Randy York’s N-Sider
Nebraska football’s version of lightening was so frighteningly great it angered Big Red’s worldwide fan base when he had to wait to get into the College Football Hall of Fame. But Husker fans can breathe easy now. The National Football Foundation announced Tuesday that Tommie Frazier will be enshrined in its 2013 induction class that includes 14 players and coaches. Yes, lightening finally lands in the Hall of Fame, so forget about the storm clouds that delayed that landing and congratulate Tommie, the first Nebraska quarterback ever to receive college football’s highest individual honor.
Frazier joins 15 legendary Husker players and six fabled Nebraska coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame. Even those who might disagree with the process cannot argue with the result. Like all groups operating at the highest level, the College Football Foundation has to balance more political ramifications than a national convention, and it was only a matter of time before Tommie Frazier reached the same end zone as Mike Rozier, Johnny Rodgers and Bobby Reynolds. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear Kent Pavelka enunciating a signature call: “Touchdown, Tommie Frazier!” Tommie was the MVP of Nebraska’s 1994 and 1995 national championship teams that beat Miami in the Orange Bowl and then smoked Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. If the ’93 Huskers had not missed a last-second field goal, Nebraska would have beaten Florida State, 19-18, in the Orange Bowl and then Tommie most likely would have been the MVP of three consecutive national championship games. Despite that heart-breaker as a sophomore, Frazier arguably outperformed 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward in the national championship game. Frazier's legacy line includes a career 33-3 record as a starter, two national titles and that one near miss that still managed to elevate him on the national stage.
Frazier Praises the Offensive Talent around Him
“This is quite an honor,” Frazier said. “You never play the game and think you’re going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. You just go out and try to be the best you can be and whatever happens, happens. I was fortunate that good things happened, but it certainly was not me alone. I had great teammates and coaches that played a big part in this honor. I was surrounded by great players at every position, and many of those guys had great careers themselves. I did have the role of being a coach on the field, but the guys around me made it that much easier. With the supporting cast we had on offense, many times regardless of whether I had us in the right play or wrong play, they made it work.”
Some writers have wondered why Tommie was never a captain, and if that had something to do with his delayed national recognition. Mike Babcock, Nebraska’s most notable football historian, sees that issue through a different lens. “Tommie was such a confident guy, he could often be misunderstood,” Babcock told me. “I think he thought he should be the starter from the beginning. Sometimes, something like that rubs some people the wrong way.” Tom Osborne, who was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 1998, said Frazier “was better prepared to start as a freshman than any quarterback we had. That’s not easy to do, but he was unusually mature and competitive. He had played at a high level in front of big crowds in high school, so going out and playing in a major college game was not intimidating to him.”
Touchdown Tommie Relishes Role as Family Man
From a personal standpoint, I’ve enjoyed watching the continuous growth that Frazier has shown over the years and the way he never allowed himself to get caught up in the disappointment of his faithful followers. When you’re recruited by Kevin Steele and coached by Tom Osborne at Nebraska, you tend to pick up some of their best traits as you mature, and Tommie has done just that as a professional, a husband and a father.
Osborne called Frazier an outstanding competitor. “He did everything he could to win and was a good leader by example,” Osborne said. “He expected a lot out of himself and the people around him. He was an outstanding leader and catalyst and made everyone around him better. Tommie managed the game very well, and was a natural option quarterback. He had a good sense of timing, when to pitch, when not to pitch. He had excellent balance, good speed and was very strong.” Frazier is thrilled to join Osborne in the Hall of Fame. “There aren’t many players that can say that,” he said. “Coach Osborne took a big chance on me as a freshman in 1992. He saw something in me to give me the keys to the car, and for him to trust me with our offense meant a lot to me.”
Gill Deserves to Be Huskers’ First Hall-of-Fame QB
Frazier mentioned the great Nebraska quarterbacks that played before him – Jerry Tagge, Dave Humm, Vince Ferragamo, Turner Gill and Steve Taylor. “For me to be the first of that group is quite an honor,” Frazier said before adding a punch line: “Turner Gill is more deserving than me to be the first Nebraska quarterback in the Hall of Fame because he taught me everything I know. Eric Crouch (the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner) is also very deserving of the honor and hopefully his time will come soon.”
Even though Frazier was gracious when the Hall of Fame bypassed his selection, he appreciated the passion of Nebraska’s fans. “The support of the fans in Nebraska has been constant,” he said. “The past two years when I didn’t get selected I wasn’t worried because you can only control what you can control. I appreciated all the fan support I received though. That means a lot because I wasn’t out there to play for myself. I played for the fans, my family, my coaches and my teammates.” Frazier was voted the quarterback on Nebraska's All-Century Team and was named one of the 10 greatest college football players by Sport Magazine in 1999. Navy’s Roger Staubach and TCU’s Sammy Baugh were the other two quarterbacks on that elite10-player team. Frazier’s No. 15 jersey was retired in the fall of 1996, and Touchdown Tommie was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame the year after finishing his amazing collegiate career. Unfortunately, continued problems with blood clots became the ultimate NFL roadblock for one of the college game's most accomplished performers of all time.
Crouch, Alberts, Gill Climb on NU Fans’ Priority Chart
For nearly two decades, Frazier has been called the greatest college football player never to win a Heisman Trophy (He finished second in 1995 voting behind Eddie George). According to emails I receive, that vote was a major factor in Nebraska’s collective protest of Tommie needing three ballots to become a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. You have to wonder. With that issue now solved, will Husker fans take on the cause of Eric Crouch and Trev Alberts? And what about Turner Gill? If Tommie was Nebraska’s lightening, he just made Turner Gill Husker thunder. Whatever does or does not happen behind closed doors, rememer this: Patience is a virtue.
That is one of the many lessons Frazier learned from Gill, who was his quarterback coach throughout his career at Nebraska. “Tommie was the ultimate competitor, leader and champion that I have ever coached," Gill said. "He demonstrated this from the first day at practice through the last football snap that he ever took at Nebraska.”
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Nebraska Players in the Hall of Fame
Ed Weir - Tackle (1923-25) - Inducted in 1951
George Sauer - Fullback (1931-33) - Inducted in 1954
Guy Chamberlin - End (1913-15) - Inducted in 1962
Clarence Swanson - End (1918-21) - Inducted in 1973
Sam Francis - Fullback (1934-36) - Inducted in 1977
Bobby Reynolds - Halfback (1950-52) - Inducted in 1984
Forrest Behm - Tackle (1938-40) - Inducted in 1988
Wayne Meylan - Middle Guard (1965-67) - Inducted in 1991
Bob Brown - Guard (1962-63) - Inducted in 1993
Rich Glover - Middle Guard (1970-72) - Inducted in 1995
Dave Rimington - Center (1979-82) - Inducted in 1997
Johnny Rodgers - Wingback (1970-72) - Inducted in 2000
Mike Rozier - I-Back (1981-83) - Inducted in 2006
Grant Wistrom - Rush End (1994-97) - Inducted in 2009
Will Shields - Guard (1989-92) - Inducted in 2011
Tommie Frazier - Quarterback (1992-95) - To Be Inducted in 2013
Nebraska Coaches in the Hall of Fame
Fielding Yost (1898) - Inducted in 1951
Dana X. Bible (1929-36) - Inducted in 1951
Lawrence McCeney "Biff" Jones (1937-41) - Inducted in 1954
Edward N. "Robbie" Robinson (1896-97) - Inducted in 1955
Bob Devaney (1962-72) - Inducted in 1981
Tom Osborne (1973-97) - Inducted in 1999