Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Domann Confident In Return

By Brian Rosenthal

His real name is Johansen, although JoJo Domann usually only hears it, and rarely, from his mother, in a serious moment.  

Say, maybe, when Domann suffered his second ACL tear last November – 7 months after he’d had his first knee surgery.

“I was filled with emotions,” he said.

Today, Domann doesn’t wear a brace on his surgically repaired knee, and with good reason.

“Huge reason,” Domann clarified. “I chose the man upstairs to take care of my football career. If I’m out there on the field, I want to be able to go all out, everything I have, and not have to worry about a 5-pound brace holding me back.”

It’s a mindset he’s adopted from a new Nebraska coaching staff Domann said has made an enormous difference, as the Huskers close in on their first game of the Scott Frost era, Saturday night against Akron.

“There’s giving 100 percent, and then there’s giving everything you possibly have in the tank,” said Domann, a sophomore safety from Colorado Springs, Colorado. “These coaches want you to give everything you absolutely have in the tank every single time you touch the field. There’s no off plays, there’s no off days.”

Domann is beaming with confidence because of his confidence in the coaching staff, and confidence in the way Nebraska practices.

More than anything, he and others have placed trust in the right places, the right people.

“I think this coaching staff is absolutely fantastic and turning this program around. It’s going to continue to build on itself,” Domann said.

“These coaches have proved to us they live by it, and it makes it that much more compelling to listen to them, to draw from what they’re saying and execute it. They’re genuine, they’re honest. They’re real – they’re real. They take down all boundaries and just speak to us man to man, and that right there is a huge component in how they won the trust of the team.”

This coming from a player who’s pretty sure his position coach didn’t know his name in the spring, what with Domann out of commission while recovering from his second ACL tear.

“I was kind of in the shadows,” Domann said.

He made the most of the situation by focusing on himself, his recovery, and returning to football field a better, stronger player, willing and able to contribute in any way possible.

To wit: Domann begins the season as a No. 2 safety, behind senior transfer Tre Neal, and a contributor on all four special teams units.

Yet, not long ago, Domann needed help just using the restroom.

“Even when you don’t think you’re taking something for granted, when it’s taken away from you, and you have time to reflect on it and watch those guys go out there every single day, and you’re the only one that’s not …you gain a new perspective on the whole situation,” Domann said.

“Now that I’m back out on the field, I really try to take it day by day, play by play, period by period, just try to enjoy it.”

Domann played in every game as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, where he recorded all eight of his career tackles. He ended his season with a forced fumble against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.

But he suffered an ACL tear the following spring, and wasn’t fully recovered to play last season, so he sat out as a redshirt.

Doctors had cleared Domann for noncontact activity when he was playing a pickup basketball game at the rec center and went in for a layup. He tore his ACL a second time, had surgery Nov. 6, and approached his second rehabilitation in a different manner.

“It wasn’t vacation, especially the way I attacked it,” Domann said. “But having guys in there like Mike Decker, like Tre Bryant, Mick Stoltenberg, Luke Gifford, -- just seeing the way they attacked their injuries, it allowed me to attack my circumstances with everything I had.

“If they can do it, I can do it. Having those guys around you, you kind of rally together and push through it.”

Domann returned for preseason camp 100 percent, and he’s undoubtedly one reason coaches have expressed more confidence in the overall secondary now than they did in the spring.

Secondary coach Travis Fisher said he’s been “very surprised” to see what Domann has done in preseason camp, and named him as a player who “jumped out” to him in the team’s first major scrimmage.

“Not only has he surprised me with how he can move and what he can bring to the table, but his attitude has been a lot better, too,” Fisher said. “He’s talking in meetings. In the spring, when he was kind of banged up, he was kind of quiet, didn’t say much.

“He seems like he’s at peace. He’s happy, he’s competing. When he’s getting an opportunity, he’s making plays.”

That includes on special teams, where Domann is playing on all four units. He’s not the only member of the two-deep to play on special teams, either, as Nebraska’s new staff wants its best players making a difference in that third of the game.

“We have Stanley Morgan, Mike Williams, Dedrick Young, Mo Barry – all these guys running with the ones on offense and defense, running down on kickoff team and stuff,” Domann said. “It’s competitive, and that’s the way we want it. I think that’s going to give us an advantage against other teams.”

Defensively, Domann appreciates the trust coordinator Erik Chinander has in the backend of the defense to make calls. The previous two coordinators, Domann said, made the call, and players played the call, even if it didn’t necessarily fit the given look.

“This defense, they make the call off the look,” Domann said. “There are so many moving pieces. Everything is on the go – snap, snap, snap. It’s player driven. The safeties are telling the outside backers and middle backers what coverage we’re playing, not the coach on the sideline.

“We get to move the chess pieces. They put a lot of trust in us.”

That’s another example of a true family feel on the defense, Domann said, where everyone is rooting for one another.

“Everyone, no matter what reps they’re taking with the ones, the twos, the threes, is going as hard as they can, and threes are helping the ones, the ones are helping the threes,” he said. “There’s no, ‘I’m starting, you can’t talk to me’ barriers.

“It’s more of a family. We are preparing to beat you. We’re not scheming to beat each other, we’re scheming to beat the team we’re playing, which is a huge difference.”

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

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