Johnny the Jet Wants Nebraska to Be Nebraska Again
In both life and athletics, transformation requires a process that delivers more despair than magical moments. Whoever follows Division I college football knows how long and winding that road is to make the NCAA Final Four Football Playoffs.
Johnny The Jet Rodgers loves talking about champions, especially when he references Scott Frost, who led Nebraska’s 1997 program to a fifth national championship in a 42-17 romp over Peyton Manning-led Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.
No one is suggesting that Nebraska might compete for even a Big Ten division title in 2017, let alone be in search of a conference championship under Frost in his first-year at the Husker helm. I mention Rodgers because he sounds like a motivational speaker when he describes the impact that Frost & Company might have after inheriting a 4-8 team that never even knocked on the door of a .500 season, let alone a second-rate bowl game.
Rodgers likes everything he hears or reads about Frost. The first of three Husker Heisman Trophy winners, Rodgers was an explosive wide receiver and return specialist on Nebraska’s 1970 and ’71 national title teams before winning the Heisman in ’72.
“Everybody I know and hear about are all in with the Huskers,” Rodgers told me. “Everyone can hardly wait to see Nebraska be Nebraska again. The vast majority realize it is not likely to happen overnight, but anyone who knows Scott and the people he hired to compete, cannot help but be excited. I’m excited about Scott Frost leading our football program. I have known Larry, his dad, almost my entire life and also followed Scott’s career very closely.”
Scott Frost’s Mom, Dad Coached Him at Wood River High School
Larry was a halfback under Bob Devaney at Nebraska, earning three letters as a running back/wide receiver, plus a Nebraska Track and Field letter-winner as a jumper. Carol Frost, Scott’s mother, was the first female Olympian from Nebraska, competing in the discus at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Both of Scott’s parents coached him at Wood River, Neb., High School. His dad was his head football coach and his mom coached wide receivers.
How great can life get when your mom and your dad earn Nebraska varsity letters and their son becomes such a big part of Husker history? What can top leading the Huskers to a national championship as a quarterback? I would submit winning a national championship as Nebraska’s head football coach.
“Scott (above with Nebraska Director of Athletics Bill Moos) trained hard as a quarterback in high school, at Stanford and at Nebraska under Tom Osborne, one of the best, if not the best college coach of all time,” Rodgers said. “Scott has an incredible amount of knowledge. He’s equipped to do big things.”
Scott learned the essence of defensive schemes. “That explains how deeply involved he got and why he was able to play in the NFL as a safety,” Rodgers said. “He had a great understanding for both sides. I’ve never heard of a national championship quarterback who played in the NFL in the secondary.”
Frost’s unlikely path proved how knowledgeable he is just by the way he hired staff. “He brought all his coaches to Nebraska after winning every College Football Coach of the Year award,” Rodgers said. “Very few people can inherit a team that didn’t win any games and then go undefeated two years later.
“Scott is a proven commodity, and he shows it every day,” Johnny the Jet said. “He has the base to coach, understand and inspire how to communicate with his players on the field, off the field and with the media.”
Great Leaders, Tremendous Mentors Laid Groundwork for Huskers
The legendary Rodgers (pictured above) envisions multiple ways for Nebraska to attract superb talent to mid-America. “Nebraska has great leaders and tremendous mentors who trace all the way back to Coach Osborne just like we had mentors who traced all the way back to Bob Devaney,” Rodgers pointed out.
“Nebraska has a rich history in the top echelon, and Scott is a proven factor of that,” Rodgers told me. “He and his entire staff are equipped to prepare and develop recruits and walk-ons who want to play at the highest level in college and then go on to the next level.
“Everybody wants to say it’s all in the pudding, but only a handful of schools have everything that Nebraska and a few others have,” Rodgers said. “Scott has been very successful. He knows what it takes to be in the top five programs in the country. Nebraska is in that category with Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Ohio State. Look it up: We also have more wins than Alabama, Oklahoma and Penn State.
“Recruiting is the biggest thing that will put Nebraska back on the fast track,” Rodgers said. “It is high time for us to make a big comeback because we have a great leader who has played here and returned to coach here. Scott knows how to make everything happen.”
Rodgers expects Nebraska to help parents and talented young athletes understand the integrity of Nebraska football for decades past and decades ahead. “Nebraska has a unique way to mold great athletes in all aspects of their life,” Rodgers said. “We keep you grounded on academics, life skills and football when you decide to come to Nebraska. Tom Osborne built the best overall program in the country.”
Johnny the Jet: Nebraska Has Great Mindset in Everything We Do
“Our record shows how many players we’ve sent to the NFL and how many have played in the Super Bowl,” Rodgers said. “We help everyone learn how to get an education, how to win and how to help others. Ask anyone. Nebraska has a great mindset in everything we do.”
Rodgers describes Scott Frost as a great example of the all-around student-athlete who embraced the power to learn at a superior program.
“Some players are bigger and stronger than Scott was, but no one was tougher physically,” Rodgers said. “He knew how to connect preparation with mentality and mindset. Like Coach Osborne, Scott goes all out and puts everything together. He knows what it takes to build a great offense and build a great defense.”
Rodgers says Scott’s skills on both sides of the ball are just as important as Nebraska’s unparalleled reputation in both strength and conditioning and nutrition.
“When you design and implement everything Scott did in two years at Central Florida, you understand how fast he moves in everything that he fixes,” Rodgers said. “Scott Frost is for real. He can implement whatever it takes offensively and defensively.”
Frost prioritizes developing schemes “that take you beyond everyone else trying to do the same thing,” Rodgers said. From Johnny the Jet’s vantage point, Frost “believes in the motto Be strong as one. He also preaches Be the right guys in the right positions on every down.”
Why Scott Frost Swept Five National Coach of the Year Awards
“Put all of that together and you’ll see why Scott Frost won every National Coach of the Year Award,” Rodgers said. “He knows what’s important and he works with his assistants to make things happen.”
Without competitive goals, Frost never could have a taken a 0-12 team to 13-0 two years later. His big goals as both a college and a pro player helped Frost “reap the rewards at the same time he and his staff were game planning and recruiting hard,” Rodgers said. “Scott and his staff are doing everything they can to set the table for spring football and bounce back next fall.”
Rodgers (above on his 1971 Game of the Century touchdown punt return at Oklahoma) smiles when asked how Scott Frost will clear the high hurdles he did when he was high school hurdler who competed in the Nebraska State High School Track Meet.
An easy question deserves an instant answer. “Scott Frost is just like Tom Osborne,” Rodgers told me. “He’s been a great student of the game. Like Tom, he can instantly transfer what he learns and what he knows can help everybody on the team to do what’s absolutely best for them and best for the team.”
In Rodgers’ mind, “speed is the premium, but it also has to have the physicality factor to go with it,” he said. “Our new strength coach worked here and was the National Strength Coach of the Year. He chose to lead that program like Nebraska did clear back in the early 1970s when they were true pioneers.”
Nebraska’s new head coach and the Huskers’ first-hand strength coach “are obviously like-minded,” Rodgers said. “They have to be intelligent and driven to teach what they know. Everyone wants to do that, but they were the only ones in the country who held up and finished unbeaten.”
Oneness Does Not Materialize Without Planning, Hard Work
Oneness does not materialize without detailed planning and old-fashioned hard work. “Coach Osborne appreciated and depended on everybody on the team and so does Scott,” Rodgers said. “If you’re not all going in the same direction, you can’t transfer the information over to others unless they’re all in.
“Scott is very fortunate because he’s been able to pick the guys who can fix the problems,” said Rodgers (No. 20 above with the late Joe Blahak, No. 27). “That’s why Wisconsin has dominated the West Division. We need stronger, faster and more powerful players, and those who come will arrive at the right time.
“We are very fortunate right now because we can recruit players with speed,” Rodgers said. “Coach Frost, his staff and the team will pick great leaders and motivators and will move forward as fast they can.
“The transformation will succeed. Bill Moos, our athletic director, will make sure of that,” Rodgers said. “Nebraska has not won a conference title since 1999. That is why our upper management team has transitioned. Bill will be a big part of the process to rebuild and return us to national prominence.
“Our leadership is solid, not fragmented,” Rodgers emphasized. “We have the right people and the right coaches to go in the right direction. It will help our program focus on everything it takes to turn things around. Our whole state is watching and supportive. Everybody wants us to get back to where we were.”
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