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H U S K E R    D A N


BOOK REVIEW
"Diary of a Husker"
By David Kolowski

"Diary of a Husker" written by David Kolowski, is an account of the five years (1998-2002) he spent as a walk-on offensive lineman for the University of Nebraska football team. His book, based on the daily journal he kept during his Husker football career, is a behind the scenes look into the world of Cornhusker football.

I'm guessing that most Husker fans have never heard of David Kolowski. That's understandable, because he was a walk-on player from Millard West High School in Omaha and who, during his Husker career, played perhaps the most obscure position in all of football, that of deep snapper. Deep snappers are more inappreciable than the Maytag Repairman. To make matters worse, David languished for much of his career as the third string deep snapper and as a scout team O-lineman. (In a moment of self-deprecation, David quipped that his career at Nebraska could be summed up as "Relentless Mediocrity.")

David came to Nebraska in the fall of '98 as a wide-eyed, eager and perhaps, naive Husker wannabe who had visions of greatness, but ended up spending most of his career stuck on the scout team. But during his final year in 2002, he earned a letter as the starting Husker deep snapper. He also was a First Team All-Academic Big 12 player; was on the Husker Unity Council and was a member of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team for his volunteer work. Sounds like a nice story with a happy ending, right?

Not quite. After enduring four years on the scout team, David found himself at the start of 2002 burned out and depressed, counting the days until his Husker career would finally come to an end.

He writes:
"A lot of people don't understand my frustration with football. To the rest of the state, what I'm doing everyday is a dream come true. But this dream gets really old really fast when it becomes all that you do, leaving you very little time and energy to do anything else. The dream quickly turns into a nightmare when you realize all your effort will get you nowhere."

"Diary" takes the reader on a five year journey through the harsh, grueling and mostly unglamorous life as a Husker scout team member. For those who might not know, scout teams exist primarily to provide cannon fodder for the varsity players. Life there is often brutal, knowing that you'll get the snot knocked out of you at every practice, on every play, every day; that you'll be assured of getting almost no coaching to make you a better player and that you'll likely never see any playing time.

"Diary" is a compelling and revealing book about the inner workings of the Husker football program. Husker fans will have a tough time putting this book down. What makes the book so compelling is that it covers the transition from the Tom Osborne Era to the first five years of the Frank Solich Era. (During that time, the Huskers went from National Championship winners in '97 to a struggling .500 team in 2002.)

Since its introduction, "Diary" has been labled by some as a book that is all about Frank Solich bashing. (Those who share that belief, clearly haven't read the book.) To be sure, David's book is critical of many aspects of the Husker football program, but "Diary" is more than a book about Solich bashing-much more.

To understand the numbers, when David was on the team, there were more than 180 kids in the program. With only about 40 players actually getting into any given game, the odds that the other 140 would see much, if any playing time, were remote. (Kudos to Bill Callahan for reducing the insane numbers of players.)

Many of the fringe players-those who knew they would never get to play-figured out the gig pretty quickly. They managed to put forth just enough effort in practice and in the weight room to stay on the team. And by doing so, they could still get the clothes, watches and goodies and would be able to go to parties and tell everyone that they were a member of the Husker football team.

After reading "Diary" I came away with a greater appreciation of what players go through to play for Nebraska. Football consumes players' lives-so much that they must compromise their personal lives because of the demands of football.

With so many players in the program at that time, it's not surprising that there would be stories in this book about drugs, alcohol, steroids, gay players, fights between players (the time Kyle Kollmorgen beat Husker place kicker Sandro DeAngelis to a bloody pulp. Sandro wanted to press charges, but Frank Solich insisted the incident be covered up so the media wouldn't get wind of it. There are stories about thieves in the locker room, pranks played on and by Husker players, how there were coaches who either couldn't or wouldn't motivate players and personal "indiscretions" by a member of the Husker coaching staff.

"Diary" describes how the once proud Husker football program gradually declined due in part by a Husker coaching staff that had lost its edge, the demise of the strength/conditioning and nutritional programs; the absence of team discipline, the lack of team leaders, the effects of the 85 scholarship rule and how, in David's view, the practice by the some of the coaching staff to live off the successes of the Tom Osborne Era.

David writes how Frank Solich's teams succeeded the first four years largely because of players who had been recruited and coached by Tom Osborne. But once Osborne's players were gone, there weren't enough good players coming into the system to pick up the slack. The decline was most evident during the Huskers' 62-36 blow out loss to the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder in November of 2002. It carried over to the Rose Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes and into the following season when the Huskers dropped to a 7-7 record-the first non-winning Husker season in over 40 years.

For armchair Husker fans, this book will bring back memories of Husker games played during those five years-the Husker "home game" at Notre Dame in 2000 (David's first road game), the game with Rice after the 9/11 attacks, the 2001 Husker-Sooner "Game of the 21st Century" and the 2003 Rose Bowl. There are myriad stories about Husker players such as Jammal Lord, DeAngelo Evans, Thunder Collins, Eric Crouch, Richie Incognito and Joe Chrisman.

One of the more remarkable moments in the book is the time that a grasshopper had the misfortune of landing in the middle of a Husker practice session. One of the players caught it-another dared him to bite the head off the live grasshopper. The player took the dare, not only biting its head off, but chewing the rest of it as well.

I'll mention one last story. There was a surprising speech given to the football team in 2000 by former Husker great, Irving Fryar. Fryar, who was a star wingback for the Huskers from 1981-1983, spent several years in the NFL; later got messed up with drugs and eventually became an ordained minister. You'll learn why the players were stunned by what he had to say.

There is so much in this book that even the most casual Husker football fan will find fascinating. Buy the book-better yet, pick up some extra copies and give them as presents. They'll thank you. And so will David.

David"s book signing schedule:
Tuesday, February 27th
Hastings Bookstore
Kearney, NE
5-7 p.m.

Wednesday February 28th
Barnes & Noble
O Street
Lincoln, NE
12-2 p.m.

Wednesday, February 28th
Barnes & Noble
South Pointe
Lincoln, NE
3-5 p.m.

Saturday, March 3rd
Barnes & Noble near the Oakview Mall
333 Oakview Drive
Omaha, NE 68144
2:30-5:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 4th
The home of Rick and Bonnie Kolowski
4815 South 158th Circle
Omaha, NE 68135
2-5 p.m.

Saturday March 31st
Books on First
202 West First Street
Dixon, IL 61021
12-3 p.m.


David will also be on Omaha radio station (1110 am) KFAB at 7:40 a.m. this Thursday, March 1st. If you can't make any of those dates, click here to purchase a copy of "Diary of a Husker".

If you'd like to give Husker Dan a piece of your mind you may email Husker Dan at huskerdan@cox.net.  For past Husker Dan columns, click here.