The 2011 Huskers are not No. 1, but there are similarities between them and the 1994 national champions, who trailed Wyoming in their fourth game before rallying to win it and other tough games. This year’s players — like those who got Head Coach Tom Osborne his first national title — hope to win at Wyoming in their fourth game.
Bo Pelini has inspired fans, but what will it take for his players to achieve what took Osborne more than 20 years? Two answers are in a Nebraska football book from 1996: Focus, and try to show good leadership.
Keith A. Zimmer, in his book “Behind Every Champion: 1995 Cornhusker Football Seniors,” showed how these qualities were displayed by two quarterbacks and other players during two straight national championship years.
“Behind Every Champion” is an unpretentious, honest look at the seniors. While profiling each one, Zimmer quotes Tommy Frazier and Brook Berringer, who shared quarterback duties, about tensions between them, and also quotes players about off-the-field incidents that drew attention across the nation. These obstacles, in addition to injuries, did not keep the team from going unbeaten, thanks to virtues displayed by coaches and players.
Frazier hit the books while out with blood clots (“I threw myself into the books and really started to zero in on the goal of earning my degree,” he said). Berringer was positive even though Frazier was chosen to start after his recovery (“I accepted the decision and still tried to be a good leader even though I wasn’t starting,” said Berringer, who after his Nebraska football career died in a plane accident).
It’s interesting to read the life stories of all of these champions.
Here’s what Aaron Graham, a lineman then, wrote about Osborne in the dedication to Zimmer’s book: He “has been a father figure to each and every one of us. He has done so much for us that I can’t even begin to express his value and contributions.”
Osborne, in the book’s foreword, gave credit to the players of “the best team that I have coached … the great majority of this class … was not seen by most recruiting analysts as a particularly outstanding group … the most unusual thing about this group over the last two seasons was … the fact that they were able to overcome so much adversity.”
In profiling the players, who, as the book notes, often came from different backgrounds, Zimmer gives one chapter to each player along with an action photo, the player’s signature, and a head-shot drawing by Angie R. Johnson, who also provides the cover illustration. The book also has 15 color photos, game scores, and team statistics in nine categories.
When Zimmer, a Nebraska native, wrote this book from Dageford Publishing in Lincoln, he was associate director of academic programs and director of life skills for the Nebraska athletic department.