Stryker: Frost era sweeps in with promise of unity, toughness, focus

Categories: 2017 Football
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One dark December day, 60-year-old Tom Osborne called a press conference that nobody saw coming. It set into motion a chain of events that reduced Nebraska football to mediocrity.   

Almost 20 years later, another press conference that almost the entire state of Nebraska eagerly anticipated sent chills up the spines of most who attended, and signaled a reversal of fortunes in Lincoln. Scott Frost came home Sunday, and it felt right on almost every level.

Frost not only has a proven record of success on both coasts, he spent his formative years learning the core values of Nebraska football. He’s already a part of Husker history who understands the importance of the past but is independent enough not to be tied down by it. Frost is ready to take the Heartland by storm.

In one uplifting afternoon, Nebraska began the healing process from the accumulated degeneration of nearly 20 years. The blue-collar values that once made Big Red football a nationwide phenomenon will soon be back in style.

“Words can’t describe how much it means to me to be back here in a place I love, a place I understand, and a place that I want to represent,” said Frost in his opening statement. “I think the time is right for this. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of people, but there’s a formula that worked here for a long time. Times have changed a little, but some of those same things can make this work again.”

He pointed to toughness, a physical style of play, dedication, work ethic and pursuit of excellence as hallmarks of Nebraska, and pledged, “That’s what this place is going to stand for as long as I’m here.”

Nebraska football just switched from the passive to the active voice. A man of understated blunt sincerity is at the helm, and he can still turn a phrase as well as he did at the end of the 1998 Orange Bowl. Frost is ready to work as hard and fast as the rapid-pace offense he’s going to install.

The unity-building is off to a good start. It’s obvious he has the full support of Husker Nation, including those who have worn the scarlet and cream in years past. Just as importantly, it appears he has the support of the current football team, possibly a few key uncommitted blue-chip athletes, and another wave of small-town Nebraska boys who dream of walking on for the Cornhuskers someday.

Frost pounded his main message, that creating a unified, high-character team with a unified fan base will propel Nebraska back into the top echelon of college footballl.

“When that happens at Nebraska,” he said, “this is the best place in the country to be.”

Operating on only a few hours’ sleep, and coming off an exhilarating and emotionally draining week, the 42-year-old Frost looked ready to roll. Gone was the scraggly beard that he grew this fall while leading UCF to an undefeated championship season in Orlando. Clean-shaven and dressed in a light gray suit with red tie, Frost was welcomed back to Memorial Stadium by nearly 200 former Huskers when he entered the Ndomukong Suh Strength and Conditioning Center for a private meeting. It was one of the most emotional moments of a day that climaxed with Frost’s off-the-cuff response to the question, “How will you modify your system for the Big Ten?”

He paused a moment, narrowed his eyes and said, “I’m hoping the Big Ten has to modify their system for us.”

All you twenty-something Nebraska fans, I salute you for your patience. You just got your first small taste of the excitement and unity that Nebraska football once inspired — and can once again.

It’s all fast forward with Frost. When asked about the length of his contract (seven years), he acknowledged needing time to get his program up and running, but he referred to it as a “runway we need to get this program off the ground and back to where it needs to be.”

Frost checked all the right boxes Sunday. He said he wants to create room for more walk-ons, “players who would bleed for this place,”  and seems to embrace the extra work it will take to do that. It helps that everyone on the team sees their leader showing the passion he expects to see from them.

One thing I noticed at practices during the Pelini and Riley eras was how many players were standing around waiting for their turn as the team went through its drills. Frost alluded to having a lot of players on the roster when Osborne ran the program, with everyone working hard and nobody waiting for his turn. Will we see a return to a version of the four-station drills that Osborne used to give second- and third-team players a lot of repetitions?

The 80-year-old architect of much of Nebraska football’s greatness was prominent at the press conference. Osborne on several occasions has pointed out that Frost is “the complete package” and is more than ready for his new responsibilities.

Osborne is a hallowed name from Nebraska’s past. New leadership is in place in Lincoln, and for the first time in two decades, there’s reason to believe all the men at the top really know what they’re doing when it comes to the Athletic Department, or what they call “the front porch” of the University. NU president Hank Bounds, chancellor Ronnie Green and athletic director Bill Moos are the main reason Nebraska football has a spring in its step once again.

The day exuded the promise that championship-starved Husker fans have been searching for. It was a passing of the torch from Osborne to Frost. Expect the native son from Wood River to take up that torch, turn upfield and run with a mission.

A longtime Husker fan, sportswriter and history buff, Tad Stryker started writing for this website in 2008. You can email him at tad.stryker@gmail.com