Is the ink dry? OK, good.
Gentlemen, before you enter the Nebraska Fish Bowl, we'll need you to check a few things at the door.
Your ego. Your high school highlight videos. Your superstar status.
Don't worry, you won't need to get a haircut. Maybe you've seen Kenny Bell.
Congratulations on signing the letter of intent. It does not come with an ATM card. However, you do get free meals, room and board and an education. What you do with that is up to you.
You've accomplished a lot to get this honor. But today isn't the finish line. It's the starting line.
Some of you may sprint, some may stumble. Some may fall by the wayside. The first rule about college football: It's a privilege, not a birthright. It's an opportunity. What are you going to do?
There's no handbook on how to make it in college football. There probably should be. It would be an interesting read. You could do a chapter alone on Marcus Dupree.
Fortunately, gentlemen, I've rounded up a few of my old friends and asked them to provide you with advice on how to swim, not sink, in the Nebraska Fish Bowl. Feel free to take notes. The test will come later, in Professor Pelini's lab.
1. The second rule of college football: It's a business.
Maybe you've been coddled and propped up your entire career. For sure, major college coaches who you recognize on TV have spent the past two years telling you how great you are.
Guess what? These men said whatever they thought it would take to get you to sign on the dotted line. The courtship is over.
Now that you've signed, they've got you. Get ready to hear about all of your flaws.
It's not personal, Johnny Football. It's business.
“Once you sign on the dotted line, everything changes,” said Steve Warren, the former Nebraska defensive tackle whose Warren Academy helps train and prepare young football players.
“It's about winning football games now. It's about you doing your job. Nobody's going to be sitting around holding hands, singing campfire songs.
“That coach has a family to feed. That's the bottom line. Your coach is going to make decisions based on winning football games and taking care of his family. As a kid, you don't see that. College football is a business.”
2. You are a celebrity now.
You are a public figure. Any bad decisions you make or trouble you find will be a story. Most students will leave you alone, but some will try to bait you, push your buttons, see if the football player can fight.
You now have to answer to a head coach and a university that won't hesitate to make you a former Nebraska football player. Test the local police force at your own risk.
“Show me your friends and I'll show you your future,” Warren said.
Nebraska fans are good people and good fans. Know, too, that they will love the new kid in town until somebody new comes around.
A lot of fans will know who you are. Their expectations may be unrealistic. Play with Twitter and Facebook at the risk of your mental health.
And remember, there's nothing like losing a football game to show you who your real friends are.
4. Bring the right amount of ego, or attitude.
“There's a fine line,” says Barrett Ruud, the former Husker linebacker. “You have to come with the attitude and confidence to be great, but you know you're not close to it yet. You can ask all these kids if they want to be the best and they could all say yes, but the bottom line is they really don't know what it takes to get there at this level. Be willing to learn. And work.”
5. Find the right role model.
Ruud: “If you watch Ameer Abdullah, he'll show you what an elite work ethic looks like.”
6. Listen to a four-year starter and a college football hall of famer.
Tommie Frazier's advice: “Find a couple of guys you can bond with. That will help you both on and off the field. A lot of them are away from home for the first time, too. The quicker you can establish that friendship, the better life will be.
“And learn how to manage football time, class time and social time. Set priorities.”
7. You may not play on a national championship team as a freshman, like Kris Brown and Matt Davison. Even so, soak it in.
“The advice I'd give them is to not take it for granted,” said Brown, the former Husker kicker whose younger brother Drew is in this year's NU class. “You think four years is a long time, but it goes fast, especially when you're on a team like the 1995 team. It took me to the sixth, seventh game before I really took in what was going on.
“What I would say is, be ready to go when you get here. It goes fast.”
Davison, who was a freshman on the 1997 co-national champion team, said, “Even as a Nebraska kid, I appreciated the opportunity I had, but I didn't realize how lucky I was. I wish I'd written some stuff down. It flies by. The first couple years you dread practice and sometimes the games and then, after your last game, you want to go practice again. That happens to everyone.”
8. There's a thing called a depth chart.
You might need a magnifying glass to find your name. Oh, and that guy next to you was the best player on his team or conference or region, too.
How you gonna handle that? You're about to find out.
“The biggest things I tell the kids (in Warren Academy) is to be prepared to train like you've never trained before,” Warren said. “Everybody's an (high school) All-American here. The competition, every day, is fierce.
“There's a lot of stress, but it's meant to be put on you. The coaches are going to be hard on you. They want to see how you're going to handle the pressure when you've got 85,000 people looking at you. They're going to test you.”
Brown added, “You've got to handle that part. Some do better than others. You tend to see the kids from Texas, Florida and California handle it better. They've been on the big stages in high school.”
9. How do you handle the pressure?
Take a deep breath. So says Eric Crouch, the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner, who started at quarterback as a freshman, then lost the job in a heated competition to Bobby Newcombe before his sophomore year.
“You think about all the high expectations you have for yourself, the expectations everyone has for you,” Crouch said. “You want to play right away. The competition is something everyone has to deal with.
“What you have to realize is that the competition makes you better. Welcome it. Understand it. I remember I used to say about the competition, 'You are my enemy. I'm going to destroy you.'
“But he's not the enemy. They are your teammates. They are here to help you win a championship. You all help make each other better.”
10. I asked all of the former Huskers to tell me something they wish they would have known coming in as a freshman.
Considering the emotions he went through his sophomore year, and all the attention it got, Crouch's answer was my favorite.
“You have a lot of work to do, and it's just beginning,” Crouch said. “But you're 18, and it's a new system. There are going to be good days and bad days. You're still a kid. And that's OK.”
That might need to be on the first page of the handbook.
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