Thursday's Gator Bowl will be the final game in a Husker uniform for I-back Marlon Lucky. Still bothered by a turf toe injury, he's available to play though it's unclear just how the injury will affect his performance. I expect he'll start, but with the emergence of Roy Helu, it's unclear just how much he'll play.
Certainly not the way most fans pictured the way Marlon Lucky's career would end when he arrived on campus.
I've got to admit that I've got mixed feelings about Lucky and the end of his career. The weird thing is that my thoughts on Lucky has very little to do with Marlon Lucky or what he's done.
It all goes back to October 16, 2004. Nebraska was playing Baylor, fresh off of a sixty point loss to Texas Tech. The Huskers bounced back from that horrible loss by committing to the running game, as they combined 41 runs with only 20 passes. The commitment to running the ball opened up the passing game, as Joe Dailey had his finest day as a Husker, completing 13 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.
I thought Bill Callahan had turned a corner and had finally decided to commit to a running game instead of forcing a West Coast passing offense on a program renowned for power football.
I was wrong. You see, there was another reason for the Huskers running the ball that day. During the game, the student section started chanting "Mar! Lon! Luck-E! (clap, clap, clapclapclap)"...which meant nothing to me at that time. Soon after the game, I learned that Marlon Lucky was a "Five Star" running back visiting that day from California. When he committed to the Huskers a few weeks later, he was being compared to Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson. He, along with quarterback Harrison Beck, were going to be the crown jewels of Bill Callahan's first recruiting class.
This group was going to revolutionalize Husker football with an influx of talent that had never been seen before in Lincoln. The message was being sent by the new regime: Nebraska's football problems were going to be solved by recruiting.
Or so we were told as Bill Callahan's first Husker football team proceeded to finish 5-6 and end a 36 year year string of consecutive bowl appearances.
I'll freely admit it...I didn't buy it. Recruiting was important, but it wasn't the only factor. And I had seen enough from Bill Callahan in 2004 to question whether he was the right coach. I also had questions about Harrison Beck from the day he committed to Nebraska. He was interviewed on the radio and immediately turned me off with his cockiness and immature attitude. But fans ate it up; KETV-channel 7 even gave Beck his own blog.
The bad impressions that Callahan and Beck made on me that fall enveloped Lucky as well. It wasn't anything Lucky said or did; it was purely and completely guilt by association.
We all want to forget the Bill Callahan clusterfool. Harrison Beck left Lincoln after one season in a huff, and went to North Carolina State, where he's gone on to throw 16 interceptions versus only 6 touchdowns in spot action in his career.
Marlon Lucky went on to be a decent running back in his Husker career. He ran for over 1,000 yards last season along with 705 yards receiving. Not bad, and certainly a playmaker in the open field at times.
Good player? Absolutely. Even worthy of some pre-season praise as an all-Big XII running back. But once again, people try to make Marlon Lucky bigger than he actually is. Even throwing his name into the Heisman Trophy race, for cripes sake.
The hype finally got to Lucky a couple of years ago; he ended up in the intensive care unit in a Lincoln hospital. This season, he was having an OK senior season until the turf toe injury flared up. Sophomore Roy Helu has stepped in nicely and shown himself as a potential star running back. Helu to me looks like the best Husker running back since Ahman Green.
So is Marlon Lucky a disappointment? It depends on what you compare him to. Compare him to some of his predecessors in recent years such Josh Davis, Dahrran Diedrick, Dan Alexander, and David Horne, and he looks pretty darn good. If that's the comparison, Lucky looks like one of the best running backs Nebraska has seen in the last ten years.
That's how we should remember him. Not for what some people thought he would be or should have been, but rather for what he actually did in a Husker uniform. I know this coaching staff has a world of respect for Marlon Lucky and what he's done. In that light, he's had a very successful career at Nebraska.