Randy York’s N-Sider
Seemingly every Big Red fan has seen Nebraska's new helmets, new football jerseys, new pants, socks and gloves. What you haven't seen are the shoes that complete the Huskers’ alternative uniforms for the Big Ten Conference home-opener against Wisconsin Saturday night. We have a sneak peek of those shoes, but adidas isn't sharing why they're so special to anyone outside of the locker room, at least not yet.
Know this, though. The adidas slogan of "Impossible is Nothing" is an appropriate description for both the shoes and the uniforms that Nebraska and Wisconsin will wear in Saturday's nationally televised game on ABC. Whatever that “something different” is intrigues Ron Kellogg III and Tim Marlowe, who got a better view of the shoes last week. Obviously, they agree with what they see.
If you’re among those who might wonder the reason behind such uniforms and shoes, please wonder no more. The answer is, in a word, recruiting.
Els: Added Exposure Enhances Recruiting
“The media makes such a big deal out of it, and when they do, we get more national exposure,” said Ross Els, Nebraska’s linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator. “When ESPN, Sports Illustrated and all of the other national media outlets generate that kind of interest, that’s good. The recruiting quotient increases exponentially. We all know that winning is the most important thing, but when you line up all the teams that are winning, you look for a differentiator, and this (alternative uniforms) is a big one.”
At Monday’s press conference, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini acknowledged that the Huskers will host “somewhere around 20 recruits” this weekend and praised Els for the way he’s handling Husker recruiting.
"I think he does a great job. He stays on it; he's very detailed,” Pelini said of Els. “There are a lot of things going on and your No. 1 focus is winning football games, and you need someone like Ross who is constantly pushing what we need to do recruiting-wise.”
Pelini Preoccupied with Game Preparation
Because Pelini is so focused on preparing his team, he does not allow uniform changes to intrude on his concentration. “I haven’t really thought much about it,” he said at Monday’s press conference when asked about the uniforms. “It will be a one-game thing. I’ve talked about that. I’m concerned about how the guys in those uniforms play. I’m not concerned with what they line up in.”
Terry Joseph left a recruiting coordinator job and assistant coaching position at Tennessee to become part of Pelini’s staff as Nebraska’s secondary coach. He knows why Els is willing to push the envelope and understands why Pelini supports him.
“Alternate uniforms are the vogue thing to do. It’s hot right now,” Joseph said. “When kids play on national TV, those uniforms give the fans and the recruits a different way to look at a team. Kids want to be different. That's the way a lot of them were brought up, so when they see these guys wearing different uniforms, it excites them about the school, so we're excited, too. You want to make it fun, and it helps us recruit, so it’s a big deal for us all the way around.”
Burkhead is All in on Alternate Uniforms
The idea excites current Huskers, too. “I like the socks. I like the black helmets, and I like the uniforms,” Rex Burkhead said Monday. “They’re cool, and they’re kind of throwback-ish in an old-school kind of way. In a sense, it’s like we’re mixing it up by having something new and still being able to have fun and enjoy history. It’s kind of like that 300th sellout game a couple of years ago. When we wore those throwback uniforms, everybody got really excited about it. I think it kind of brings a new energy.”
Burkhead likes Nebraska being a traditional school that protects its conservative roots. “That’s why it’s so exciting when we do decide to change things up,” he said. “When recruits see all these other schools doing stuff, and they don’t see another school doing something, they ask why we don’t innovate more or change things up more like all these other schools. When they see the latest technology, or the latest uniforms, I think it helps recruiting. Football is just football. It doesn’t matter what jersey you have on. You just play. At the same time, I think it’s kind of an energy thing. I’m excited about it and hope the new uniforms give us a little more pep in our step.”
When you ask Burkhead about the new shoes, you see a smile and even a look of wonder, but he would be the last guy on earth to spill the beans about why those new shoes are unique. The countdown to Saturday has begun, and everyone will learn what’s so special about those shoes whenever the time is right. Meanwhile, hit the play button on the video below, then get in the waiting line with everyone else.
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