Not a bad time to be someone like Chad or Chris Kelsay.
The former Blackshirts are invited to any and all Husker practices. And when they go down to Lincoln to talk with coaches or watch the Huskers, they recognize their program again.
That wasn’t always the case the past 15 or 20 years.
“The excitement from a former player’s perspective is just lights out,” Chad said Thursday morning.
The Kelsay brothers were the guests at this year’s first Big Red Today Breakfast. The two spoke in front of a sold out-crowd inside Anthony’s Steakhouse. Fans began showing up for the 7 a.m. talk at 5:30.
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Like the entire state, the Kelsays can feel the tension and excitement as the debut of the Scott Frost era nears.
“We’re very excited, just like everyone is in the state,” Chris said. “It was pretty disheartening the last 10, 12, 15 years and I think the only thing we can do to get it back is what we did: hire someone from here.”
The Kelsay brothers are exactly what Frost wants to build Nebraska’s program on. Both were born and raised in Auburn, Nebraska. Both became Huskers without thinking twice. Chad played at Nebraska from 1995 to 1998, totaling 149 tackles, 27 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. He was a co-captain on the 1998 team and a n All-Big 12 selection his senior year. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1999. Chris joined the Huskers during Chad’s final season in 1998 and played until 2002. At the same position — rush end — Chris had 129 tackles, 30 for loss, and 11.5 sacks. He was All-Big 12 in 2001 and drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2003. He played 10 seasons in the NFL.
Chad said the Kelsay brothers are prototypical Nebraska boys. They grew up listening to Husker games on the radio and caught them on TV when they could. They love to hunt. Summers were spent waiting for football camps in Lincoln. And a scholarship offer to Nebraska, that was the golden ticket.
Chad wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. But he performed well at a Big Red football camp the summer before his senior year and was offered a scholarship to Nebraska.
“Every little boy in Nebraska dreams to play for the Huskers, and it was never a reality (for me) until that summer before my senior year,” Chad said. “You read about it, you hear about it all the time, but there’s so much legitimacy to the fact that young guys that come from the state, it just means more.”
Chris had a few more offers than Chad did. The day before driving to Lincoln for a summer football camp, he got a scholarship offer to Michigan, which split the national title with Nebraska the year before in 1997. The next day, while waiting in line to check into the camp, Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride pulled Chris aside and walked him down the hall.
“I can’t repeat what he said,” Chris said to laughs. “But he said, basically: ‘Don’t even think about going to Michigan.’”
Later that night, a secretary called the dorm Chris was staying in and asked him to come to the football offices. He was offered a scholarship. He committed on the spot.
Chad was the only brother to play with Frost, who transferred from Stanford to the Huskers before the 1995 season. Though other teammates — notably Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom — were out to make Frost quit football that season, Chad always liked the Wood River native.
“Scott’s a Nebraska guy and a competitor every day and on scout team he was going 100 miles per hour,” he said.
Chad watched Frost first-hand lead Nebraska to that 1997 national title. And he sees that same leadership today with Frost as the coach. What’s most impressive, Chris said, is that Frost isn’t just trying to be Tom Osborne. He’s putting his own spin on what it takes to be successful at Nebraska.
"He still has his own flavor and you have to do it that way. That’s what I like,” Chris said. “Scott is taking everything he’s taken from Coach Osborne throughout the years and applying that to how he’s coaching this team.”
Both Kelsay brothers want to temper expectations for the 2018 season. Both are struggling. They see so much progress. Love what the strength staff has done to the bodies of the Huskers.
What they want most is to see progress. To be competitive. And to be in Memorial Stadium and remember what it felt like 20 years ago. That part they know for sure will happen Saturday.
“I’ve got in my mind, I know how they’re going to do and perform, it’s actually going out and seeing product on the field,” Chad said. “This Saturday is our first chance to see how it is. It’s going to be cool, though. It’s been about 20 years since there’s been this type of excitement.”
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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.”