Anatomy of an Era: Final Chapter/MOTIVATIONS

Categories: Football No Place

Excerpted from Chapter 104, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 2 by Paul Koch



Anatomy of an Era: Final Chapter/MOTIVATIONS



Now that we’ve exhausted the most tangible, measurable items telling us how that era came to be, we now move from the physical to the abstract to find what motivated them, moved them, made them go to the lengths they did.

Some motivations involved singular, personal, even hidden resolve, while others were more epidemic and overt. With the solidarity that came along with the newer, homogeneous unification it was much easier to put all available motives toward good use for one and all.

Some involved words from a coach…

Charlie used to do (speeches) on Friday night, and they‘d be so jacked up they couldn’t’ sleep. So we changed that, started going to a format where Charlie would talk to the defensive players and the offensive coaches would speak to the offense. – Jack Stark

… (Coach McBride) could motivate a whole group of guys, and so much of football is getting all those guys out there to be all on the same page. Whether it’s all of them being real serious and hard-nosed and mean and biting nails and going 120 miles an hour, if you can get all of those guys to be like that, in that same mental state, then you knew you’ve greatly increased your chances of winning just like that. And he did that every Saturday… He would say stuff that made the hair on the back of your neck just stand up. You would feel it. You would just really feel it…     – Larry Townsend




…sometimes you build (a speech) around their obligation to their parents. And I always felt like they had a responsibility to each other, too. That was so much a part of what I said, ‘If you don’t do your job you’re letting the guy next to you down’, and so on and so forth. And fans can be rude, they can be ugly and a lot of things. They’ll say things. Even when we’re winning they say things… ‘But as long as you know the guys around you care about you, that’s all that counts. You play for the people that love you. The fans will say anything, but the people who love you will never let you down.’ …And you talk about loving each other, and I think that kind of gets ‘em a little bit… one time, I remember saying, “The TV’s and radio are beating us up,” and I remember saying, “Well, I tell you what, you have a ton of people who don’t even like you! Maybe that’s the way we ought to go play!’(laughs)It was, ‘Let’s prove to these people that we are real.’ There were some incentives along the way that worked in reverse. You know, you have negative things happen… and when you can make something positive out of it, you’ve got something pretty good… one time I tried to get the kids to dedicate the game to somebody they really cared about: a little brother, a sister, a neighbor, and then after the game call ‘em up and tell ‘em, stuff like that…   – Charlie McBride


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And all he would have to say was, “Remember Iowa State.” That’s all that needed to be said, and we never forgot that.  – Darren Schmadeke

…that particular year in ‘95, Coach Osborne was a little bit more frank with us and told us that we were the best team in the nation, that we were going to win this national championship as long as we did the things we were supposed to. And I can remember in years prior where I think he had that confidence, but he wasn’t as upfront as saying, “You guys are gonna win this championship.” I think what we accomplished in ‘94 really built our confidence, but hearing him be somewhat bold and say we were probably the best team in the nation and win the whole thing, it was like Coach Osborne ‘talking stuff,’ you know? (laughs) Coach Osborne ‘talking stuff,’ that really lit a fire underneath us.   – Tony Veland

Another motivation had to do with changing perceptions of said head coach…

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we were so close several times where we lost one ballgame throughout the year and it cost us the national title and you go for two and we don’t make it. And we’d just been so close, and it was very rewarding to be on Coach Osborne’s first National Championship team… the rest of us felt like we helped get the monkey off his back a little bit.

– Terry Connealy


Tom & Nancy Osborne
Tom & Nancy Osborne


…then I just remember the Oklahoma State game when Coach Osborne won his 200th or 250th win. I can’t remember which one, but we all wanted to win it for him. And it was a tough game. We almost lost that game. (laughs)…  – Mike Anderson

…my freshman class, we always said that we wanted to be the ones to give Tom his first title.    – John Reece

…you wanted to win it for the coaches, for the hard work they put in. Especially Coach Osborne, you wanted to win for him. You wanted to win for yourself, but you wanted to win it for him.   – Kenny Wilhite


Tony Veland flashes a #1
Tony Veland flashes a #1 (far right)


Sometimes motivations were conjured via multi-media…

…one of the audio-visual guys, they put together this video of the ‘94 season, highlights of offensive plays and defensive hits throughout the whole season, and they put it to Phil Collin’s ‘In the Air Tonight’.”I can feel it coming in the air tonight…” I don’t think any of the players will forget that, how motivating that was and fired up the players and coaches to get out there on the field and believe in ourselves to go and beat the Hurricanes. That was an awesome tape to music that they played to motivate us as the last thing of closing the meeting up, before we got on the bus and went to the game. It kind of gives you chills, watching that and the hits, and I think everybody walked out of there like they were on a different level as a team…   – Damon Schmadeke

…after they’d be done talking we’d watch a psych-up tape I put together that week. And after the psych-up tapes we’d have the Captains talk, and then right before they ran out to the field they’d say that prayer.  – Jack Stark



From a peer’s encouragement…

Even the players would tell me that, “Shit, you’re a lot better than the guy I went against Saturday.” So that was huge compliment, you know? You don’t know intentionally if they were trying to build your confidence up, but just them telling you helped so much.   – Kevin Ramaekers

Or brought on by a shared team motto…

The one that I think captured the team’s mentality and determination was the year (of) “We Refuse to Lose.“ I can just kind of remember that that’s the mantra there, where you’re going into a tough spot and you just felt like failure was not an option. You just did whatever it took to not to lose, but to win. I think that really took on a life of its own, especially that next year with “Unfinished Business.” To me those two were really kind of tied together and almost went into one, because, unfortunately, we had some unfinished business. But we took care of it. – Terry Connealy

…we also came up with a sub-slogan, too. We were walking around saying that we were “Tired of being stepped on.” Because by us going to quite a few championship games we didn’t feel we were getting the respect we deserved. So we used to walk around singing a little tune, ”We’re tired of being stepped on”, like a song, a little chant. And that kind of brought us together even more, along with “Unity, Belief, Respect”, “Unfinished Business” and so forth.  – Kareem Moss


Carlin, Moss, Darlington & Miles
Coach Carlin, Kareem Moss, Coach Darlington & Barron Miles at the Orange Bowl


We had t-shirts made up that said, “Business as Usual.” The previous years were, “We Refuse To Lose,” then it was, “Unfinished Business,” then it was the, “Business As Usual“ if I recall correctly.     – Darren Schmadeke

The one thing I liked was that saying in ’93, the “We Refuse To Lose.” That was my favorite.     – Matt Turman

…the thing for that year was the Unfinished Business. We said we were going to work our hardest over the winter conditioning and summer conditioning to come back and never let that happen again, you know? It was having that drive, the tenacity to be the best, as far as intangibles go.    – Aaron Penland


Barron Miles, John Reece and Mike Minter
Barron Miles, John Reece and Mike Minter


We had these t-shirts made up which said, “Unity-Belief-Respect”, and we had those t-shirts and we knew that there was no way we were going to leave it in the hands of referees or whomever to finalize our statement for that year. We just knew that we were all going to come together, and we came together and everyone had the same goal and everyone worked together.  – Clinton Childs

Sometimes it was the recitation of a pre-game prayer…

Say, do you know the prayer we used to say before the game? That was always something that the team was pretty inspired by, too.  – Matt Turman

… the receivers were pretty laid back cats, but then we’d all be in there saying the team prayer and we’d start getting hyped up, “..a team that won’t be beat…” and even more hyped up, “…can’t be beat! Rahhhhh!” After that we were just ready to jump out of our uniforms. And the words to that prayer were pretty cool, “Day by day, we get better and better. A team that won’t be beat, can’t be beat!” And then we’d go out there with the mindset that, “We won’t be beat,” because we had that mentality, “You won’t beat us.” Because when you have that mentality and the opposition sees that drive -and they know they can’t beat you?- it’s a pretty fun Saturday. When you can take the will from a person to win, it’s a pretty fun day. – Aaron Davis

I remember, “A team that can’t be beat won’t be beat.” I had it printed up …That was part of the team prayer. Vernon Powell brought that to the team. He used to say it every game. He learned it from high school and brought it to Lincoln.   – Corey Dixon


A time for reflection


Another was to prove the naysayers wrong…

I remember when we first came in, specifically. I think we were labeled as the worst recruiting class in the history of Nebraska football… we kind of took that personally… It was always something that stuck with us, and we had something to prove to everyone…     – Christian Peter

I remember hearing at some point in time one of the other players read in the paper that our recruiting class was supposed to be one of the worst recruiting classes they’d had at Nebraska in a long time.  – Gerald Armstrong





…the worst thing in the world was getting your asses kicked in front of the world in January… you want to prove to everyone that we had what it took. All the shit we used to hear about losing to the Florida teams? We had to prove everyone wrong.

– Lorenzo Brinkley

There were a lot of guys in the neighborhood said I wasn’t gonna make it, said I was too small, so that was my ultimate driving point. And like I said, Barron Miles was behind me and I didn’t want to lose my job as a senior to the guy…  – Kenny Wilhite

Even perhaps proving to themselves that they held potential to accomplish great things…

…once we won the (UCLA) game -and it wasn’t pretty, but we fought hard and no one ever got down, we just stayed together and kept fighting and fighting and fighting- and that’s when the ‘We Refuse to Lose’ came about. That’s when you thought, ‘We might be able to do something here.’   – Troy Branch




… you just knew when you got there, you knew that the position you played came with some responsibilities you had to live up to. There was lots of pressure, and we realized along the way that we had to compete. It wasn’t the kind of pressure that we didn’t want, we were looking for it. – Troy Dumas

That spirit inside… some people, there’s certain things that they were meant to do and there’s just hardly anything that’s going to stop them from achieving it. For some reason I think I had that in me when it came to Nebraska football. – Gerald Armstrong

…we were the underdogs… so it was like we had something to prove.             – Lorenzo Brinkley

Again, there is the actual ‘living out’ of a boyhood dream…

… all of a sudden you’re playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. And if you’re a Nebraska kid, that’s a childhood dream. And then the standard chills, tears welled up. It was just really exciting. And, of course, I’d have to wait for the score to get to be 49-0 before they’d let me go in there to longsnap the ball. But it was well worth the wait.        – Jon Pederson


Matt Shaw, Aaron Graham and Joel Wilks


Other times it was to maintain tradition and avoid becoming a footnote in history…

… nobody wanted to be a part of that team that broke the 9-game win streak and the bowl game. So a lot of it was motivated by tradition and not being the team that screwed it up… it was a loss to Iowa State. I remember that was back when fans would tear the goal posts down at the time. I think there were only one or two guys who had jumped on the goalpost before it snapped, it had been that long since they’d torn one down. It was that old. It was embarrassing.    – Mike Anderson

… what motivated me was just the love of Nebraska football, just being a part of it. And to win a championship with Nebraska football was just the top. I grew up in the ‘80’s and we had been so close so many times, just that desire to win one for me and for the Coach and for the state. I think that was the motivator for a lot of Nebraska kids, and I think the other guys kind of picked up on that, guys who it wasn’t ingrained in.               -Matt Shaw


A mosaic of football dominance


Bryan Bailey said, “Now you’re trying to defend your national championship. This is a new deal.” It may not have registered as much as the time-on-the-clock thing, but we thought at that moment, ”Hey, he’s right! We’re not anymore. He’s right!

– Matt Vrzal

…what really helped motivated me was, once again, the guys at the position and having to compete day in and day out… I think my motivation was to always represent Omaha, my family and Nebraska in the right way… It was just something I wanted to be a part of, and kind of hold up that tradition. – Calvin Jones


Tom Osborne and the Unity theme.


Respect for the game itself also served as a motivator…

What drove me? I guess I’m just kind of a perfectionist. Every time I went out on the field I always tried to play the perfect game…   – Mike Anderson

It never took much motivation for me. I loved football and I loved practice. I loved to hit people- and that always sounds weird in a sadistic kind of way, but I liked the competitiveness, whether it was a practice or a game, of knocking heads… To me it’s not just about the hardware, it’s about playing your best…   – Bill Humphrey

The most satisfying thing was the things that no one else saw. That you knew it happened and that guy you hit knew it happened, but no one else saw it… it was my block that got him open, and it was my block that that linebacker is gonna remember.

– Cory Schlesinger

I came to Nebraska with my mind mainly focused on football. I had dreams of playing in the NFL and, realistically, it was more about going to a place, a football factory, and maximize what I could do as a player… my heart kind of turned. My focus went away from ‘me, me, me, me and what can this place do for me?’ to more about ‘what can I do to help this team?’ And my focus got turned to, ‘Hey, what can we do to win a national championship?’  So we were more of a team-oriented thing… – Doug Colman


’94 Huskers visit the White House


Sometimes it was in dedication to others, for others…

…the whole idea was to ‘play for something greater than yourself.’ That was the idea… his point was that when people play for themselves they get to the point where they’re satisfied and they stop trying anymore, they start regressing. But if there’s something outside of you that you’re playing for, that usually helps to motivate you and drive you to reach your best, reach your potential… that was definitely a point of view I really wanted to develop, because it’s because I’m really a representative of God, or an ambassador for Him, that I’m gonna make sure I do everything I can to glorify him so He looks good. – David Alderman

…it wasn’t about you. You were representing a lot of people when you stepped out there, so all those things played a factor in it… it was really having pride in what you do, to sum it up in a few words, “Just be proud of what you do.” – Eric Stokes




…the thing that Coach McBride taught you from the second you sat in on his first meeting was that you had to play for each other and you had to play for the people around you that you loved: your teammates and your family. – Terry Connealy

That fear, that brotherhood, not letting one another down, that was motivation for sure, too…      – Adam Treu

…mostly the thing that motivated me was I didn’t want to look bad and didn’t want to let the team down. For the most part I was always a team player. For the most part I worked hard for the team instead of for myself…  – Michael Booker


Terry Connealy


Or a feeding off of one another…

… every game was so intense, because every team was out to beat us… Look at Michigan State, though: it was Coach Devaney’s last game that he ever traveled. And it was a big deal to us because all of us guys who grew up hearing about the legend of Coach Devaney. So in honor of Coach Devaney we said, “We want you to stay in here for our pregame speech and hold hands while we say our pregame prayer.” So we wanted him to be part of that. So Christian gives his speech and just freaks the f*** out, Paul. He finds this huge Spartan thing and crushed it on his head. There’s blood everywhere, literally. We were freaking out so bad, we literally ripped the lockers out of their walls. Coach Devaney must have been like, “I am in a zoo with a bunch of apes right now!” So we get out there and we run on the field with Deveney leading us… I think we were like fighting amongst each other because we were so fired up, punching each other. Coach Devaney was crying and it made all of us real emotional.                     – Brian Nunns


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…we had enough people who had that special drive, that it became bigger and contagious, infectious. It almost became a necessity by everybody to have that same drive. And the thing about it is, you go through the list of the guys behind that ‘94 offensive line and the Aaron Taylors and Matt Hoskinsons and Jon Zatechkas and Fred Pollacks and Eric Andersons and Chris Dishman, I don’t think they were the same players without us there, and I don’t think we were the same players without them there. Because those guys made us work harder and we had to prove to them every day why we were the best and to leave more or less a legacy with those guys. The Nebraska offensive line dominance had been there for a long time, but we had a collective thought process amongst us that we didn’t want to be good, didn’t want to be pretty good, we wanted to be the best. That was a big goal, internally. – Aaron Graham

… if you’re not self-motivated to go out there and take care of business, it doesn’t matter how great of a pregame speech a coach can throw out there,  all that’s gonna help you for is probably the first two or three plays. After that a team’s got to play on its own merits. So when a team takes ownership of themselves and they’re self-motivated, that practiced habit of confidence, of taking over things, I think it really carries over into games. – Bruce Moore




Sometimes it was about an opponent’s disrespect…

… I remember when we played Oklahoma State. Somehow they’d gotten some of our team’s posters, and when we arrived in Stillwater in the locker room they were laying in a pile in the middle of the floor and someone had urinated on them and stuff. We got so pissed off we were throwing their lockers around. – Brian Nunns

All those years we’d been told that we can’t run with them or can’t play with them, things like that. We said, “We can play with anybody, so were just gonna go play.” And that’s what we did.   – Barron Miles


Barron Miles
Pass defense against the Hurricanes


The guys I was going up against were just monsters. Their ends were 6’4” and 6’5” and they were 240 and 250, just monsters. I remember them talking some noise the first down or two, and after I got up under their chin a couple times that ended real quick. – Gerald Armstrong

But I wanted to prove myself, so that motivated me for that game, too, and I wanted to show them that I could take (Warren Sapp) on, too… – Joel Wilks

That song being played, “I’m tired of being stepped on…” That was being played constantly… That’s exactly it. There was no respect. We were number one but they were treating us like visitors, like we were lucky to be there. It was like, “Let’s go win this game and get some respect.” – Riley Washington




About replacing a bad memory with a better one…

…for me it was more the losing in ‘93 more than anything… and we had the 1:16 on the board that whole time the next summer.    – Phil Ellis

I just think there was a determination and desire to say “enough is enough.” Part of it was that meeting, part of it was that message, part of it was, “enough of this nonsense,” you know? We got embarrassed in the Citrus Bowl against Georgia Tech, we got embarrassed in bowl games. It was just getting tiring being embarrassed against top competition. – Trev Alberts

Boyd, being his motivational self, every day, he decided, we were going to put 1:16 on the clock, so at the end of the workouts we would do an extra 1:16 of work. So I crawled up the steps to the press box twice a day, (laughs) every day, turned on the clock, put a minute-sixteen on it, and then went back up the to shut the clock off afterwards, all summer long. – Randy Gobel




And sometimes it was the gnawing reminder that a career’s end often comes much too soon…

It was just to look the guys in the eyes, like Trev Alberts and Toby Wright and John Reece and Kevin Ramaekers and those guys, and to feel the level of disappointment that they had, that that was their last shot that they had. And to know that coming back the next year, that you were going to be a senior and you had to be the leader and had to set the tempo through the spring practice on.     – Ed Stewart

I was just motivated by just the idea of having the privilege to play at such a high level at such a great school for great coaches. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is the truth. I understood the opportunity that I had and I also understood the window of time was not going to be very long. I started two years. I had a two year window to give it everything …I was really big on just ‘the situation’, because my dad was always telling me that, “You have to make the most of this time. Because once it’s gone, it’s gone.” …My motivation was just making the most of it.  – Mark Gilman




As evidenced above, we see that the motivations of that era came in all shapes, shades, sizes, modes and intensities. Being a high-achieving, self-motivated group of student-athletes, they didn’t need much poking and prodding from outside the locker room walls. Whether it be love or hate, pride or embarrassment, arrival or comeuppance, there was enough motivational fodder to keep the flame burning throughout the year. And when the time arrived to finally draw everyone into the most fevered of pitches, you can bet your bottom dollar that Coach Charlie McBride probably had something to do with it.


Copyright @ 2013 Thermopylae Press. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credits : Unknown Original Sources/Updates Welcomed

Author assumes no responsibility for interviewee errors or misstatements of fact.


Summary Chapter to be continued…..