Mick Stoltenberg took a lot of pride in being a Husker and a Blackshirt. And now he's finding out that being an alumnus is also something to be excited about.
"These next few years are going to be something special for the program," Stoltenberg said Thursday on "The Bottom Line." "It means a lot to be an alumni now, knowing the things are in place to start to get rolling."
Stoltenberg completed his Husker career as a multi-year starter and team captain. He had six knee surgeries, though, which means he's hit the end of the road as a player — though he now hopes to embark on a college coaching career.
But before he sets down that path, he's taken time to reflect on his time at Nebraska.
"Obviously I'm going to miss the games and the anticipation of getting ready for a game, coming out of the tunnel at Memorial Stadium," Stoltenberg said. "But the thing I'll miss the most is the relationships. ... Those are the guys I saw every day and worked with every day for hours and hours, so I'm going to miss those guys a lot."
Watch the full video from Stoltenberg's TBL interview at the top of the page, or check out a transcript of select excerpts below:
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On whether his career "flew by":
"Absolutely. Especially it being five years, going that extra year with a redshirt. It went by fast, especially once I got to start playing a little more. That's when it started to fly by. It seems like you're waiting forever when you're a redshirt and on the scout team, so it started going fast probably around that third year, but there was no looking back."
On why he injuries prevented him from pursuing a professional playing career:
"It was a tough last few years for me, things stacking up on top of each other. It was a crazy transition, crazy last few years with all the surgeries and everything. When they start to pile up on both knees — I had three on each knee — that's when you know. (I hoped to) finish out the season and then see how they feel and go from there. But after talking to the trainers and the coaches, I decided that was probably the best route for me going forward. Long-term health was definitely a question, so that's the decision I ended up making."
On why he was so determined to return to the field this season:
"The guys in that locker room. It means so much to me, especially the guys I've been there with through all the transition and chaos over the last five years. Plus, just this younger group of guys as well. Especially with the way the first half of the season went, I wanted to do everything I could to get back and help out the D-line and the rest of the team. Right when we discovered I would need surgery after that Michigan game, the No. 1 goal was to get back as soon as I could."
On when he started to feel most comfortable playing:
"I found my groove the most my junior year when I was playing nose, just because it was my second year starting. I had a lot of experience under my belt. Who's to say if I would've been at a different position I might have felt better somewhere else, but that's where I felt like I was hitting my best stride was definitely that junior season."
On the game he'll remember most:
"The game that stands out the most for me unfortunately was a loss, a close loss. It would've been 2016 at Camp Randall in Wisconsin, that night game that went into overtime. We were undefeated going into that game. If that game goes the other way, who knows what could've happened? It kinda derailed the whole season. But that was a really fun, competitive game to play in and one I'll always wish a couple plays would've gone a different way. It's one that'll always stick out."
His advice for the younger Husker players:
"As cliche as it sounds, keep your nose to the grindstone and keep working. There's a lot of things that might change that could vary throughout your career. For me, a lot of things changed and a lot of things were different. I don't think that's going to be the case for this young group as far as the coaching staff changes. There are things you can control, and those are your consistencies, your effort, your attitude, your love for your teammates, the intangibles that you can't learn. Those have to mature in you as you continue to get older and learn. Those are the types of things that as a senior and as a captain I tried to instill in those younger guys so they could get used to that type of culture."
On wanting to become a coach:
"I really realized that was what I wanted to do probably when I started to get a little bit older in college football. When you get younger guys coming in, you take them under your wing and you hold your own player-led defensive line meetings. I really enjoyed teaching the guys the techniques and watching film with guys and explaining things and telling them what they can improve on. Then it was awesome — I'll use the Davis twins as an example — you'll tell them how to do something or change something in a pass rush or their footwork, and it does come to fruition once you get out on the field. Obviously not taking away anything from what the coaches were doing, but there's always so much more you can teach. There's only a little amount of time you can meet with the coaches, so I had a lot of fun doing that. I developed a passion for it. And I think that I definitely want to be a leader in football going forward."
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Scott Frost | 2017-present | 9-15 (.375)
The former Husker quarterback, who was hired by his alma mater after leading Central Florida to an undefeated season, lost his first six games before finishing with four wins in the second half of the year. NU's 4-8 record in 2018 included five losses by five or fewer points. The Huskers improved only slightly in 2019 with a 5-7 record.
Mike Riley | 2015-17 | 19-19 (.500)
Riley had the shortest stint as Husker head coach since Pete Elliott, who coached the team one season in 1956. A surprise hire by then-NU A.D. Shawn Eichorst, Riley clicked with fans off the field and won praise and appreciation for his handling of the Sam Foltz tragedy. But on the field, his teams struggled with week-to-week consistency and execution, losing games to underdogs like Purdue and Northern Illinois.
Pelini won at least nine games every season — including 10 in 2009, 2010 and 2012 — but his squads also lost four games each year he was coach. It ultimately became his inability to coach in big games — the Huskers went 9-17 against ranked opponents during his tenure — and temper that gave him a ride out of Lincoln. His 67 wins rank third among Husker coaches, behind Tom Osborne (255) and Bob Devaney (101). However, among the 10 coaches to spend five-plus years coaching NU, Pelini has only the seventh-highest winning percentage. Pelini is now the head coach at Youngstown State.
After leading Nebraska to its first losing season since 1961, Callahan’s teams saw slight improvement — winning eight games in 2005 and nine games in 2006 — but posted a 5-7 mark in his final season as coach. The seven losses were the most for a Husker team since Bill Jennings’ 1958 team. Among the 15 coaches who have spent three-plus years in Lincoln, only three have worse winning percentages. Callahan is now the offensive line coach for the Washington Redskins.
Solich has roots deeply embedded in Husker history. He was a part of Bob Devaney’s first recruiting class and was an assistant under Tom Osborne for 18 years before Osborne selected him as his successor in 1997. Solich won NU’s most-recent conference title in 1999 and made a national championship appearance in 2001. All 29 Nebraska teams Solich was a part of reached a bowl game. Solich has been the head coach of the Ohio Bobcats since 2005.
The playing field at Memorial Stadium is named after Osborne, which probably tells you all you need to know. His teams put together the best five-year stretch in college football history — including three national titles — going 60-3 from 1993-1997. He captured 12 conference titles, including six of his final seven seasons, and all 25 of his teams won at least nine games. His 255 career victories rank seventh all-time in Division I. He is one of four coaches to have the mandatory three-year waiting period waived for an induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2007, Osborne became the athletic director until he retired in 2012.
Devaney left Wyoming for Nebraska, which had a losing record in seven straight seasons and 16 of the previous 20. He immediately led NU to a 9-2 record and a 36-34 win over Miami in the Gotham Bowl. This was the first of 40 consecutive winning seasons in Lincoln, and also the season where Nebraska’s sellout streak began. Devaney twice led his teams to four straight Big Eight titles and the first two national championships in 1970 and 1971. After 11 years, Devaney retired as coach and became full-time athletic director until his official retirement in 1993. During his time as coach, he won two national titles, eight Big Eight titles and five Orange Bowls, including three straight from 1970-72.
Jennings’ 1-9 record in his first season in 1957 was the worst in program history. The Huskers marginally improved to 3-7 in 1958, and finished 4-6 twice in 1959 and 1960. Jennings went 3-6-1 in his final season. Nebraska never won more than two conference games in a season under Jennings, but he does have one of the greatest upsets in college football history: A 25-21 win over Oklahoma in 1959 that snapped a 74-game conference winning streak for the Sooners.
Pete Elliott, at the age of 29, became Nebraska's youngest coach in modern history. Elliott left Nebraska after one season to coach California, and later coached at Illinois and Miami, finishing with a career coaching record of 56-72-1. Before coming to Nebraska, Elliott was a quarterback at Michigan, leading the Wolverines to a national championship in 1948, and was an assistant coach at Oklahoma from 1951-55. Elliott is the brother of “Bump” Elliott, who coached at Michigan and later served as the athletic director at Iowa. His nephew, Bob Elliott, briefly served as NU's safeties coach before passing away in July 2017.
Masterson only won five games in two seasons, but he did have a .500 record against Big Six foes. He was signed to a five-year contract, which paid out $8,000 in his first season, $9,000 in his second and $10,000 over each of the final three. The former Husker, who played under Dana X. Bible, said “It’s going to be good to get back to Nebraska.” He was the athletic board’s top choice. However, after two tough seasons, pressure from fans and a tirade on the radio, Masterson quit in March 1948.
Clark is the only coach in NU history to hold the position on two separate occasions. His return to Lincoln was welcomed, Jack Donovan wrote in the Sept. 19, 1948 edition of The World-Herald. “He had built a popular following during his brief stay in 1945. Although his 1945 team won four, lost five, it was the steady improvement which won the plaudits of Cornhusker followers. ... Instilling in young men the desire to give that extra effort that produces victories is a Clark characteristic. He calls it ‘the old spinktereenum’ which given a free translation, means ‘pep and go.’ "
Lewandowski, who played under Ernest E. Bearg and Dana X. Bible at NU, took over the team during World War II. He was also Nebraska’s basketball coach from 1941-45.
Presnell had a much better professional playing career than coaching. NU won only three games in his one season. Before that, Presnell was a nine-year pro, eventually becoming an All-Pro in 1935. He once kicked a 54-yard field goal, which was a record until 1953. Until his death in 2004, the Gilead, Nebraska, native was the oldest living NFL player.
Jones took Nebraska to its first Rose Bowl, a 21-13 loss to Stanford after an 8-1 regular season in 1940. He ended his five seasons with two Big Six titles before leaving to serve in World War II. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Bearg’s 1928 team won the first Big Six title in Nebraska history. His resignation was due to fan criticism for not using enough strategy and deception in his game, despite winning 74.2 percent of his games in four seasons. During his one year (1926) as basketball coach, the Huskers went 8-10. He entered the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Dawson led the Huskers to three straight conference titles in his first three seasons and coached the first game in Memorial Stadium, a 24-0 win over Oklahoma in 1923. His 1922 and 1923 teams were the only ones to knock off the famed "Four Horsemen” Notre Dame squads. Dawson earned a spot in the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Nebraska played as an independent during Schulte's two seasons, and he was better known for his track and field leadership abilities. He led NU’s track team from 1919-38, compiling 15 conference titles.
Kline, a professor at Nebraska, coached a team that was depleted due to World War I. After his lone season as coach, Kline went on to serve in the war himself before becoming Florida’s coach.
Stewart won Missouri Valley Conference titles in each of his two seasons with the Huskers before leaving to serve in World War I. He was also the basketball coach, going 29-23. Following the war, Stewart coached football at Clemson before coaching both football and basketball at Texas.
Stiehm was the first Husker coach to work year-round and owns the highest winning percentage of any coach in school history (other than Dr. Langdon Frothingham, who won the only two games he coached). Stiehm won at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title during each of his five seasons and was part of a school-record 34-game winning streak — 29 of which happened with him as the coach. He was the first Big East Conference coach to lead teams to both a basketball and football conference title in the same academic year. The Nebraska Athletic Board turned down a Rose Bowl invitation due to travel costs and denied Stiehm a raise, leading to his departure for Indiana.
After playing and coaching under Fielding Yost at Michigan, Cole led Nebraska to 25 wins over four seasons. His final game was a 119-0 win over Haskell, which is still a single-game record for NU.
Foster won more games than he lost during his one season with the Huskers. He then went on to coach Miami (Ohio), which he led to a 13-1 mark in two years. Overall, he went 30-9 during his five seasons as a head coach for three teams.
Booth’s first season — Nebraska's first being called the Cornhuskers — ended with a 6-1-1 mark. The following year, his team started a 24-game winning streak that stretched to 1904. In 1902, his team not only went undefeated but also didn’t surrender a single point. The 1903 team posted eight more shutouts en route to a perfect 10-0 record. Overall, the Nebraska Hall of Fame coach won 84.5 percent of his games. Booth earned just under $2,000 in his final season, which outdid any professor’s salary on campus. He left coaching to practice law.
Branch led Nebraska to its first losing season. They wouldn’t have another until 1918. He beat Drake 12-6 in Des Moines, but was outscored 154-43 during his lone season, leading to the worst winning percentage in Nebraska football coaching history.
Yost led Nebraska to its first eight-win season, his only one with NU. The following year, he led Kansas to a 10-0 mark. His most famous coaching stop in his Hall of Fame career was Michigan, which he led to six national championships during his 25 years there.
While Robinson’s stay in Nebraska was brief, it was still impactful. In 1897, he led the team to its first outright conference title. He later went on to coach Brown for 24 years, posting a 157-88-3 record. He is a part of the College Football Hall of Fame and Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas, who was NU’s first assistant coach in 1892, took over after Frank Crawford left for Texas. Thomas took Nebraska on a long road trip that included a loss to Butte (Montana) and a victory over Denver. In his lone season, the team shared the Western Inter-State University Foot Ball Association championship. He went on to coach for Arkansas in 1901 and 1902.
The first paid coach in Nebraska history, Crawford led the team to its first share of a conference title in 1894 and was coach of the first African-American athlete in Husker football history — George Flippin. Crawford, a Yale graduate, led Michigan and Wisconsin before landing at Nebraska and eventually went on to lead Texas to a perfect season. While at Nebraska, Crawford earned roughly $500 a year — part cash, part free tuition in graduate school.
J.S. Williams, 1892, 2-2-1 (.500)
J.S. Williams went 2-2-1 in his one season as the Husker leader, defeating Illinois 6-0 in his debut.
T.U. Lyman | 1891 | 2-2 (.500)
Lyman wasn’t actually hired to be Nebraska’s coach, it was done as a favor. From a column published in The World-Herald on March 8, 1956: “Historians recall Nebraska’s worries when, without a coach, it was faced with the task of preparing for the first encounter with Iowa — in 1891. Finally, a Yale man named T.U. Lyman was secured to groom the Nebraskans. It was no consequence in those days that Lyman also happened to be the Iowa mentor. It may have been of some consequence, at that, after Lyman’s Iowans whipped Lyman’s Nebraskans, 22-0.”
Dr. Langdon Frothingham | 1890 | 2-0 (1.000)
Frothingham technically holds the best winning percentage among Husker football coaches, going 2-0 in his lone season. His background — a former agriculture and bacteriology instructor at Harvard — was a major reason for him being given a job at Nebraska. He served without pay in his lone season.