Anatomy of an Era: Trev Alberts, Part 3
Excerpted from Chapter 23, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 1 by Paul Koch
Trev Alberts, Part 3
Q: Any favorite or most memorable play?
TA: I remember a play against Kansas, my junior year. I believe Chip Hilleary was at quarterback, I remember a pretty good left tackle and we were really concerned about the sweep play to June Henley the running back. The left tackle had a real good first step, and Coach Samuel was really drilling it into us to make sure were weren’t getting hooked. And I just remember getting into my stance, and everything Coach Samuel taught me just came to fruition and I saw the first step, and I just explode! And it was kind of like the culmination of everything Nebraska did for me, because in one sense I had Coach Samuel teaching me that play, it was the explosion from the strength staff and you all, and getting my helmet ...here’s a guy who’s 320 lbs…. and I drove the guy! Just drove him back like twelve yards, right into my arms was June Henley for a 16 yard loss. It was such a good feeling because I dominated the block, then obliterated Henley on the tackle. And I have a picture of it. I just swallowed him up. It really wasn’t against a ‘name’ team, a big deal, but that one play really symbolized everything for me. I remember that.
Another one I really remember was playing against a guy named Barrett Brooks. He was a left tackle at Kansas State, and I needed one sack to break Jim Skow’s all-time single-season record for sacks. Of course, the guy’s coaches had gotten him prepared and for the first three quarters this guy was kicking my butt. I couldn’t get my hands on the quarterback to save my life. And he talked more smack! And you know, the end of the third quarter we’re walking down to the other end of the field and he’s in my ear, “You ain’t nothing, Alberts. You suck! You’re so overrated!” (And I generally tried to save all my energy, generally, to play) And finally this guy was in my ear so much I said, ‘You know what, Barrett? You’re right. You’re the best left tackle I’ve ever played against.’ And he said, “Really?!!” And I say, ‘I’m serious! I’ve never….’, and I could just see him starting to feel real good about himself.
And of course, the second play of the 4th quarter I went right around him because he relaxed, and I got my sack. And I walked past him on the way back and said, ‘Well, you’re almost the best left tackle I’ve ever played against.’ (laughs) I remember that play.
Trev Alberts: A farewell after leaving it all on the field. (Joe Mixan photo)
Q: (laughing) Any memorable practice events from those days?
TA: You know, most of my memories are from the days of my redshirt year going against Doug Glaser and the late Jake Young, going against the first team. Those guys would just toss me to the ground and laugh at me. It made me really question whether I was tough enough or man enough to ever even play at Nebraska. You know, when you’ve got Tom Punt, 6’8”, 320, and those guys like Doug Glaser, it was really intimidating lining up against those guys. But you realized shortly that if you could hang and if you got through this and persevered, you could get through anything. Some of the stuff that I endured and went through, it made you unafraid of anything or anybody. If I survived fall camp at Nebraska with the seniors when I was 4 or 5 years younger, there isn’t anything else I can’t accomplish.
Q: Any extra-curricular, off-field occurrences from those days worth sharing?
TA: Not really. Nothing I can comment on. (laughs) You know, we were typical college kids and a typical college team, but for the most part we were a pretty focused group. We cared for one another and we wanted to win. My focus was getting my degree in 4 years, getting the best grade point I could and winning as many games as I could, being the best player I could be, along with being a good leader. I could say I had my share of fun. I hear other guys telling some stories and I wonder, ‘Where was I during some of that?’ (laughs)
Q: Any good stories about Christian when he first came in?
TA: Christian, the whole thing with him was that he pretty much sat down at the training table… and he never really got up! (laughs) He just kept eating! And it would be like 2 o’clock and he’d still be sitting there. And I remember Charlie McBride used to get real upset at him because for like three plays he’d be just dominant, but then he got tired fast. (laughs) But then he lost some weight and got in shape and he was as dominating as any player I played with. It was a lot of fun.
And I’m sure you might know, but Christian, his life is remarkable. He’s not anything close to what you remember of him as a player. He’s happily married, a loving father and husband. I believe his time here really made an impact on his life, as well. And his brother, too, for fighting through what he went through.
Q: Who did you have for a roommate?
TA: My first year I roomed with Troy Branch, a terrific roommate. Deep admiration for Troy. Brilliant young man and a terrific football player. And for one year I roomed with Matt Penland and Greg Fletcher. And then Coach Samuel asked me if I would room with Travis Hill. Travis had some difficulties with some old roommates and he thought I could be a good influence, so Travis lived with me. And then I lived with Rick Schwieger (Allen), a track athlete, for awhile. And then I finally ended up with Byron Bennett at the end, a kicker. So I lived with linebackers, I lived with kickers, and I lived with track athletes. Needless to say the kicker and the decathlete were a little different than linebackers. (laughs) It was a learning experience. I keep in touch with Byron, he’s doing a great job coaching high school football and being a schoolteacher.
Q: Is there anyone behind the scenes who you feel played a huge part in your development there?
TA: You know I’d really hate to single out just one person. I just tell you that since I left I’ve paid a little bit more attention to other athletic departments. And I have to tell you, there are so many people -and as a player you have no idea- whether it’s the Chief Financial Officer or Norma Knobel, who made sure you got a little money on the plane, it was just so many people working so hard for the football program’s success: whether it’s an intern, whether it’s recruiting or the Head of Football Operations.
The thing is, there are so many people who should get all the credit, and rightfully so. And there are so many people working under them doing the day-to-day dirty work, and those are the people who never get a ‘thank you’, that nobody knows about. And without them we’re not winning national championships. So those people unselfishly are doing something, not because they need the individual accolades, but because they care enough about the program and the student-athletes to do that. Those are the people, looking back, you had deep admiration and respect for, because they weren’t making tons of money. Some of them were making peanuts, but they really cared. And those are the people I really respect.
Take a guy like Keith Zimmer. I’m 18 years old and I miss my mom and dad and all of a sudden Keith says, “What’s wrong, Trev?” And the next thing you know, there’s catharsis going on. The difference-makers: Keith, Dennis Leblanc, Jerry Weber, Doak (Ostergard), these guys, all of them. Bryan Bailey used to… I remember one time he said “What’s wrong?” and I quoted a Bible verse and said, ‘The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And he actually had that printed on all of our workout sheets, ”The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” (laughs) “I want to do (the workout), but I’m dead.”
Boyd…Mike Arthur, he’s banging away on some computer coming up with new, creative ways to be successful. Randy Gobel trying to creatively come up with another machine for us to try. It’s non-stop. Butch Hug with the facilities. I don’t know who brought all the tackling dummies down to Schulte Fieldhouse when we did the one-on-ones, you know what I mean? So many people.
And you know there were some people in the Development Office soliciting funds allowing us to have the facilities we had. Folks like Lee Sapp, the big-name donor people, the Cook family. Those are the people, anytime I get a chance to, I let them know that as a student/athlete I was the beneficiary of that. “I want you to know that you just didn’t give money blindly, it didn’t go nowhere.” We directly benefited from the Hewitt Center. I had a chance to study very comfortably and earn a degree because of somebody’s unselfishness. The unselfishness across the board, across the state, made us so successful.
Q: What makes you most proud of your time there, Trev?
TA: I don’t think it was any wins or losses or any individual thing like that. I’m just most proud of the fact that I had a chance to be a part of the Husker family. I find myself talking to my kids, (and my parents raised me with a moral compass, they did everything they could while I was with them and they did everything they could until I left the nest), and I felt the University of Nebraska, I felt everything my parents taught me was then sort of picked up by Coach Osborne and the University of Nebraska and it was taken to the next level. It was remarkable, well chronicled. I had the greatest experience a student-athlete could possibly have. I couldn’t possibly, in my dreams, have said, ‘Okay, this is what will happen.’
And the thing I see, is that they do everything in their power to make sure that subsequent student-athletes have that kind of experience that I had. And to the best of their ability, they do. Some guys, for whatever reason, get hurt, but there is a standard at Nebraska to create some really productive citizens, great members of society. I could never pay, give any amount of money, for what they did for me. The fans, everybody associated with it. I’m not one of those kind of people who live in the past, it’s not 1993 for me. It’s 2009, but at the same time I look at those experiences and memories as flat-out being the best. It didn’t get any better than that. And I didn’t even win a national championship.
Q: Well, the scoreboard never showed it, but you were a champion, Trev. I don’t know how it happened, but they ended up having two more points on the board when the clock showed zeroes. Last question: Anything else play a part in the organization coming together, from your perspective, that I haven’t touched on in our time here?
TA: Like said a little bit earlier, I really believe that there was a concerted effort from everybody involved, starting at the top, a compete evaluation of what we were doing.
Remember, we changed defenses from a 5-2 to a 4-3, we made some changes in the weight program, it was across the board. It was a general, “We’re not going to go out and let this happen again. Enough is enough. We’re going to finish the drill. We’re going to be a champion. We’re going to practice like champions, we’re going to pay the price -whatever that price is- to achieve the highest levels.” When you get everybody (as you know, there can be actual issues between the Strength Staff and Athletic Medicine), but everybody decided to get on the same page and say, “Let’s finish the deal here.” It was across the board and everybody paid that price. At the end of the day, no matter how talented you are, the team that’s willing to pay the highest price is going to win.
Sure, talent had to be part of it, but I’ve seen a lot of teams with less talent win, seen a lot of coaches with less football coaching ability be good coaches because they worked for it. I think it was just a unique time when you had a combination of people willing to pay a price with a group of young men who were extraordinary. Guys like Tommie Frazier, who had some extraordinary natural abilities, it was convergence.
Everybody had a part, but somebody had to lead it, and that person was Tom Osborne. I love Coach Osborne, how I relied on the fact that each week he had a theme, whether it be perseverance, toughness, et cetera. He always had a quote from maybe Tom Landry or Roger Staubach, and the Player Of The Game got that plaque. And I’ve got a lot of those plaques. And I’ve got to tell you, I wouldn’t say that any one is my favorite, but they were all well-accomplished people and it was really important. There was whole bunch of them Coach presented to us on a weekly basis.
“We could really tell the community was largely driven by not only the university, but the football team’s success.” Trev touched on a number of issues here, the first being his almost immediate recognition of the importance football played in Nebraskan’s lives. Growing up in Iowa, I suspect the Nebraska Football team’s familial cohesiveness on a grand scale engendered a blessed hope in both him and his parents during their visit to Lincoln. (And to think that it was on more or less a whim?) Of course, it goes without saying that Coach Osborne’s being a figurehead of integrity, a reservoir of character, a possessor of true leadership attributes were the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as the Hawkeyes’ chances were concerned. Scoreboard: Nebraska 1, Iowa 0.
Secondly, Trev made me harken back and try to recall to any occurrence of ugly sideline moments or incidents of player beration by a coach. Funny, but I just can’t recall any, which makes me realize that Trev was right: the coaches verily did all their coaching during the week and then let the players turn it loose on Saturday. “The hay is in the barn,” was a popular phrase come Friday afternoon, and with a willingness to fully prepare during the week, it made for much pleasurable game days…and victories. Unless a player exhibited a gross lack of discipline on gameday, you never heard of the kind of butt-chewing that one would expect during the sideline moments in the heat of the battle. But then again, Nebraska football always did their best to recruit character kids, so the chances of any disciplinary lapses were potentially less prevalent than some to begin with. Trev was a high motor guy and one of the ‘character kids’ among so, so many of the day.
Another lasting item of note was the change in his old teammates over a year’s time, when he spoke of visiting on the sideline for the ‘95 Orange Bowl versus Miami. 365 days, 5 hours, and 48 minutes removed from the exhaustion and heartbreak of the 18-16 final, he noticed a palpable sense of urgency, of destiny, of resolve in their eyes. Remember, this was one year removed from the 1:16 and the Unfinished Business of the offseason. “Enough is enough. We’re going to finish the drill. We’re going to be a champion. We’re going to get the win for Coach Osborne.”
This perfect scenario of vengeance contained only one anomaly, though, being that the foe was to be the University of Miami rather than the one everyone really wanted to face again: Florida State. Payback was diverted to the Canes -Goliaths in their own right- and the stakes were upped even one notch higher for this one: Top defense in the nation, their tropical climate, their home locker room, their raucus home crowd, with 62 wins in the last 63 games on this home field (a 98.4% home field winning percentage). For the Nebraskans on the squad who could recall crying their eyes out over the Canes’ monumental upset of their Huskers on the same sandy, spotty, divotted and cigarette-butted Orange Bowl turf a decade before, this was an extremely close second option. Enough is enough? In some of those players’ minds, what was a puny minute-sixteen of a year ago compared to an 11-year quest for vengeance on behalf of the ’83 team? It turns out that enough was enough on that January 1st of 1995.
Notable quote #2:
Trev Alberts on the thought process that turned it around: “We’re not going to go out and let this happen again. We’re going to practice like champions. We’re going to pay the price -whatever that price is- to achieve the highest levels.”
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