Kelsay brothers — former Huskers — see Scott Frost taking proper steps for return to glory

Chad and Chris Kelsay chatted with Mike'l Severe during Thursday's Big Red Today breakfast. “The excitement from a former player’s perspective is just lights out,” Chad said.

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 Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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