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When Matt Davison was announced as an ex-Husker that would be introduced before Nebraska's first-ever Big Ten Conference basketball game Tuesday night against Wisconsin, the idea seemed cool, if not a bit rare. I mean, how many times does a Nebraska football household name get a curtain call more than a decade after competing in his secondary sport? You're right - about as often as that 1997 miracle catch Davison made at Missouri.
Well, once in a lifetime in Columbia was set to meet once in a lifetime in Lincoln. Meaningful convergence of historic relevance and genuine appreciation seemed like the perfect time to describe why Davison is Nebraska's trailblazing man for all seasons ... a man whose voice can be heard almost year-round on the Husker Sports Network.
Most staunch Big Red fans know Davison lettered in football and basketball at Nebraska, but scores of young fans have no idea he bounced a basketball for the Huskers two years after an oval ball bounced off a teammate's foot and into his arms, creating an indelible place for him and his team in college football history.
Plenty of ex-players from BCS conferences provide commentary on college and/or pro football or basketball, but you wonder how many combo football/basketball players from a BCS-level school actually broadcast both sports. I'm guessing Davison is one of very few, if not the only one.
Who's No. 1 on the All-Time Bowl Chart?
Since I enjoy his commentary in both sports on the Husker Sports Network, I wanted to describe Davison's ability to double-cover his alma mater, so I approached him Tuesday afternoon. "I'm looking for unique perspective," I said, "but first, I have a bowl-related question. Do you have any idea who might be Nebraska's all-time bowl leader in career receiving yards?"
"Irving Fryar," Davison shot back, sounding fairly confident with his answer.
"Actually, that's the same guess my nephew came up with yesterday," I replied, "and I informed him that Fryar isn't even among the top five."
"Really?" Davison said, adding: "Then, it almost has to be Nate Swift, doesn't it?"
"Wrong again," I said. "Same second answer my nephew came up with. He told me since Swift was our all-time receiving yardage leader overall, he figured Nate almost had to be the bowl leader, too. But believe it or not, Swift's not in the top five bowl leaders either."
By this time, Davison seemed to sense a setup.
"Do I have it?" he asked incredulously. "Are you serious?"
"Very serious," I said. "You're No. 1 with 233 yards. Johnny Rodgers is second with 200 yards. Then comes Johnny Mitchell with 195, followed by Corey Dixon with 173 and Tim Smith with 150."
"You would think I'd know that with the career path I've chosen," Davison said, "but honestly, I had no idea."
Great Catch, Great Season = an ESPY
When you think about it, why would Davison "know that" when the only play Husker fans ever talk about is his diving end zone catch from Scott Frost's arm off Shevin Wiggins' leg? Anytime a freshman saves a national championship season, he etches his own name into Nebraska folklore, and in Davison's case, he ended up winning an ESPY Award, so all attention focuses on that moment instead of his full body of his work.
The truth is Davison was usually at his best when it mattered most. As a freshman, he caught one pass for 16 yards in Nebraska's 42-17 national championship romp over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. As a sophomore, future 11-year NFL defensive back Chris McAlister covered Davison almost every play in the Huskers' 23-20 Holiday Bowl loss to Arizona. Still, he made three catches for 64 yards. As a junior, Davison snagged two passes for 68 yards in Nebraska's 31-21Fiesta Bowl win over Tennessee. As a senior, he capped his career with three more catches for 85 additional yards and two touchdowns in Nebraska's NCAA record-setting 66-17 blowout over Co-Big Ten Champ Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.
Matt Davison never missed a game at Nebraska, but nagging ankle injuries and deep thigh bruises kept him out of plenty of practices. He admits the year-and-a-half, non-stop competitive football/basketball combo between his junior and senior seasons took its toll on his body and may well have factored into his injury-plagued attempt to make the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. From a professional career standpoint, however, things have worked out quite nicely, thank you.
"I love what I'm doing," Davison said, "and I'm excited about calling the Capital One Bowl. It's a great matchup for us because it's a statement game and all about opportunity. It's our chance to play a Top 10 school from a marquee conference and keep South Carolina from winning the most games that school has ever won. I like the matchup because we appear to be healed up across the board."
Unfortunately, Nebraska is playing without two of its top three basketball scorers because of injuries, so the same cannot be said about the winter sport Davison covers. "It's frustrating, and we face a tough stretch right out of the gate," he said. "Expectations were high, and it's hard to explain what's happening right now. But we still have 17 conference games to play. We're in probably the best basketball league in America, and 18 games is a real grind. It's going to be tough to find a way, but we will see."
No Pregame Introduction for Announcer
Davison will broadcast 26 of Nebraska's 30 men's basketball games. Capital One Bowl commitments force him to miss Saturday's home game against Michigan State. He was not, however, expecting to miss his formal introduction before Tuesday night's Wisconsin game.
"I don't know what happened," Davison said, explaining he was among nearly three dozen Husker basketball lettermen lined up and committed to show their support for Doc Sadler and the program. Somehow, though, the expected pregame introduction for one Matt Davison did not materialize.
Our trailblazing man for all seasons may have gotten lost in the shuffle, but Davison knows it was unintentional. Besides, a guy with no idea of his prominent place in Nebraska history would never worry about something like this. For a football legend, there's only one way to describe what happened, and it requires a basketball term.
No harm, no foul.
And move on.
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