Photo by Chris Walsh/Huskers.com

Frost, Moos Engage Fans from Western Nebraska

By Brian Rosenthal

Gering, Nebraska – Kyle Boettcher, his wife, Witnni, and their three children arrived at the Gering Civics Center nearly 2 hours before Nebraska football coach Scott Frost and Director of Athletics Bill Moos were scheduled to speak on the first leg of the Husker Nation Tour, presented by First National Bank.

In fact, the doors wouldn’t open until an hour before the event.

Well worth the wait, as far as Boettcher was concerned.

“A lot of us make the trip across the state to go to games,” said Boettcher, who lives in nearby Harrisburg, “and it’s cool to see them return the favor and come out here.”

The Boettcher family was among some 300 fans who eagerly awaited to listen to Moos and Frost on Monday, the first of two days for the Nebraska football Husker Nation Tour, to continue Tuesday with assistant coaches visiting various locations across the state.

Before Frost even addressed the crowd, Boettcher knew some words that would leave the lips of Nebraska’s new football coach, a former Husker and native Nebraskan.

“It’s back to the football we grew up with,” Boettcher said. “He has the same mentality we grew up loving Husker football for.”

Indeed, Frost stressed the importance of returning Nebraska football to its disciplined, hard-working roots as fans from the western part of the state listened intently.

“I can’t tell you how many gains we’ve already made from a strength and conditioning standpoint,” Frost said in crediting new strength coach Zach Duval. “We’re going to be delivering some blows instead of taking them on the football field.”

That comment elicited the loudest applause of the hour-long presentation.

Frost, noting he hadn’t been to the Nebraska panhandle for some 10-15 years, sat on a stool with his leg in a walking boot, as he was only two days post ankle surgery.

That wasn’t about to stop the Wood River native from participating on the tour in which he’d meet and greet fans that help mold Nebraska’s program.

“I want every person in the state of Nebraska to feel like they’re a part of it,” Frost said. “When I was growing up, the people of the state felt like they were a part of the program, and the more we can get out and see people, the more we can have open doors down in Lincoln and have those people come see us.”

Frost, who became a hot coaching commodity after directing a major turnaround at Central Florida, explained to the crowd the many coaching opportunities he had after leading the Golden Knights to an undefeated season and Peach Bowl victory over Auburn.

“I knew the decision didn’t just affect me,” Frost said. “It affected my assistant coaches. It affected their kids. It affected their lives. It affected a lot of people.”

After soul searching, and in meeting with his staff, the consensus became clear for their next stop

Lincoln, Frost said, was it.

That drew more applause.

“Like Bill said, this is one of the few places in the country where everybody in the population of the whole state pulls for one team,” Frost said. “We want everybody to have a unity and feel like they’re a part of it.”

Moos attended with his wife, Kendra, and seemed very much in his element with a crowd that included ranchers and farmers. (Moos and Frost later visited with fans in Allliance, pictured above).

In fact, Moos revealed that his great-grandmother homesteaded in Ogallala, and met his great-grandfather, who came from Germany. Together, they had nine children, including Moos’ grandfather, William Moos, born in Big Springs.

“So I’ve come back to my roots,” Moos said to applause.

Moos spent five years as Director of Athletics at Montana before heading to Oregon, where he led the Ducks’ athletic department from 1995-2007 before deciding to leave to focus on ranching.

A writer for the Oregonian newspaper wanted to know why. Why would Moos leave the bright lights and perks and excitement of college athletics to go raise cattle?

“Well,” Moos said he told the reporter, “I guess I’m at a point in my life where I’d rather step in it than put up with it.”

Even though that quote made headlines the next day, Moos, years later, remembered where his heart was.

“That pilot light never goes out,” he said, referring to college athletics.

So he returned to the field, at Washington State, although he always had one school on his list of possible places he would like to eventually land.

That was Nebraska, where in 2015, his son, Ben, had attended a Friday Nights Lights football camp, with Kendra Moos along on the visit.

Her report to her husband?

I. LOVE. LINCOLN.

Moos joked to Monday’s crowd he always sees to his wife’s wants and needs.

“When (the job) opened in October,” Moos said, “I turned to Kendra and I said, ‘Let’s make a run at this.’ “

Gene DeFilippo, a good friend of Moos and the former Director of Athletics at Boston College, was senior executive director with the search firm Turnkey Sports, in charge of helping Nebraska find a new Director of Athletics.

Moos said he called DeFilippo at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, expressing interest in the Nebraska job. Some 30 minutes later, DeFilippo called back and said Moos had an interview two days later, at 8:30 a.m. at “some undisclosed location.”

Moos did his homework on Nebraska President Hank Bounds and Chancellor Ronnie Green and discovered both had farming backgrounds.

“I thought, ‘Hell, if this interview starts going south, we can start talking about John Deere tractors, Hereford cattle, maybe soybeans,’ ” Moos said, drawing laughter.

He said he walked into the hotel suite, and, “they jumped up, ‘Hi, I’m Hank! Hi, I’m Ronnie!’ I thought, ‘I feel like I’m back in the bunkhouse!’ ”

Two days later, Moos was hired.

Eventually, his first major task would be to hire a football coach. He consulted former Nebraska coach and Director of Athletics, Tom Osborne, hoping he could draw from his experience and expertise.

“That icon of a man,” Moos said, “needs to be involved in everything.”

Moos invited Osborne in his office, already knowing Frost was at the top of his list of candidates.

“You know,” Osborne told Moos, “somebody who’s very close to Scott, perhaps his best friend is Matt Davison. You might want to talk to him.”

Osborne left. Within minutes, Moos turned to his administrative assistant and said, “Get Matt Davison in here within 15 minutes.”

Again, the rest is history.

“We’re going to rebuild this the proper way,” Moos told Monday’s gathering. “I’ve got the right guy from the pick of the litter from coaches we wanted. I know that I wanted.”

Frost said the enthusiasm among fans is even greater than what he expected. The reception on the recruiting trail is “off the charts,” he said.

“Everywhere I go in this state, we see the enthusiasm, we see the excitement,” Frost said. “That’s what Nebraska football should be.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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