Nebraska football history site named Krejci to its All Time Walk-On Team.

I’ll admit that Hollowell is a bit of stretch as a personal favorite.  That is no disrespect to T.J., who was a part of one of Nebraska’s greatest linebacking trios (Hollowell, Barrett Ruud, and Demorrio Williams).  But when I think of Hollowell, I remember him more as a #17 (his number for his first two years in Lincoln) than a #2, but my other options for the duece were limited.  Regardless, T.J. was a good player whose career I enjoyed watching.

Number 2 is littered with guys who came in with hype but never made a significant impact:  Major Culbert, Mike Demps, Aaron Green, Lazarri Middleton, Patrick Witt, just to name a few.

1

Best Player:  Lawrence Phillips, I-Back, 1993 – 1995
Other notables:  Dale Klein
Personal Favorite:  
Phillips

Comments:  Lawrence Phillips stands alone in Husker history.  Many have said he is the best I-Back to ever play at Nebraska – even ahead of Heisman winner Mike Rozier.  But he also stands alone as the person who did the most damage to Nebraska’s reputation.  Let’s start by focusing on his on-field accomplishments.

Phillips had a strong freshman year, contributing in a number of games.  But 1994, his sophomore season, was something special.  With Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer out with injuries, everybody knew L.P. was Nebraska’s biggest threat.  Playing at #16 Kansas State, with walk-on Matt Turman at QB, Phillips had 31 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown – all while nursing a thumb injury.  In 1994, he racked up 11 straight 100 yard games, was All Big 8, and finished 8th in the Heisman voting.  His 1995 season got off to an even better start:  359 yards on 34 carries (10.5 yard average) with seven touchdowns in two games.

But when you talk about Lawrence Phillips, you have to talk about his off the field issues. The arrest. The suspension. The impact his reinstatement had on Osborne and the rest of the program. His additional legal issues in the NFL and beyond.  Bernie Goldberg digging for dirt and painting Nebraska as a “win at all costs” school.  We can debate if Nebraska has ever gotten past the damage Phillips did to the program’s reputation.  I think they have, only because the losing in the Solich and Callahan years became a bigger story.  But you know that should a Husker ever be arrested for violence against a woman, the name Lawrence Phillips will be brought up.

I have watched every Nebraska I-Back since the early 80s, and there have been some greats: Rozier, Ahman, Helu, Abdullah, Keith and Calvin Jones, and so many more. And yet, I truly believe the greatest back I have ever watched – regardless of team – is Lawrence Phillips. I also have no doubt that had the night of September 9, 1995 gone differently, L.P. would have won the Heisman Trophy over Tommie Frazier and Eddie George.

Also, no discussion of the #1 jersey at Nebraska would be complete without mentioning this brilliant (and extremely well-researched) piece where Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald explores the curse of the #1 jersey.

Previous:  19 – 10

Start Over:  99 – 90

 

 *   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 19 – 10 (T)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

As we near the home stretch, we get into the teens.  Lots of defensive backs, I-Backs, and as one might expect, lots and lots of quarterbacks, including one of the most famous players in school history.  A guy so popular and beloved, fans still wear his #15 jersey years after he graduated:  Beau Davis.

19

Best Player:  Kyle Larson, Punter, 2000 – 2003
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  John Klem, Split End, 1999 – 2002

Comments:  The pride of tiny Funk, Nebraska, Larson was one of the greatest punters in school history.  A three year starter, Larson averaged over 43 yards per punt, which put him second all time at Nebraska, with 30% of his kicks going over 50 yards.

As a senior, Larson set the school record for yards per punt (45.12), was a consensus All Big XII pick, an All-American, and one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s best punter.

When you see that John Klem was a “split end”, you would likely assume that he was a receiver.  Maybe he was a “possession” guy or a maybe a deep threat, but certainly a guy who would catch his fair share of passes.  John Klem played in, by my rough count, 32 games at Nebraska over his four seasons.  He caught one pass.  For nine yards.  In the fourth quarter of a non-conference game with Nebraska up by 45.

Frankly, this is what makes me love John Klem.

Klem was a blocker.  Period.  With apologies to recent standouts like Quincy Enunwa, Niles Paul, and Kenny Bell, Klem is one of the best blocking receivers to ever play at Nebraska.  Part of the reason is there was little deception in his game.  My buddy Husker Luke figured it out early on:  when Klem is on the field, it is going to be a run.  Even if it’s 3rd and 9, if Klem was out there, it was likely going to be a run.

How effective of a blocker was John Klem?  Consider this from his junior season (2001):  He played major minutes in Nebraska’s first 11 games, and NU was undefeated.  After a torn ACL against K State knocked him out for the remainder of the season, Nebraska lost their final two games by a combined 99-50.  I’m not saying the 2001 team wins a national championship with a healthy John Klem, but it would have helped.

18

Best Player:  Jon Bostick, Split End, 1989 – 1991
Other notables:  Jim Anderson, Quincy Enunwa
Personal Favorite:  Brook Berringer, Quarterback, 1992 – 1995

Comments: Jon Bostick was one of the finest split ends Nebraska had in the ten years before the champion era began.  He earned All Big 8 honors as a senior, working opposite of talented tight end Johnny Mitchell, but Bostick was more than just some guy who benefited from relaxed coverages.

I love the story on this Huskers.com page that talks about how Bostick had to be pulled out of a redshirt four games into the 1989 season.  In his first game (against Oregon State), his first catch goes for a 60 yard TD.  Bostick followed that up with 176 yard and four TDs in his next two games.

I will always have a great fondness and appreciation for Brook Berringer’s career. He was easily the finest passing quarterback at Nebraska in the twenty-five years between Dave Humm and Zac Taylor, but he was also deceptively good running the option. Sure, I always thought Brook looked a little stiff on his options, but compared with Tommie Frazier, anybody is going to look less than fluid.

I sometimes wonder if Brook gets enough credit for the role he played on the 1994 championship team – not only running the team while Frazier battled blood clots, but also for keeping Nebraska within striking distance in the Orange Bowl so Frazier and Cory Schlesinger could do their thing.

I was a student at UNL when Berringer died, just a few weeks before the NFL draft, and his passing really shook me. It was sobering to realize that a guy who seemingly had everything (talent, brains, looks, a desire to give back) could be taken far too soon. I commend the University for that they’ve done to honor Brook’s memory and his legacy.

 

17

Best Player:  Reggie Cooper, Safety, 1987 – 1990
Other notables:  Ciante Evans, Dan Hadenfeldt
Personal Favorite:  Todd Peterson, Wide Receiver, 2004 – 2008

Comments:  Reggie Cooper may have been a player ahead of his time. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, he was a man among boys in the defensive backfield. Cooper used that size and speed to earn four letters, All Big 8 honors twice, honorable mention All-America twice, and finish as the leading tackler among defensive backs. The game may have changed since Cooper’s day, but there will always be room for a guy like him.

Todd Peterson also had prototypical size at his position. As a 6’4″, 215 pound wide receiver, he gave his quarterbacks a big target and sure hands. And while Peterson had an excellent career (top five in school history in receptions and receiving yards), he’s a personal favorite for how he did it.

Peterson walked on to Nebraska in 2004, the same year that new coach Bill Callahan infamously took an axe to the storied walk-on program – choosing to pursue highly touted recruits over in-state guys from Class C-1 schools.

But Peterson’s talent was too much to deny. He made it on the field as a redshirt freshman, and was starting by the end of the season. From there, he became a reliable presence and kept several three and four star recruits on the bench. Additionally, Peterson was equally strong in the classroom, and was a leader in community involvement.

16

Best Player:  Maurice Purify, Wide Receiver, 2006 – 2007
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite: 
Mike Stuntz, Quarterback/Wingback/Safety, 2001 – 2005

Comments:  Sixteen is the final number in the countdown to have never produced a first team all conference selection, although it certainly seemed like Maurice Purify would be the one to break that barrier (he was second team All Big 12 as a junior in 1996).

Purify was big, fast, and strong. Arguably, he was one of the most physically gifted receivers Nebraska has ever had. Purify excelled in deep routes, short routes, and his specialty: the jump ball. His 9 yard catch of a Zac Taylor lob at Texas A&M capped a huge comeback and helped the Huskers win the Big XII North division crown in 2006.

I’ve always been fascinated by the guys who participate in the biggest of plays on the biggest of stages. Is it foundation for a strong career, or is it a pinnacle that is never approached again? Mike Stuntz is a good example of the latter.

Recruited as a quarterback, he made it on the field as a true freshman in 2001. As a wingback, he threw one of the most famous passes in school history: Black 41 Flash Reverse to Heisman Trophy winner Erich Crouch. In 2002, he moved back to quarterback, he was 10-25 passing for 100 yards.

From there, Stuntz bounced over to defense seeing mop-up and special teams duty. Aside from Black 41 Flash Reverse, his biggest claim to fame was dating the “hot tutor” from the Tommy Lee Goes to College “reality” show.

15

Best Player:  Tommie Frazier, Quarterback, 1992 – 1995
Other notables:  Bob Churchich, Alfonzo Dennard, Vince Ferragamo
Personal Favorite: 
Frazier

Comments:  If I were to call Tommie Frazier the greatest Husker player in the last 50 years would you disagree?  What about the greatest of all time?  Still no?  Certainly you could make a case for a handful of other guys (the three Heisman winners, Suh, Bobby Reynolds, or Train Wreck Novak), right?  Or you could try to break down Tommie by citing his stats – especially his career completion percentage of 49.5%.  But Touchdown Tommie Fraz-ah would still win.

Because that’s what Tommie Frazier did.

He won.

A Big 8 best 33-3 as a starter – a mark that would have been even higher if he didn’t miss seven games due to blood clots – you knew that when #15 went under center, or more appropriately, started running the triple option, that Nebraska was going to win.  Oh those option plays.  For my money, Tommie’s position coach Turner Gill is the only one who came close to matching Frazier’s mastery of Osborne’s signature play.  Frazier had a true gift for knowing when to pitch or when to keep as he glided down the field.

As good as Frazier was in regular games, he was even better in bowl games.  True, his bowl record sits at 2-2, but consider that his first bowl loss (in the 1993 Orange Bowl) was as a true freshman.  The blame for the second bowl loss could be placed on a number of people (i.e. some dubious missed calls, two defensive penalties that allowed FSU to score with 1:16 left, or the right leg of Byron Bennett), but there is no way Frazier could be blamed for giving his team every chance to win a National Championship.

From there, Frazier’s big game dominance took off.  It took most of the first quarter of the 1994 Orange Bowl to shake off, but Frazier all but willed Nebraska to Tom Osborne’s first National Championship.  In 1995, he was even better.  Frazier used and abused Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, racking up 199 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including one play known simply as The Run.

The only regret I have about Tommie Frazier’s career is that he played in an era where Heisman voters viewed the award not as it should be (college football’s most outstanding player), but as “who will have the best NFL career”?  This led to one of the greatest injustices of the 20th Century as Eddie George stole Tommie Frazier’s Heisman.

14

Best Player:  Jerry Tagge, Quarterback, 1969 – 1971
Other notables: Dennis Claridge, Gerry Gdowski, Barron Miles,
Personal Favorite: 
Barron Miles, Cornerback, 1992 – 1994

Comments:  Before there was Tommie, there was Jerry.  Jerry Tagge was the quarterback on the first two National Championship teams in school history (1970 and 1971).  Like Frazier, all Tagge did was win, compiling a stellar record as a starting quarterback, and playing his best games on the biggest stages.  In the 1971 Orange Bowl against LSU, Tagge was an impressive 12 of 15 passing against one of the nation’s best defenses.  It was his QB sneak from the one yard line that clinched the championship.

Tagge earned All Big 8 and All-America honors after the 1971 season, and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.  Although his accomplishments may have been overshadowed by those of Frazier and other famous Husker QBs, Tagge should be remembered for setting the standard of excellence.

Pure and simple, Barron Miles was a play maker.  An excellent cornerback, Miles had a knack for the ball and always seemed in position to make a big play.  Over his career, he had seven blocked kicks, 19 pass break ups (including six in one game) and numerous “wow” moments.  My favorite Baron Miles moment was in 1993 at Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys were punting from their own end zone when Miles came streaking in for the block.  He ended up catching the ball just off the foot of the punter and rolling onto the turf with a momentum shifting touchdown.

13

Best Player:  Carlos Polk, Linebacker, 1997 – 2000
Other notables:  Zac Taylor
Personal Favorite: 
Polk

Comments:  From the mid 80s through the mid 90s, the best Blackshirts were usually lined up at outside linebacker/rush end. The four-year career of Carlos Polk marked a shift, as the best Blackshirt was usually the guy anchoring the middle linebacker position. I’m talking about guys like Polk, Barrett Ruud, Lavonte David, and to a lesser extent Phillip Dillard, Steve Octavien, and even another #13 from a defensively challenged era: Corey McKeon.

But let’s focus on Polk, a bruiser with deceptive speed and a strong nose for the football. A four-year contributor, he was a two time All Big XII performer, and an anchor on one of the finest defenses in school history (1999). He was named first team All-America in his senior season.

12

Best Player:  Turner Gill, Quarterback, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Dave Humm, Jarvis Redwine
Personal Favorite: 
Gill

Comments:  Keep in mind, we’re only here to talk about Gill’s playing career, which is kind of too bad considering Gill coached three of the finest quarterbacks in school history (Frazier, Scott Frost, and Eric Crouch) while being a valued lieutenant to both Osborne and Frank Solich, before taking Buffalo from laughingstock to conference champion. Of course, Gill is not short of accomplishments as a player.

Let’s start with the biggest one: he had the keys to one of the greatest offenses in NCAA history and operated it with the skill and precision of a race car driver. Take a moment to truly appreciate this: The 1983 Huskers, quarterbacked by Turner Gill, averaged 52 points and almost 550 yards of offense per game. Gill became the first Husker quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. His greatness stretched back to his first start when he set a (then) school record with four touchdown passes in a game against Colorado.

Gill was named All Big 8 three times, finished fourth in the 1983 Heisman Trophy vote.

11

Best Player:  Matt Herian, Tight End, 2002 – 2006
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite: 
Matt Turman, Quarterback, 1993 – 1996

Comments:  Matt Herian was another player ahead of his time. The guy with the tight end size and wide receiver hands and speed, today’s NFL is full of guys who have the same skill set as Herian.

He exploded onto the scene as a freshman, catching seven passes for 301 yards (an absolutely ridiculous 43 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Yes, you read the correctly: 57% of his freshman year receptions went for touchdowns.

Unfortunately, Herian is also a starter on all-time “What Could Have Been” team. During his junior season in 2004, the first in Bill Callahan’s West Coast Offense, Herian was a putting together another excellent season when he suffered a nasty leg injury against Mizzou. Herian sat out the entire 2005 season, and came back for the 2006 campaign, but he just wasn’t the same player. I believe the sky would have been the limit for a healthy Herian.

To fully appreciate Matt Turman, we must put ourselves in his shoes the morning of October 15, 1994.  The greatest player in school history (Frazier) is out.  His backup, a legitimate NFL prospect (Berringer) is out too.  That leaves you, a 185 pound walk on from a Class C school to try to guide your 6-0,#2 ranked team to victory at #16 Kansas State, a team that had a very stout defense.  Granted, his moment of greatness consisted mostly of handing the ball to Lawrence Phillips and getting out the way, but still, Matt Turman – a.k.a. The Turmanator – may be the least likely guy to ever lead a championship-level team to victory.

10

Best Player:  Bret Clark, Safety, 1981 – 1984
Other notables:  Charles Fryar, Keithen McCant, Mike Minter
Personal Favorite: 
Roy Helu, Jr., I-Back, 2007 – 2010

Comments:  Bret Clark was an excellent safety for Tom Osborne’s early 80s teams.  Clark had a great talent for breaking up passes, tying the school record for pass break ups (8) in his sophomore and senior seasons.  He finished his NU career holding the school record for PBU.  During his senior season, Clark led the team in pass break ups, interceptions, and fumbles recovered.  A two-time All Big 8 player, Clark also earned All-America honors as a senior.

Roy Helu, Jr. is one of my favorite I-Backs from the last 20 years.  He combined speed, power, vision, and a love for hurdling over defenders to become one of the most vaunted rushers in school history.  Two memories of Helu stand out:  2009 at Kansas, Nebraska is in a dogfight until the Huskers decide to put the game on Helu’s shoulders.  Despite several nagging injuries, Helu picked up 85 yards and two critical touchdowns on Nebraska’s final two drives.

And then there is his masterpiece:  2010 versus Missouri.  On NU’s first play, Helu went 66 yards for a touchdown.  Later in one of the most complete quarters of football Nebraska has ever played, Helu went for a career long 73 yard TD run.  When it was all said and done, Helu had 307 rushing yards (and 317 all-purpose) breaking Calvin Jones’s twenty year old record of 294.  It was one of the most dominating performances I’ve had the pleasure to watch at Memorial Stadium.

Previous:  29 – 20

Next:  9 – 1

 

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 29 – 20 (H)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

Numbers 29 through 20 are all about speed.  Cornerbacks, I-Backs, safeties, rovers, wingbacks, heck – even some of the fullbacks had speed to burn.  Plus, one of my all-time favorite Huskers shows up in the twenties…

29

Best Player:  Jim Pillen, Defensive Back, 1976 – 1978
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  Pillen

Comments:  Is this number jinxed?  There are notorious names (Scott Baldwin, Kellen Huston), disappointing transfers (Jordan Congdon, Collins Okafor), and a bunch of guys you’ve probably never heard of (Seth Rexilius, Pat Friesen, Mic Boettner).  Only one person has ever earned all conference honors while wearing #29.  That man is Jim Pillen.  Pillen was a two time All Big 8 selection, earned Academic All-American honors, and was inducted to the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

But most folks (myself included) remember Pillen for his moment in Husker lore:  1978 versus Oklahoma.  Nebraska is clinging to a late lead when Billy Sims fumbles.  Pillen recovers the fumble and Tom Osborne earns a signature win.

28

Best Player:  Jeff Smith, I-Back, 1981 – 1984
Other notables:  Eric Hagg, Dave Gillespie, Jamel Williams
Personal Favorite:  Jamel Williams, Linebacker, 1994 – 1996

Comments: How good of an I-Back was Jeff Smith?  Did we ever really know?  Sure, we saw the flashes – 473 yards in the first ten quarters of his senior year, an excellent punt returner, and of course, his off-the-bench heroics in the 1984 Orange Bowl – including the 24 yard TD (on fourth and 1) that set up Tom Osborne’s legacy-defining decision.

But we never got to see the full promise of Smith’s potential as he spent his first two varsity seasons backing up a couple of guys named Craig and Rozier.  And after racking up those 473 yards in the first ten quarters of 1984, he had an ankle injury that limited to just 462 the rest of the way.  Even so, Smith left Nebraska as the 10th leading rusher in school history.  Who knows what might have happened in a different time and place?

When I think of Jamel Williams, I think of how he was part of the new breed of Husker linebackers as Osborne and Charlie McBride abandoned the 5-3 defense.  Instead of the lumbering LB with the oversized shoulder pads and neck roll, Williams was sleek, fast, and explosive.  I’ll always remember his sack and safety of Danny Wuerffel in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.  Everybody in the stadium knew Williams was coming, but nobody could do anything about it.

27

Best Player:  Irving Fryar, Wingback, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Joe Blahak
Personal Favorite:  Abdul Muhammad, Wingback, 1991 – 1994

Comments:  Irving Fryar, by some accounts, may have been the most talented of the Scoring Explosion “triplets”, and yet I think he is the least heralded.  While understandable (Rozier won the Heisman and Turner Gill was the QB as well as a long time assistant coach), I think that is a shame.  Consider:  On the magical 1983 squad, Fryar touched the ball 83 times (catches, runs, and kick returns).  He averaged a staggering 14.6 yards per touch, and his yards per reception was 19.5.

Fryar easily earned All Big 8 and All-America honors – (side note:  do you understand how rare it is – and how good you need to be – to earn consensus All-America honors on a team that leads the nation in rushing?  Think about it, if your offense is rolling up 400 yards rushing every game, how many opportunities will you get to catch passes?  That’s probably why Fryar was only the second player to ever do it, with another Husker legend – Freeman White – being the first).  Fryar went on to become Nebraska’s first #1 pick in the NFL draft.

When you looked at Abdul Muhammad, you saw a small guy:  5’9″ and 160 pounds soaking wet.  But his diminutive size didn’t keep him from being a top receiver for Tommie Frazier, a strong blocker, and tough dude.  It must have been the bullet that was rather famously logged in his backside…

26

Best Player:  Wonder Monds, Defensive Back, 1973 – 1975
Other notables:  Josh Brown, Clinton Childs, Tom Rathman, Marvin Sanders
Personal Favorite:  
Tom Rathman, Fullback, 1982 – 1985

Comments:  Wonderful Terrific Monds, Jr. (yep, that is his real name) is more than just a hall of fame unique name or an Afro that would make Kenny Bell jealous.  Monds was a standout defensive back on some very talented teams.  He was sprinter fast, yet large enough to pack a punch.  He earned All-America honors as a senior and went on to play in the NFL.

One of my most vivid Husker memories from my childhood is right as I turned on the game, Tom Rathman was sprinting down the field en route to a 60 yard touchdown against Florida State.  That probably helped to foster my love of Nebraska-born fullbacks.  Rathman is arguably the greatest fullback Nebraska ever had, owning the position records for yards and tying the mark for touchdowns.  An amazing stat that will probably never be duplicated:  in his senior year (1985) a fullback was the fifth leading rusher in the Big 8.

25

Best Player:  Joe Walker, Rover, 1997 – 2000
Other notables:  Kyler Reed, Jon Vedral
Personal Favorite:  
Walker

Comments:  Technically, Joe Walker makes this list as a Rover, but he could just as well be listed solely for his work as a kick returner.  Walker owns, or is near the top of, almost all of the kickoff and punt return records in school history.  His return prowess wasn’t limited to kicks – he also tied the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns in a career.  The combo makes him one of a handful of players in NCAA history to return a punt, kickoff, and interception for a touchdown.

24

Best Player:  Bill Kosch, Safety, 1969 – 1971
Other notables:  Niles Paul
Personal Favorite:  
Brandon Rigoni, Safety, 2003 – 2006

Comments:  Bill Kosch was a standout safety for Bob Devaney’s national championship teams in 1970 and 1971.  An All Big 8 selection in both 1970 and 1971, Kosch recorded several interceptions, including one that he returned 95 yards for a touchdown against Texas A&M.  Fun fact:  while there have been multiple father/son duos at Nebraska, only Bill Kosch and son Jesse have all five national championship rings from their playing careers.

If you’ve been following the countdown, you probably know by now that there are two roster positions that I have an affinity for:  fullback and kickoff wedge buster.  With apologies to Eric Martin, Brandon Rigoni is my favorite wedge buster of all time.  Why?  Because a 5’6″, 185 pound walk-on would probably be one of the last guys you would pick to lead your kickoff team down the field.  For three seasons, nothing made me happier than watching Rigoni take the form of human bowling ball and seeing him de-cleat some unsuspecting return man or blocker.

23

Best Player:  Mark Blazek, Safety, 1986 – 1988
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  
Lance Thorell, Defensive Back, 2007 – 2011

Comments:  This is another number with a single first team all conference pick, so the choices are a little slim.  I’m going with Mark Blazek as he was at least honorable mention All Big 8 in his junior and senior seasons.  Blazek had a knack for getting an interception in big games.  A bright student, Blazer earned Academic All-America honors as a senior.

Lance Thorell is a great success story from the walk-on program.  A kid from tiny class D-1 Loomis, he worked his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman, earning five starts.  And despite competing with scholarship guys from bigger schools with more recruiting stars, Thorell kept working his way onto the field, playing in every game in his final three seasons including multiple starts.  Off the field, Thorell was academic all conference and a four time member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team.

22

Best Player:  Ralph Brown, Cornerback, 1996 – 1999
Other notables:  Kenny Brown, Rex Burkhead, Doug DuBose
Personal Favorite:  
Jeff Makovicka, Fullback, 1993 – 1995

Comments:  How good of a cornerback was Ralph Brown?  He was a starter in his very first game at Nebraska, for the two-time defending national champs and was named Big XII Defensive Freshman of the Year.  Over the course of his legendary Nebraska career, Brown rewrote the records for pass breakups, setting the marks for a game (7), season (15), and career (50).  As one of Nebraska’s greatest cornerbacks of all time, Brown was all conference three straight years and All-America as a senior.  After that first start, Brown started each of the other 51 games in his NU career, setting another record.

As for my personal favorite, this was both the hardest and easiest choice to make.  The first (and only) Nebraska jersey I ever owned was a mid-80’s Doug DuBose #22.  Rex Burkhead is one of my all time favorite Huskers – for his play on the field and especially for what he did for Jack Hoffman and his family.

But there is no doubt that I would go with Makovicka.  Why?  As a freshman at UNL in 1993, I was able to attend all of the home games for the first time, instead of the one or two a year my Dad and I went to.  The ’93 team was pretty darn good, so they had a number of blowout wins.  Once the rout was on, I loved being able to move down 20-30 rows, find an abandoned seat back and watch guys my age fulfill the dream of every Nebraska kid.

One of those players was Jeff Makovicka.  In 93, he was a fourth string I-Back and would get a handful of carries late in the game.  I loved the rhythmic way the stadium P.A. announcer say “Ball care-reed by Mack-oh-vick-ah”.  From there, I adopted Jeff as one of my original personal favorites – a fondness that only grew when he moved to fullback, and was followed by his little brother Joel.  It was a sad day for me when the last of Mackovickas chose to play baseball…at Creighton, but I’ll always remember their big brother picking up seven yards against North Texas.

21

Best Player:  Mike Brown, Rover, 1996 – 1999
Other notables:  Prince Amukamara, Derek Brown, Kaye Carstens, Roger Craig
Personal Favorite:  
Brown

Comments:  Considering that two numbers in the twenties had no all conference picks (23 and 25), #21 is stacked with contenders.  You could certainly make a case for Prince, Roger Craig, or a different Brown (Derek), but my choice is Mike Brown.

The position name “Rover” is such an apt description for how Mike Brown played football.  He roved sideline to sideline, from goal line to the opponent’s backfield making plays.  Brown ended his career second on the all-time tackle charts, which is no surprise considering that Mike Brown is the greatest open field tackler I have ever seen.   Period.  Brown was a multi-year starter and earned All Big XII and All-America honors in his senior season as he led arguably the greatest defense in school history.

20

Best Player:  Johnny Rodgers, Wingback, 1970 – 1972
Other notables:  Michael Booker, Josh Bullocks
Personal Favorite:  
Josh Bullocks, Cornerback, 2002 – 2004

Comments:  I truly believe that all Nebraska schoolchildren, when they go through their Nebraska history and social studies coursework in the fourth grade should be required to memorize Lyle Bremser’s legendary call of Johnny “the Jet” Rodgers tearing ’em loose from their shoes.

As they learn the proper Bremser cadence, they should also learn about the legendary Jet himself:  All conference three times.  All-America twice.  Two time national champion.  One time owner of 41 school records.  Heisman Trophy.  And one of the few players to defeat the Heisman bowl game curse, as he scored five touchdowns (three rushes, a reception, and a 52 yard pass) in a romp over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

I will never forget the season the Josh Bullocks put together in 2003.  He set the tone with two interceptions against Okie State and followed it up with eight more over the course of the season, setting a school record of 10 INTs – a total that would have made him the 8th best team in the Big XII.

Previous:  39 – 30

Next:  19 – 10

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 39 – 30 (E)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

I love the disparity of numbers 39 – 30.  At one end (39) is a fairly bleak field of candidates, while on the other end (30) you have two of the greatest I-Backs in school history.  And with another mixed back of I-Backs, fullbacks, linebackers, corners, safeties, kickers, wingbacks, and others, it makes the picking rather difficult.

39

Best Player:  Andra Franklin, Fullback, 1978 – 1980
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  Jeff Souder, Safety, 2005

Comments:  A starter in three different seasons, Andra Franklin was a mainstay at fullback in the late 70s.  A gifted runner, Franklin averaged over 5 yards a carry during his Nebraska career, while also proving himself as an excellent blocker.  Franklin earned All Big 8 honors in 1980.

Jeff Souder only played one season at Nebraska, and did not do much more than cover kickoffs.  But, oh, were those fun to watch.  Souder was generously listed at 200 pounds, but that was 200 pounds of excitement, energy, and desire to go blow somebody up.  I remember before kickoffs how he would jump around and excite the crowd like it was 4th and Goal with a national championship on the line.  Even though his career didn’t go as planned, that excitement was real.

38

Best Player:  Barrett Ruud, Linebacker, 2002 – 2004
Other notables:  Dan Alexander, Steve Forch, Bruce Pickens
Personal Favorite:  Dan Alexander, I-Back, 1996 – 2000

Comments: RUUUUUUUD!!!!  Nebraska’s all time leader in tackles, second to Grant Wistrom is tackles for loss, and is on the short list of greatest linebackers in school history.  A three year starter, Ruud was a force all over the field.  He had a nose for the football on running plays, but also excelled in pass coverage, recording 12 break ups and two interceptions in his career.  While he strangely only earned first team All Big XII honors once, he was a three time academic All Big XII performer.

When I think of Dan Alexander, I think of two things:  First, was amazing potential – the gifted athlete, seemingly chiseled from marble who captivated a fan base with his spring game performances – before knee injuries derailed him.  And secondly, there is his run.  1999, at Colorado.  Eighty yards right up the middle.  And the cherry on top:  he pulled away from Ben Kelly, a Colorado cornerback with exceptional speed.

37

Best Player:  Ken Geddes, Linebacker / Middle Guard, 1967 – 1969
Other notables:  Sam Koch, Jake Wesch
Personal Favorite:  Tony Ortiz, Linebacker, 1996 – 1999

Comments:  Bob Devaney once described Ken Geddes as best all-around athlete he ever coached.  And while that is pretty high praise considering the talent Devaney had around him, consider this:  In 1968, Geddes was All Big 8 as a linebacker.  The next season, Devaney and coach Monte Kiffin moved Geddes to middle guard.  In 1969, Geddes earned All Big 8 honors again.

Tony Ortiz was a smooth and fast linebacker who helped anchor one of Nebraska’s greatest defenses – the 1999 unit.  He was one of those players that was always good for a “wow – did you see that?” moment in every game.  Sometimes it was using his speed to make a play, and sometimes it was him laying a big hit, but he was fun to watch.

36

Best Player:  Larry Wachholtz, Safety, 1964 – 1966
Other notables:  Correll Buckhalter, Dana Stephenson
Personal Favorite:  
Matthew May, Linebacker, 2007 – 2011

Comments:  It really isn’t fair to Larry Wachholtz to simply list him as a “safety”.  Sure, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning All Big 8 honors twice, and All-America honors as a senior.  His seven interceptions as a senior was in the top ten nationally.  But that is not all he did:  he was an excellent punt return man, leading the Big 8 in return yards twice, and missing out on the national lead by seven yards his junior season.  And if that was not enough, Wachholtz also kicked PATs and field goals.

What is not to like about Matthew May?  A Nebraska native, he walked on and contributed on special teams as a redshirt freshman.  When injuries depleted the linebacking corps, he stepped up and became a solid contributor.  Off the field he was academic all conference and was named to the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team for his efforts in the community.  Every Nebraska team should have a Matthew May.

35

Best Player:  Jeff Kinney, Halfback, 1969 – 1971
Other notables:  Rick Berns, Steve Damkroger, Curt Tomasevicz
Personal Favorite:  
Andy Janovich, Fullback, 2012 – Present

Comments:  I wasn’t alive for Kinney’s career, so most of what I know is Game of the Century highlights – Kinney running through the Sooner secondary with his tear-away jersey hanging on for dear life.  And while that game (171 yards and four touchdowns) is arguably the pinnacle of his career, it doesn’t begin to explain Kinney’s greatness.

Kinney burst onto the scene as a sophomore, leading the team in rushing, receiving, and scoring.  Kinney was All Big 8, All America, and academic All America in 1971.  Nebraska won two national titles with Kinney in the Husker backfield, and when he left, Kinney held the NU career records for rushing yards and touchdowns.

Andy Janovich is probably not going to have a career like Jeff Kinney, but that doesn’t matter to me.  What matters is there is a kid from my small town, Class B high school (Gretna) who plays for Nebraska.  And that is really the heart of why we Nebraskans love the walk-on program so much – it is our connection to the team; our local point of pride that we can celebrate.  In his young career, Janovich has given Gretna residents and alumni much to be proud of – starting as a walk-on true freshman, getting a carry (the first Dragon to touch the ball in a Nebraska uniform, I believe), and earning a scholarship before the 2013 season.

34

Best Player:  Trev Alberts, Linebacker, 1990 – 1993
Other notables:  Stewart Bradley, Dave Butterfield
Personal Favorite:  
Cody Glenn, Running Back / Linebacker, 2005 – 2008

Comments:  Before we talk about Trev, let’s start by clearing our minds.  Get rid of your opinion of him as UNO’s athletic director.  Forget about his time on ESPN where he often went out of his way not to be a NU homer.  Disregard Mel Kiper, Jr’s hissy fit over the Colts selecting Alberts in the 1994 draft.  Heck, forget the rumors that Erin Andrews is nothing more than Trev in drag.  None of those things have any impact over his playing career.

Trev Alberts was an excellent, excellent player.  His 1993 season (Butkus Award, All-America, Big Eight Player of the Year, school record 15 sacks, and so much more) still stands as one of the greatest campaigns by a Blackshirt.  I’ll never forget how strong he was.  Several times, he appeared to be blocked, or the quarterback was about to escape, but Alberts would grab him with one arm and pull him down.  He may be polarizing after he left NU, but there is no doubt that he is one of the all time greats.

Cody Glenn is definitely a personal favorite of mine.  A bruising runner, he was an excellent short yardage/goal line guy.  An unselfish, team player, he moved to linebacker for his senior season for the betterment of the team (and to avoid a logjam at RB).  But that move was no joke, Glenn turned out to be a pretty decent linebacker before an undisclosed violation of rules cost him his final four games.

33

Best Player:  Dana Brinson, Wingback, 1985 – 1988
Other notables:  Barry Alvarez, Clester Johnson, Matt O’Hanlon
Personal Favorite:  
Barry Alvarez, Linebacker, 1965 – 1967

Comments:  Dana Brinson was a stand out wingback / kick returner for Husker squads in the mid 1980s.  When he graduated and went to the NFL, Brinson was in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return yardage.  He picked up first team All Big 8 honors as a senior in 1988.

I was not alive for Barry Alvarez’s playing career, and I was not a huge fan of his Wisconsin teams (I find it hard to support any team other than Nebraska), but I have the utmost respect for the program he built at Wisconsin, and especially for the way he did it:  using the Bob Devaney model to build a tough running game featuring a lot of home-grown talent; even down to modeling Wisconsin’s uniforms after Nebraska’s.  Alvarez’s efforts to get Nebraska into the Big Ten should also be recognized.

32

Best Player:  Ed Stewart, Linebacker, 1991 – 1994
Other notables:  Ken Clark, Adrian Fiala, I.M. Hipp, Brandon Jackson, Kent McCloughan
Personal Favorite:  
Stewart

Comments:  Ed Stewart was another stand-out linebacker on the early 1990’s teams, he blossomed as a senior into a leading force in Tom Osborne’s first national championship team.  An All American, Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year, and Butkus Award finalist, Stewart was a sideline to sideline playmaker, a sure tackler, and hard hitter.

Personally, I think Stewart was robbed and should have won the Butkus Award in 1994 (Dana Howard of Illinois?  C’mon.)  I think they didn’t want to give the aware to two Huskers in a row.

31

Best Player:  Joe Orduna, Halfback, 1967 – 1970
Other notables:  Harry Wilson
Personal Favorite:  
Jay Sims, I-Back, 1995 – 1997

Comments:  Joe Orduna was the leading halfback on Nebraska’s first national championship team.  In 1970, Orduna scored a team high 15 touchdowns and rushed for 897 yards.  Part of a 1-2 punch with Jeff Kinney, Orduna earned All Big 8 honors in 1970.

I love blowout wins.  Certainly, a big part of that is for the easy victory, the domination of a less opponent, the joy of seeing seven, eight, nine touchdowns being scored.  But I also love watching the career reserves, the guys who – let’s be honest – will likely never see the field get their moments of glory.  Jay Sims was a talented back, but he played on the same Husker teams as Lawrence Phillips, Ahman Green, Clinton Childs, and Damon Benning.  Suffice it to say, touches were going to be few and far between.  But how may fourth string I-Backs can say they scored an 80 yard touchdown against a Nick Saban defense (at Michigan State, 1995)?

30

Best Player:  Mike Rozier, I-Back, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Dahrran Diedrick, Ahman Green, Marv Mueller, Paul Rogers
Personal Favorite:  
Ahman Green, I-Back, 1995 – 1997

Comments: At a school known for producing excellent backs, Mike Rozier is easily the best of the best.  Let’s start with that amazing 1983 season:  2,148 yards, a 7.81 yards per carry average, and 29 touchdowns.  And here is my favorite:  in his final four Big 8 conference games, Rozier gained 929 yards.  That’s more than Joe Orduna’s team leading season total in a national championship season.  All Big 8 all three years, All-America twice, the 1983 Heisman trophy, and he has since been enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.  Rozier owns a plethora of single season and career records both at Nebraska, and in the former Big 8.

After Rozier’s stellar career, Nebraska took #30 out of circulation for 12 years.  Imagine the pressure of the being the first guy since Rozier to wear the vaunted 30?  Talk about big shoes to fill.  Well, Ahman Green damn near filled them.  Another back from the Omaha Central pipeline, Green burst onto the scene at a rather slow time in Husker football history:  an undefeated team trying to defend their national championship after their star I-Back and Heisman candidate Lawrence Phillips was suspended.  All Green did was become one of the greatest backs in school history.  An amazing runner who was blessed with strength and toughness to match his sprinter speed, Green likely would be Nebraska’s all time leading rusher had he returned for his senior season (he was only 900 yards behind Rozier).

Previous:  49 – 40

Next:  29 – 20

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(Author’s note:  So you may be asking yourself one of two questions, “what’s with the letter E in parentheses in the title?” or “What does a list of Husker greats have to do with the letter E?”  Allow me to explain…

For the month of April 2014, I’m participating in an A to Z blogging challenge, where I must publish 26 posts in the the month of April, each focusing on a different letter of the alphabet.  Today’s letter is E (hence the title), but I really didn’t have a good idea for E.  However, I’ve been wanting to finish up this series.  Conveniently, the next round up was 39-30 and a three is like a dyslexic “E”. Yes, that is a bit of a stretch, but if it worked for the CBS show “Numb3rs” it can work for me too. More from the A to Z series can be found here.)

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