I was on my hands and knees searching the turf of Spectrum Stadium on that December afternoon in Orlando, looking for the pen I’d sworn was just in my pocket, when my phone buzzed.
It was Sam McKewon, our lead Husker beat reporter.
He said something, but the crowd of 45,000 in black tank tops and khaki shorts crescendoed as Scott Frost’s face appeared on the big screen during warmups. So Sam had to say it again, louder.
“It’s going to happen today,” he said.
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I hung up and nodded over to the photographer, who was on assignment in Orlando with me for the American Athletic Conference championship game between Central Florida and Memphis. She made her way to the sideline for a better angle of Frost for the next day’s sports page, and I jogged to the press box. There was a lot of writing to do.
UCF won that game in double overtime. Afterward, Frost walked from one end zone to the other in tears as EDM hit “Zombie Nation” pulsed through the stadium. Frost was engulfed in hugs by assistant coaches, was kissed on the cheek by happy players running around the field. Frost lifted the championship trophy and was showered in gold confetti.
As he left the field, UCF fans chanted.
Frost wiped his eyes, waved and disappeared into the shadows of the tunnel.
It was a remarkable moment when Frost left the field that day. And in his final few minutes as UCF coach and as the soon-to-be-announced leader of the Huskers, it dawned on me that what was about to happen back in Nebraska was monumental.
It was too much for a single newspaper story, or a series of them, to convey. A better snapshot of this time in history, and all that it entailed, needed to be captured. And over the next few days back in Nebraska, it was right in front of my nose: the Wendy’s by the UNL campus selling $1 “Frosty’s”; billboards going up on Interstate 80 welcoming Frost “home”; the “Frosty the Coach-Man” song and video that went viral; T-shirts with Frost’s name popping up online. It was a story just too good to ignore.
“Frost: A Husker’s Journey Home” comes out Aug. 13. You can pre-order it today by clicking here.
The book tells the story of Scott Frost through every step of his journey to becoming Nebraska’s head coach, from the day his parents met on the football field in Malcolm, Nebraska, to the day he was introduced as coach at Memorial Stadium.
Through new reporting combined with World-Herald archives, six reporters and a team of editors produced the definitive story of how Frost got to this point.
It tells the story of Frost, yes, but it also delves into so much more. It’s a story about his parents, Larry and Carol; Wood River in 1992; and Lincoln in 1997. It covers Scott’s stint in the NFL and his early coaching days. It explains the soap opera of Nebraska football since Frost left, the division of the fan base and now its reunification.
Writers Dirk Chatelain, Evan Bland, Lee Barfknecht, Sam McKewon, Tom Shatel and I add insight with never-before-told stories that are woven around photos from World-Herald archives and even from family scrapbooks. For the book, we talked to childhood friends; current and former NFL coaches; and former Nebraska teammates, administrators and coaches.
The book is worth a look for the photos alone, but if you think you know the whole story about how Scott got to where he is today, you don’t. I’d bet four people knew the details, and that would be Larry, Carol, big brother Steve and Scott. That is, until now.
Chatelain tells the story of how Larry and Carol met — around the office, we frequently remarked that Carol is a book by herself — and the profound role both played in how Scott ended up where he is today.
I visited Wood River and found relics of time past and teammates still full of nostalgia for those 1990s Eagles teams.
Barfknecht combed through notebooks he hadn’t opened in 20 years to find gems from the 1990s.
The likes of usually tight-lipped New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin responded to Bland’s queries into the qualities that marked Frost as a future head coach.
There is even insight shared by Mike Riley and Harvey Perlman, who talked to McKewon about their time — and the tumult — at Nebraska.
And for those who want to feel good about the future, Shatel’s epilogue should leave smiles on readers’ faces.
After months of scanning World-Herald archives, and highlighting quotes written three decades ago, and transcribing interviews and writing then rewriting, we find it gratifying to know the book is finished. We’ve been giddy in the newsroom about it for months, excited to let you learn all that we found out. Like most great stories, this book pretty much wrote itself over the past 70 years, a credit to the Frost family.
All we needed to do was find our pens and put it to paper.
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Chris Kelsay, DE, 1999-02
"He knows how special this place is. Previous coaches were not aware of how special and important Nebraska football is to the state. Having grown up here and played here and seeing what he's done down in Florida in just a couple years, it's pretty exciting the opportunity that awaits him here. Anybody that grew up in Nebraska and played in Nebraska, it means a little bit more to those guys."
Dan Alexander, IB, 1997-2000
"I think it's awesome. He's probably the smartest quarterback I've ever worked with. He definitely knows how to run a team. From a leadership standpoint, from somebody who got in a huddle and made a team around him better, I think he's the best quarterback I worked with. I just know what kind of guy he is, what he can do with a team, what he could bring in as a coach."
Danny Noonan, MG, 1984-86
"I don't see how you couldn't hire Scott to come back. After all the things that have happened the last 20 years ... I don't see how you can't hire Scott. And Nebraska is going to give Scott more rope than anybody else, OK? Obviously we're going to pay him, what he wants for however long he wants. He's a hot commodity now, a huge commodity now, and I think he'll be an outstanding hire."
"Hiring Scott Frost is actually what this program needs. We have lost our identity, toughness, and more importantly our culture. Scott will understand what this place is all about and how hard you have to work to be successful on Saturdays. We were all so fortunate to play for Coach Osborne and his staff. Scott will be a reflection of that and bring his leadership and direction to the program. This is much-needed. Good luck Scott Frost and welcome home!!"
Erik Wiegert, OT, 1989-91
"Scott is six years younger than me so I don't know him personally, but he obviously has a great understanding of the Cornhusker traditions and culture that were so successful for so many years. He seems to have a rare natural ability to motivate and teach young men. I think he'll be very successful. The ex-players I know were all thrilled that he might be coming to Nebraska."
"If he can approach his mentor's level of performance, we'll be great (laughs). It's hard for me to speak for the guys in the '90s who knew him, but I hope they're real excited. I was pretty much a Riley guy until probably the Minnesota game, and then I gave up, but I don't think they realize how bad of shape Bo left us in, both psychologically and otherwise. I'm also of the opinion it will take five, six, seven years if you really want to turn it around. But I'm like everyone else, I hope he's the right guy."
"Obviously it's important to get a former player in here that understands the program, understands what the culture needs to be and understands how special a place Lincoln is and Nebraska is. It's huge. I'm excited again about this football program with him coming in here. I think the energy and the boost of swagger or confidence that he brings is what this program needs. The program is kind of dry right now, not a lot of enthusiasm. It's dead right now and it needs a boost of energy, and I think that's what Scott will bring."
Mickey Joseph, QB, 1988-91
"I think that you're getting somebody who understands the culture, and you got to understand the culture there because it's different than around the nation. It's a great fan base that's really going to support you. The football hasn't been what it's needed to be the last few years, but the fans are still there, and Scott's gonna understand that culture. I can't speak for him, but I'm sure he's got a plan to get it done up there."
"I love seeing Scott Frost be our next head coach for the University of Nebraska. We can get back to our winning ways and tradition. It will be a great opportunity for him and his family."
"If Scott understands that Nebraska is arguably the toughest recruiting sell in college football, if he understands that he's not going to get many four- to five-star athletes — it gets cold here and those fancy-schmancy warm-weather kids struggle when they have to play in temperatures below 40 degrees — and if he understands that he needs to develop two- and three-star athletes into four- and five-star players, things will go well for him."
"Scott Frost represents the University of Nebraska's best hope toward returning its football program to its former greatness. For 40 years, Nebraska was the most consistently successful college football program in the country, and it didn't attain that status by accident. It did several things distinctively: It cultivated a deep walk-on program, it embraced a physical style of play, it maintained high ethical standards and it prized a culture of hard work ... everyday. While there may be others who qualify as top-notch college coaches, Scott Frost has shown that he not only qualifies as a coach, he has shown that he actually embodies the unique qualities that are requisite to success at Nebraska."
Willie Harper, DE, 1970-72
"From coaches that I know who have coached with him, they — and I myself — have nothing but great things to say about him. He's one of the smartest coaches that they've been around. I spoke with him some years ago and I was totally sold and confident with him. He knows both sides of the ball inside and out. He relates to the players, and they all love him as a person. He is a great teacher in the classroom and can demonstrate what he is coaching on the field. This is time for Nebraska to start raising up its own, who know, understand and can breathe Husker culture."
"Scott coming home is awesome. Finally someone that has Nebraska DNA, that obviously knows what we as alumni and Nebraskans need to succeed — work ethic and the right mix of young men. We have to have patience, though, because he has to change the culture back to what we all know and love."
Jerry Murtaugh, LB, 1968-70
"What I think it might mean, not that he can do it, but he's proven himself, he has the record, he knows Nebraska, he's been through all this. So when he does come back, you surround him with great people — meaning a coaching staff — you pay him, you give him a minimum of five years without firing him, and let him do his job. And then we'll go from there."
Jamel Williams, LB, 1994-96
"It's going to help bring back the roots of Nebraska. Even though you can be a great coach, people come in here and don't know the magnitude of how different it is — the hype, what it's all about, how crazy it is — until they leave. When you come in you just think you can handle it or think you may know, but you don't until you're out the door and on the outside looking in. I think somebody coming in here, who knows what's going on, is huge for the program and the state."
"Welcome home, Scott. Congratulations on a great season. All us ex-Huskers are extremely excited. Husker tradition needs a Husker to lead us back to the glory days. Walk-ons, Blackshirts and the greatest fan base in America will help you and your staff get us back to national prominence once again."
"Scott's an ex-ballplayer so people know who he is and maybe he can do something recent coaches haven't been able to do. We're Nebraska, we're used to winning, and right now we're not winning."
Adam Carriker, DE, 2003-06
"Husker Nation, we got our guy. He’s a successful coach, who is also a Nebraska guy that understands what Nebraska is all about. He has what it takes to get the Huskers back on top. It will take time to build this back up the right way and we need to support Scott and his staff along the way. We all have the same goal: To win football games, championships and represent Nebraska as not only a great football program, but as the the great state that it truly is."
Dave Rimington, C, 1979-82
“Very happy about Scott coming home. The future is bright and I’m confident that given time he can take us to places our program hasn’t seen in a long time.”