Gators behind Frazier - a familiar sight that night in Tempe
"It ain't where I been, fat boy, it's where I'm going."
This response to Warren Sapp's query of "Where've you been?" in the 4th quarter of the 1995 Orange Bowl probably sums Tommie Frazier up more than any 2000 word article ever could. And it was that constant attitude that cements him in my mind as the greatest college quarterback to ever to play the game.
Okay, I might be a little biased.
But note that I said best quarterback - not strongest or most accurate arm, not fastest or most powerful runner, not quickest or most nimble dual threat guy or anything like that. Just the best quarterback in the entire sense of the position. He directed offenses that scored, scored often and, in most cases, scored at will. He ran the option flawlessly, was a fast and bruising runner and could kill you with a rollout or play action.
And he had "it".
Over beers and rum at Tiger Tom's, we talk about "it" from time to time. Sometimes you see that special guy who has the talent plus something beyond that raises everyone up around him. (Suh, anyone?) They come along maybe every 5-10 years if you're lucky, sometimes longer. But boy, did he have "it". From many accounts, he was never the guy who was going to give you a hug, he was going to quietly tell you to get your ass in gear, and you' take one look into those steely eyes and-
Well, your ass got in gear. End of story
He didn't prance around the sidelines like a jackwagon. He didn't cry when he lost. He didn't crash defensive huddles trying to exhort them on for the national cameras. (Which was smart - not sure how Wistrom and the Peters would have taken to that. Good thing it was unnecessary.) He just won with power, grace, guile and talent and insisted on nothing less than the best from those around him.
The numbers weren't eye popping:
But the wins were:
And when you have "it", people who hand out things like awards and All-(insert here) teams take notice:
Football Writers 1995 First Team All American
Walter Camp 1995 First Team All American
Associated Press 1995 First Team All American
United Press International 1995 First Team All American
AFCA 1995 First Team All American
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award 1995
Sporting News Offensive Player of the Year 1995
TD Club of Columbus Quarterback of the Year 1995
Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year 1995
1996 Fiesta Bowl Most Valuable Player
1994 and 1995 Orange Bowl Most Valuable Player
1992 Big Eight Freshman of the Year
Sport magazine Top 10 Players of the Century
The 1995 Cornhuskers averaged 556 yards and 52.4 points per game against a schedule that included four top ten teams (who they beat 196-73) and only one true toss away game(Pacific). The guy driving that offense definitely had some weapons to help him out in Larry Phillips and freshman Ahman Green. The rest of the names weren't All-Americans - Clester Johnson, Reggie Baul, Jon Vedral, Mark Gilman, Clinton Childs and Damon Benning to name a few - but every one of them got into the highlight reel at some point.
And the guy with the keys to the Ferrari was Frazier. It was he who could engineer a big play at any moment with a pitch, a toss, a bomb or just maybe a keeper:
He played in three national championship games in his four years and won two of them. (It would be remiss of me as a true Husker fan if I didn't take a moment to bitch about getting screwed out of a third against Florida St. by some of the most brutal, one-sided reffing in bowl game history, my favorite being their willingness to sacrifice their bodies to protect Charlie Ward after he'd release the ball while Frazier was hit late time and again with no calls. So there, I've done it.) Find another quarterback who did that.
I can still pinpoint the moment when I knew the corner was turned. The mid-late 80's and early 90's were a run of crushing defeats to the likes of Miami and Colorado and Oklahoma which left us just outside of the national title picture time and again. Then, in 1992, against Colorado in Frazier's second start, we were in the midst of delivering a royal 52-7 tit-kicking to a #8 Buffalo team that had been sliding by us for a few years and running their mouths non-stop while they did it.
Fast forward to about the 1:20 mark of this video and the play that had me screaming the loudest in a game full of screaming:
Deon Figures somehow managed to lay a helmet-on-helmet shot and a horse collar on Frazier on the same play. But before we could be worried if Tommie was hurt, he was already back on his feet in Figures face, grill to grill sending the message that there was a new attitude in Lincoln.
Good place to stop, I'm getting chills.