This week’s feature is with John Reece (1989-1993), a defensive back from Houston, Texas. His time at Nebraska coincided with Colorado’s rise in the Big 8 in 1989 and quick fall by 1992 (yeah, we call it like we want).
*1989--As a freshman he played in 11 games with 20 tackles and two PBUs for a 10 win Nebraska team.
*1990—Redshirt with ACL injury.
*1991—Splitting time between FS and CB, he played in 10 games with 24 tackles.
*1992--He had three interceptions on a Big 8 conference championship team and was 2nd in DBs in tackles for the Huskers.
*1993--He was 4th on the team in unassisted tackles, had nine PBUs with one interception, while earning All Big 8 honors for a Nebraska team that played for the National Championship.
*1994--Drafted in the 4th round by Arizona and he had a 3-year NFL career.
Did you have a lot of offers back in 1988 out of high school?
Yeah, the Southwest Conference schools, many of the west coast teams and a few Big 10 programs as well.
Who were the finalists?
Michigan, UCLA and Nebraska.
Why did you pick NU?
The coaches Tony Samuel and Tom Osborne were just honest. They didn’t just say blow smoke and say you are gonna start. They laid out the depth chart and showed me early playing time was possible.
Anything stand out about the process?
I told Coach Samuel that he played Jedi mind tricks on me as they didn’t call much and they didn’t bug me like everybody else. I was wondering how much they wanted me actually, but just straight-forward and kept it real.
You ever feel in over your head that first August in Lincoln?
Not to be too confident but not really. Now I was bigger and a bit faster than most defensive backs so I had that advantage. But overall just the consistency of speed and size of guys I had to get used to though.
C’mon man a freshman, you had to have something happen?
OK, I do remember thinking I was gonna put a big hit on Ken Clark one time and I came up full of steam and just got air. And when I was on the ground, I saw him running down the field, untouched.
I think I closed my eyes as he was a load and he just juked me.
What do you remember about the first time playing at Colorado in 1989?
Their fans were jerks throwing rocks, oranges and snowballs. They poured beer over our heaters, so we couldn’t use them. And we didn’t play well and it still came down to the last few minutes.
About the 1992 night home game on Halloween? (52-7 Husker win)
They came off the plane wearing some mocking t-shirts and we just beat the brakes off them. Just really hammered them.
Their All-American defensive end Chad Brown, who played in the NFL for a long time, came up to me after the game and just said you guys kicked our butts, that was cool of him. We were just college guys competing and having fun, fans get a little nuts sometimes.
Lots of big plays in that game, you make one?
I would have had a pick that game if I would have just have listened to Coach D on a certain play. He said to watch a tweak on a short pass and stay home, but I was impatient and rushed the QB Detmer, then Travis Hill got my interception on that play.
You did have a CU pick the next year to basically end the game though?
Yes, that was nice because such a big play with them driving and a 4-pt lead late and my parents came up from Texas, so that was cool to see them right after the game. I was over the top on a 6-5 tight end and I jumped the route. I don’t think (QB) Kordell Stewart ever saw me.
That game was big for a young Tommie Frazier as well with the I-Backs banged up and him getting hurt, overall what was your first impressions of him in 1992?
Just the way he ran the option right off the bat and his cool demeanor. And just being a freshman commanding the offense was eye-catching. He made a real nice option read at Washington in 1992 with Calvin Jones and we saw that in practice, and then to see on that big of a stage was nice.
So you met your eventual wife on the Tokyo trip for the KSU game in 1992?
Yes, I went out in Tokyo to an American club and she was at a cheer competition. She cheered for Long Beach at the time.
What were you wearing?
Gold chain, sweatshirt with no t-shirt underneath and jeans. Club gear back then.
In your day the offense had a lot of cool nicknames, “The We-Backs,” “The Itty-Bitty Committee,” you guys have any on defense?
We had some hitters on the back end of the defense. We called ourselves “The Headbangers”-- Tyrone Byrd, Kareem Moss, me, Toby Wright, Ernie Bieler, guys that could thump a bit.
Any Coach McBride stories?
Obviously, he could get you fired up before a game but he could pull at your heart too.
One of our linebackers, Darrien Williams, had a long rehab. His first game back, he had his aunt who helped raise him, come to the game, she had never seen him play in college. Coach McBride said something to the effect of—Hey, if you aren’t gonna play hard for yourself today, go make a play for Darrien! And we just busted outta there ready to go!
Memories of your first NFL training camp in Arizona?
Man, it was tough going from Tom Osborne and Charlie McBride to Buddy Ryan. Some coaches in pros just mess with your mind tom see how you react but I made a go of it. Going from corner to safety and dropping weight, adding weight, was a challenge.
NFL moment you look back on?
In my second year with the Rams, early in the season on a Thursday night game versus Atlanta, I had four or five tackles. We contained Eric Metcalf after he broke one early to help put away a close game. That set me up in the line-up until I blew my knee out towards the end of the year.
And it’s the NFL, there is always somebody there waiting to replace you.