A hotel ballroom full of some 300 fans during a weekday lunch hour proved Nebraska Director of Athletics Bill Moos’ point to that very group.
The passion, energy and excitement surrounding Nebraska football is as strong today as it’s ever been, despite past bumps.
“Our brand is not tarnished. It just needed to be dusted off a little bit,” Moos said. “I’m here to tell you: It’s dusted.
“I did some of the dusting myself.”
Moos and Davison, in his first season as Nebraska Associate Athletic Director for Football, were together again Thursday at Embassy Suites in Lincoln, where they spoke to fans and answered questions during the Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheon.
They both painted an accurate picture of unity, determination and passion within the Nebraska football program.
“I think everybody kind of feels this community now around our program that we probably haven’t felt in 21 years,” said Davison, who played one season, as a freshman, with Frost, a senior, in 1997. “That includes all the former players as well. There are very few guys, if any, that I know of who aren't really totally on board with what’s going on.
“It’s just a great feeling. We feel it in the building. I know Coach Frost feels it, the whole staff.”
Davison said he’s met countless former players over the last nine months – he specifically mentioned Tyrone Hughes and Dana Brinson – that he had never before met.
Having players from all different eras come together in support is a sign Nebraska football is on the verge of returning to its former self.
“I think you’d kind of have to be crazy to not really be excited about where we are right now,” Davison said. “It’s been a tough 15 years or so in a lot of ways. We’ve gone through some coaches, and now we have the right guy. He’s one of ours.”
And Frost isn’t going anywhere soon, Davison said.
“This is a long term deal. This is not a stepping stone job,” he said. “He’s going to be here a long time.”
That means Frost will have time to build the program and invest in players, most notably local players, in the same manner Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne did in establishing the glory years of Nebraska football.
“We’re going to work hard to develop relationships across the state with coaches and communities, so that young men – boys – in this state want to grow up wearing the ‘N’ on their helmet,” Davison said in an emphatic statement that was met with applause.
A native of Tecumseh, Nebraska, Davison couldn’t have fathomed considering playing anywhere but Nebraska.
It’s this staff’s job, he said, to instill that same yearning and belief in today’s instate players.
“We want to get back to where everybody wants to play here again,” Davison said, “because they’re excited about the program.”
When Davison played, he remembered being unable to determine the difference between walk-ons and scholarship players because coaches treated all the same. If they were good enough, they would play. Whether with reps in practice or in the weight room, players were coached the same.
“We want as many good football players from the state of Nebraska in our program as we can get," Davison said. "If they’re scholarship worthy, we’re going to give them a scholarship. If they’re a walk-on, we’re going to try to get them to walk on.”
Moos noted that at most schools, a flag goes up when a player is mentioned as a walk-on, because he’s labeled as being not as good.
It’s the opposite in Lincoln.
“At Nebraska, it’s a badge of honor,” Moos said. “I can’t tell you how many people in the nine or 10 months I’ve been here have come up to me and introduced themselves (as a former walk-on).
“It’s pretty amazing. I intend to celebrate those walk-ons because they’ve been such a big, big part of our legacy.”
The next step is developing those walk-ons once they arrive in Lincoln. That means coaches must understand what a 17-year-old can look like when he’s 21, or predict what a player needs over the next few years by simply looking as his frame.
All of this is part of a formula that’s unique to Frost and his staff, because, well, it’s unique to Nebraska. What works here would not necessarily work at other major football programs. That’s why Frost has welcomed back people with Nebraska roots and connections, like former assistant coach Ron Brown and director of nutrition performance Dave Ellis.
“I feel like now, there’s a lot of people in the building who understand how to get it done,” Davison said. “It’s a combination of using a little bit of what used to work at Nebraska, some of that formula, and then also looking to the future and today’s football -- how you use some of those things moving forward to try to get this thing back on track.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.