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The “Nebraska Way” - What Does This Really Mean?

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Maybe it’s not what you think it is.

Rutgers v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Below is a very nice video put out by the Athletic Department. It tries to convince you of two things:

  • It’s an assurance the guys are working hard, want to be better, physical, all of which leads to winning, which is what you want to hear.
  • It brings up the “Nebraska Way” and associates that phrase with the qualities mentioned in the first line as recognition of the past, bringing them forward together into the now, and into the future.

Peyton Newell says, “our identity right now is bringing the old Nebraska Way back. We’re out there grueling every single day. Nebraska’s a nasty team. We were a nasty team, and that’s what we need to get back to and make our fans proud.”

Aaron Williams then goes on to talk about how everyone is holding each other more accountable.

Tanner Farmer defines the Nebraska Way for us. “The Nebraska Way of doing things is putting everything you have into it. We know the direction that we need to go. Maximum effort all the time. Just always giving everything you’ve got. Correcting the little things, the big things, doing everything we can to be the BEST that we can be.”

Notice what is NOT IN THIS DEFINITION.

Farmer doesn’t mention:

  • The option
  • The fullback
  • Running the Ball All The Time
  • Overpowering Opponents
  • Hiring former Huskers who played in the 90s

The phrase “The Nebraska Way” has come to mean a lot of things for people over the years, but for some, it’s come to mean specific formations or methods of playing football that have more to do with what you’re doing than who you are.

These guys have to establish who they are. That’s been defined here as “maximum effort all the time” and if you add in Williams’ comment, holding each other accountable.

Easy things to say. Much harder to do.

Kind of like having a good attitude at work. Or marriage.

Farmer also doesn’t mention winning.

It’s not because it’s spring, or because Scott Frost has yet to coach a Nebraska game. It’s because building part of the culture isn’t about focusing on winning. It’s about focusing on all those other things Farmer and Williams mentioned.

As fans we are focused on winning. We’re Americans. Americans like to win, all the time. And even when we win, sometimes we’re not happy because we didn’t win the right way or didn’t win enough.

I read a lot of books. I transcribe excerpts or quotes from some of them, and I keep them with me, because with today’s cell phones, you can carry around the entire history of man’s knowledge in your hand.

This one from our great deity, Tom Osborne, has stuck with me for quite a while:

As a matter of fact, I can’t ever remember telling the players we needed to win a given game. Rather, when we break our approach down in terms of the things we need to do well - such as avoid penalties, block downfield, concentrate in the kicking game, pursue well, tackle well - the players get a handle on what they’re to do. When a coach gets emotional and starts yelling at players to go out and “win”, many times it doesn’t translate into effective action. It simply causes them them to get emotional and engage in behavior that isn’t well-directed. - Tom Osborne, from “More Than Winning”.

Winning will come later, if Farmer and his teammates stay true to their definition. It will take time.

Remember that.

Then There’s This

Which was released yesterday... and is pretty darned funny.

Especially since they don’t pull any punches.