LINCOLN — Forget the first eight catches of his career and disregard the two touchdowns when you're dissecting why receiver Steven Osborne has apparently turned the corner in his final season at Nebraska.
His tale is best told by a conversation that NU assistant Rich Fisher had Sunday with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald when his old friend called to congratulate the Huskers on their 23-9 win over Michigan.
“The subject changed to special teams and he says, 'Man, I just got to say, there's a guy that you have, No. 21 ... '” Fisher said. “He goes, 'I don't know who that creature is, but he shows up all the time on special teams.'
“That's really what Steve has done to this point, is he just shows up.”
Special teams lack the glory but honor the relentless, and that was Osborne's story before the fifth-year senior put his name on the offensive stat sheet for the first time.
In the meantime, Fisher said Osborne kept working and preparing, even though he seemed buried at a position where the Huskers came into the season with some of their best depth.
“I think he had a lot of patience,” NU junior receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “I don't think he was ever down on himself. He always came and worked, no matter what, and whenever his opportunity was there he seized it. That's exactly what he's done this year.”
Osborne started the season with two catches against Southern Mississippi, including a 29-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder from Garland, Texas, has had at least one reception in four of the seven games since, and now eight for 81 yards on the year.
With Taariq Allen done for the season with a knee injury, Osborne now is left as the main backup to Enunwa at the “Z” receiver spot.
“I think he's having a lot of fun, because he's starting to see some success on the field,” Fisher said. “I think he's feeling like he's really a part of the group. Sometimes when you've got a room of guys that are playing and guys that really aren't playing, there's a little bit of a disconnect, even though we're all on the same team. But I think he really feels like he's contributing, which he is.”
Osborne, who regularly declines interviews, contributed in a big way Saturday night against the Wolverines. On a drive where Taylor Martinez completed passes to five receivers, Osborne caught a 19-yard throw on third-and-2 just before Martinez put Nebraska ahead 7-0 on the next play with a 32-yard strike to Kenny Bell.
Bell and Enunwa have put up the biggest numbers with their combined 53 receptions, but Osborne has been there to do his part — and it hasn't just been with his first catches as a Husker.
“He's more tenacious than I am at blocking,” said Enunwa, roundly considered the Huskers' biggest force on the perimeter. “He's way more aggressive. He has a mean attitude when he goes at it.”
Fisher said Osborne was “super aggressive” with it in a physical game with Michigan.
“I think he takes a lot of pride in that,” Fisher said. “I think the whole group is enjoying that role of that perimeter warrior attitude that we have, and it's fun to coach.”
Fisher said those are the things that Osborne has always put on practice film. The kind of contributions that only the coaching staff might notice.
“Like we've always said, if you're performing it and you're doing it and you're showing up on tape, then that's what you're going to do in the game,” Fisher said.
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