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All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to former Husker defensive lineman Grant Wistrom about Nebraska football in the first two years under Scott Frost and their culture change, his favorite memories from NU and more.
Check out a full transcript below:
Adam Carriker: Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, The People’s Show, where we’re checking the pulse of Husker Nation. Brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today, I am joined by Husker Legend, Grant Wistrom. How are you doing today, Grant?
Grant Wistrom: I’m good Adam, how are you doing, man?
Adam Carriker: Glorious, and I want to thank you for joining me. I want to dive right into it. So, Husker Football and year three of Scott Frost is coming up, but first I want to get your thoughts about years one and two so far.
Grant Wistrom: You know, I’ve seen growth, change, and a shift in mentality in the players and coaching staff as well. I’ve said it before, I don’t think we realize how far Nebraska Football has fallen from when I was there and from when you were there. Not just from a wins and loss perspective, but from an ideology and what made us special and separated us from other universities out there. Scott is doing that. When you’re trying to change culture, that’s not an overnight thing. It’s not just getting new players. It’s overhauling the team, the administration, the coaching staff, and it’s going to take time. I expect going into year three, the change is going to be greater and the results are going to be more in our favor.
Adam Carriker: So, going into year two, there was a lot of excitement and the results weren’t what we wanted. Going into year three, there seems to be a lot of apprehension and kind of an atmosphere where they feel like now they have to prove it, which seems to me that should have been the attitude from the beginning. What are your expectations and what would be a successful year three from the team and Scott Frost?
Grant Wistrom: You know, I think just the continued excitement about wearing the uniform and taking the pride in playing for each other. I think we’re starting to see that, it’s more of a group effort and less individuals out there now. The guys enjoy playing together because they’re all buying in and rolling in the same direction. I think going into year two, people were kidding themselves after year two at UCF. We’re playing in the Big 10. You’re not going to take a team with no wins and win a National Championship in two years in the Big 10. The other thing is, no matter who we play, we’re going to get other teams’ best shots because of who we are and our place in College Football history.
So to think that you’re going to go in in year two and beat everybody is optimistic. It’s good that we’re going into year three with tempered, more realistic expectations. I think we’re going to see a better product on the field and I hope- hope that we’re competing for a Big 10 Championship at the end of the year.
Adam Carriker: Yeah, last year I was a bit surprised. People tend to get excited going into the season, but if you looked at our offense, we were absurdly young. The defense had experience but nothing extremely proven. The biggest thing I was excited about was a potentially easy schedule. This year, the last five games are pretty brutal, but the first seven are manageable. I’m actually more excited going into this year, especially if you look at the offensive side of the ball. A lot of the guys we have coming back, we have to settle on a quarterback and have a running back emerge, but there are a lot of guys coming back.
It’s interesting when you talked about how much it changed, the digression of Husker Football. I saw first hand a lot of that stuff as it was happening. You’ve been back a few times, along with Jason- you were inducted into the Hall of Fame last fall. When you’ve gone back to talk to the coaches, Frost and Chinander, what are some of the things they have to say and what’s the feeling you get from them?
Grant Wistrom: It’s always about returning to the mentality that we had when we were there. That we are the best because we’ve earned the right to feel that way. We’ve paid our dues, and we deserve to walk onto the field with confidence. And to the players, they have to realize that they can do that, it’s just about paying the dues. It’s not going to be given to you just because you have a scholarship. You have to go out every day and earn it. That’s a hard message to get across in today’s world, especially when you’re dealing with young kids who are honestly, probably entitled. They’ve been told that they’re the best in the country. The problem is, that doesn’t win football games. Talent alone doesn’t win football games. You have to work. Trying to deliver that message to a 17 year old kid who’s been told that he’s phenomenal his whole life sometimes falls on deaf ears. That’s one thing I’ve think they’ve done a great job of, is recruiting kids who are okay hearing that message. They don’t all have the stars behind their name, but they love football and they hear that message and they want to work hard and turn themselves into great football players and teammates. They believe in the culture, they believe in each other, and they play for each other. I’d rather have eleven guys like that than guys who are the best but they’re out there playing for themselves. That doesn’t win football games. Unity, comradery, and being forged in fire wins football games.
Adam Carriker: So, I’ve gotten into debates on social media about this: you’re telling me that there’s more to developing a football team than recruiting guys with stars behind their names? I’m not crazy when I’m telling people that? You gotta get the right guys and work hard. I’m not crazy am I?
Grant Wistrom: Go back to when we had our best runs, Adam, and see where our classes ranked. If we had a top 20 class in there, that would be amazing. We had a lot of 2 and 3 star talented guys with 5 star work ethic. You had guys sprinkled in there like your Tommie Fraziers who come in and are 5 star players, but it’s mostly 2 and 3 star players and you hope they have that 5 star work ethic.
Adam Carriker: I completely agree with that. You talk about when you were there and the guys you had. And if you look at the results at the end of the year, a lot of times it does line up pretty closely with the recruiting rankings, but when Callahan was here, he recruited a lot of big name guys and it didn’t go phenomenally phenomenal. Nebraska out recruits the Big 10 West almost every year, including Wisconsin, yet we unfortunately have recently lost more games to them than we have won. Even though on paper we have more talent. So how do we compete with the Wisconsins of the world and get to a Big 10 Championship and compete with an Ohio State? And maybe one day beat them on a consistent basis?
Grant Wistrom: I think it goes to laying the foundation like they are now. You get guys in that are going to pay their dues and lay the foundation, even though they may only win 6, 8, 9 games. But they freaking love playing for each other and playing hard. Now you have young guys seeing this and they get indoctrinated into that culture and it builds upon itself. Going back to the stars, it’s more important now than ever, to find guys with 5 star work ethic who aren’t going to cut and run the second things get tough and be in the transfer portal. It blows my mind how easy it is for kids to transfer. So why would you even care about recruiting a 5 star kid who’s going to leave if he doesn’t get the ball thrown to him 10 times a game? You’ve then wasted a scholarship and a year of development. I’d rather have the kid who’s going to be with me for 4 or 5 years and be a hell of a football player when I’m ready for him his junior year.
Adam Carriker: Yeah it’s kind of crazy, the transfer portal is kind of the non-monetary version of free agency in the NFL. Looking specifically at the defense, the linemen had a lot of experience last year. Now we have young guys who have a little experience and a lot of talent. Damion Daniels, Ben Stille, Deontre Thomas, etc. When you have young guys who need to step up, what’s the biggest thing you’d be looking for from that D line this season?
Grant Wistrom: Always continue to improve and show effort. Play within the scheme and with controlled aggression. A lot of that comes with experience, and they’ll get plenty of reps in practice. Guys playing for each other and believing in the system, knowing that if they just do their job then everything else will take care of itself. Eleven guys doing that is how you have success on defense. No blown assignments, and when you do have those, you still have eleven guys running to the football. That is just effort and want-to. Guys who just love to play football will cover up a lot of mistakes.
Adam Carriker: I’m not the first to ask you this, so I won’t spend too much time on this, but you started a medical marijuana company. For those who didn’t see that, how did you get into it and how is it going for you?
Grant Wistrom: It was put on the ballot in Missouri in 2019 and passed. They started awarding licenses at the end of the year, and we were awarded a manufacturing license and a dispensing license, but were not awarded a cultivating license. We were hoping to be a vertically integrated company. For me, I’ve had a few different people in my life that I’ve seen what the medicine of cannabis can do for them. After that, it was about enlightening myself on it and doing the research on it. Knowing we’ve scratched the surface on how it can be used as a medicine.
Being from Missouri, I wanted to be a part of it. It’s something I believe in, I’m not a guy who likes to take pills. I like to heal myself as naturally as possible. For me and my family, food is our best medicine. We do our best to stay out of the doctor’s office. If this is one more way we can heal our bodies naturally, I’m all for it. I know there are concerns about it being in the hands of adolescents, I know Coach Osborne’s concern is with the availability and getting into the wrong hands. If it’s coming to my state, I want to be in charge of how it gets out there and who’s buying it. The last thing I would ever want to have happen is for it to get into my children’s hands, or other children’s hands. But it’s something I am very excited and passionate about and looking forward to the future in our country.
Adam Carriker: Alright, one last question for you. Do you have any behind the scenes stories from Nebraska or the NFL that you think fans would enjoy?
Grant Wistrom: You know I love Charlie McBride. He’s one of my favorite coaches I got to play for. I love the man like a father. The relationship we had with him as players was awesome. I know you felt the same way. I used to love on Fridays when we’d have our walkthroughs out in the stadium and the crowd noise was pumped in super loud, so the offense could practice with the noise. We were having a particularly uninspired practice one day and Charlie called us off the field. He is screaming so freaking hard that his head is turning purple and I’m pretty sure it’s about to pop. He’s got chew spit flying out of his mouth, running down his shirt, peppering us in the face and he’s just screaming his head off. But we can’t hear a word because of the crowd noise. Of course we’re not laughing directly at him, but inside we’re all like, you done yet? But that was just Charlie and I loved playing for him. Coach Osborne gets all the credit for the success we had and he should get a ton, but man, Charlie McBride is everything a football coach should be and I was lucky to get to play for him for four years. You got to interact with him more directly, but I always appreciated when we came together as a D line to see how he approached the game and the mentality he had. That guy is a beautiful human being with a lot of great stories about football and does it the way it should be done. There needs to be more coaches out there like that. I’m fortunate to have played for Charlie McBride.
Adam Carriker: I appreciate you sharing that with me, thanks for being on the show, good luck with your business and its future as well, my friend.
Grant Wistrom: Thank you Adam, I appreciate it.
Adam Carriker: Alright, Husker Nation, until next time, Go Big Red, and always remember…
Grant Wistrom: THROW THE BOOOOONES!!!!
Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.