LINCOLN — Nebraska assistant coach Rich Fisher was so fired up after watching sophomore receiver Sam Burtch get his first career catch and touchdown Saturday night that he might have overdone it a little.
So he sought out NU head coach Bo Pelini afterward and said he was sorry.
“I had to apologize in the locker room,” Fisher said Monday. “I got pretty excited. I jumped on Bo's back.”
Fisher had watched Burtch put in all the work to give himself such a chance. He watched the walk-on become one of the surprises of fall camp, emerging as the Huskers' fourth receiver behind Quincy Enunwa, Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner.
It led to the reaction that was admittedly different than it might have been for one of the regulars scoring.
“I can only imagine growing up in the state of Nebraska and dreaming of playing, and then you catch a touchdown,” Fisher said. “It was really cool. I was happy for him.”
Fisher told Burtch that the 26-yard pass from Taylor Martinez in the third quarter against Southern Mississippi was the payoff for all he had done and was doing. Burtch let his guard down for a moment and smiled.
“I told him I could retire now and be a happy man,” Burtch said.
Any lingering satisfaction coming out of the game, of course, would go against everything that Burtch had done to be out there in the first place.
“There's no quit in that guy,” Fisher said.
Burtch, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder from Murdock, Neb., worked with the scout-team offense last season, when he played sparingly in four games. The path to more time looked iffy with the Huskers returning nearly all their firepower at receiver.
But Fisher started liking what he saw, and the faith that Fisher showed in Burtch only fed the confidence and belief in himself.
“He always talks about how if he's going to put you out there, then he trusts that you're going to do the job,” Burtch said. “If he thinks I can do it — and he knows way more about this than I do — then obviously I can do it.”
Burtch played close to a dozen snaps against Wyoming, when his lone target was a Martinez pass that was intercepted. His chance against Southern Miss came immediately after a Ciante Evans interception in the third quarter.
“I think we had a rotation where we were trying to get Quincy and Kenny a blow, so he told me to go in and start the next series,” Burtch said. “We called a pass route where I ran a post and the guy was playing man coverage, and I was like, 'This is probably coming to me. I should probably be ready for it.' It just happened to be a touchdown.”
Nebraska took a 49-13 lead on the Golden Eagles — and the rest was a blur.
Burtch said the NU linemen gave him a hard time because he took off for the sideline before they could all celebrate together. He went to do a leaping chest bump with punter Sam Foltz and ended up kicking his teammate when Foltz didn't jump at the same time.
“It's just surreal,” Burtch said. “It's hard to describe your dream coming true into words, but that's really what it was.”
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